Pssst - Want to know how to easily remove watermarks from digital photos?

May 03, 2024

2424

You won’t find any help here.

A serious tone for this one I'm afraid, and a blog I wish I didn't have to write.

In today's world, many people don't seem to realise that taking screenshots of a photographer's proof images and removing watermarks to avoid purchasing the original file is theft. Either that, or some people just don't care.

Imagine you’re on holiday and you pop into an art gallery. You spend a few hours admiring the work of a local painter, someone you’ve read has dedicated their life to developing their craft. They have invested countless hours perfecting their technique, sourced the finest materials and used their creativity to paint these images. Now, envision pocketing one of these paintings and sneaking away.

Absurd, right? Well, stealing a photographer’s digital images is EXACTLY THE SAME THING!

I’m afraid there appears to be a general misconception that taking a photographer’s work without permission or payment is acceptable and has no consequence. With the widespread sharing of images online or the removal of watermarks, it seems that many people fail to understand the importance of respecting intellectual property rights in photography.

"But it's just a photo, right?" Far from it! This is not a victimless act; such attitudes toward digital theft undermine a photogapher's livelihood and diminishes the value of their hard work and skills.

It seems to me sometimes that there are those who think that a self-employed photographer is just indulging in a hobby and not undertaking a ‘real’ job, leading to a belief that image theft is acceptable as no-one will be hurt.

Before you click away thinking I'm just another self-obsessed photographer having a moan, please don't underestimate the impact of stolen images on our livelihoods. Many of us have photography as our sole employment, and each stolen image isn't just a loss of recognition; it directly affects our income.

Image theft directly impacts our ability to manage the little things in life like, you know, mortgage repayments, household bills and the food we put on the table!

Look at it from this perspective: How would you react if your employer arbitrarily deducted different amounts from your pay each month? And how would you feel if society seemed to think this was acceptable?

As photographers, how do we try and safeguard our work? Let's face it, it's no easy task!

In-Person Sales

In-person sales give photographers a way to safeguard against digital theft. By presenting our work in a selling session to clients, we control access to our images, reducing the risk of unauthorised copying. It is, however, something I've never done.

I've always provided my clients with on-line proofing galleries, allowing them to select their images from the comfort of their own home. I do this despite knowing that a move to in-person sales would both protect my images and, in all likelihood, increase my profits. 

So why have I stuck with this dumb decision? Simple; I’ve always prioritised my clients' convenience. I’m mainly a newborn photographer and I understand that very few new parents will want to trek back to my studio for a hard-sell session while juggling sleepless nights and on-demand feeding. Unfortunately, I have to admit that this way of working has left my images vulnerable to theft in the past.

Watermarks

Let’s talk about watermarks – those annoying little signatures and symbols that artists and photographers use to protect their work. Like digital security guards their purpose is to protect our work against would-be thieves. When we watermark an image it is a clear signal and reminder that we have ownership of our work. Removing a watermark is not just a violation of copyright law (see below); it’s a slap in the face to an artist’s rights and autonomy. Just as an art collector wouldn’t dream of stealing a painting from a gallery, scrubbing off the artist’s signature and replacing it with his own, so too should people respect the rights of photographers and their digital images by not removing watermarks!

Incidentally, if you’re not too sure about copyright law here is a summary:

In the United Kingdom, copyright law protects original works, including photographs, from unauthorised use. Copyright is automatically granted upon creation, and it typically lasts for the creator's lifetime plus 70 years. This means that individuals or businesses must obtain permission from the copyright holder to use or reproduce a copyrighted work. Violating copyright law can result in legal consequences, such as fines or injunctions.

In summary, if you are ever tempted to download a photographer's digital image without permission or remove a watermark, please think twice. In the same way that stealing from a shop is illegal, so too is stealing from a photographer. Let’s support artists and small businesses like mine, and ensure our work receives the respect it deserves.

Theft is theft, and it’s about time we recognised the value of digital images and the importance of respecting the rights of their creators.

Thank you for reading.

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