WHAT'S THE BIG DEAL ABOUT ME PUTTING AN UGLY WATERMARK ON MY PHOTOS?
PSA: THIS IS A RANT. Also a great piece of information to learn if you have an interest, but with a built-in rant. If in reading this article, you find you were 'guilty' of a transgression, please know that I am not singling you out and that I forgive you! You likely never had any bad intentions in the first place. You're definitely not alone.
It's been a busy month full of fun and activities. Not only have I conducted several portrait sessions, I've done some commercial work, some freelance photography, and have attended many events just because I wanted to (...in some cases, to capture a client and in others just because). I opened my small business a little less than 2 years ago, and have had to change many things about how I handle my event candids, but one thing has not changed - I've tried to remain generous and true to my mission to lift up and inspire youth, to give them recognition for great accomplishments, show off their awesome performances (on stage and in sports), and to help them see that they belong and are beautiful. If you know me, then you already know I am certifiable 'compulsive', and binge on photography just like I do with ice cream. I can't just stop at one Oreo (...well, I don't eat oreos cuz they have gluten, but you get the point). So, when I go to an event, I don't just shoot "MY" kids. I shoot them all. And I continue to share my work on social media. BUT my sharing has changed to include my business watermark now that I am 'in business'. That appears to have irked some people who may feel entitled to my photos, because, after all, they are your kids. Aside from trying to be respectful, trust me that I have studied privacy laws and focus on staying compliant.
Over the past few weeks, I've stumbled across many of my images in various places. I absolutely love it when people share my photos. Share away! It makes me feel good - like what I do matters and is making a difference. But I've got to add that, yes, it DOES bother me big time when someone takes one of my images and crops my watermark out to re-post it. Whether it's because they think it's ugly and tacky, don't want to be associated with me or my business, or for some other reason, it's not welcome and it stirs up the dark side of pamarazzi.
Why does the watermark have to be there? Is it all for self-serving promotional purposes? Yes, I DO want people in Medina to know who I am and the quality of my work. I do make my living operating a small business. But there are many more important reasons why I watermark my images.
Every reputable artist signs their work. Photography IS an art. I am an artist. I am proud of my work and I want my work and style to be recognized/known. As an artist and business owner, I want to be well known and reputable for producing quality work. All of my business comes from referrals. So yeah, there is a self-serving and prideful purpose here. If you don't like it, skip straight to the closing paragraph.
There are thieves out there who surf the internet looking for images that they can download, claim as their own, then re-sell for profit/commercial use. I will do whatever I can to prevent theft. Of any kind. Side rant: you know those posts asking you to comment and share a pic of your puppy? Those are generally BAIT posts from photo thieves. Dog photos are in high demand. Stop giving away your doggie pictures to a stranger who is going to re-sell it!
I attend many events, and have gifted many prints and digital files to friends and clients. I do so when I choose, not when asked. This allows me to maintain credibility with my paying clients. I don't attend events for the purpose of selling to make a profit, but I do have to respect those clients who have invested in my services. I don't want anyone to feel 'cheated' by what I feel are fair and reasonable rates for my photography services because someone else is getting stuff for free. I am also part of a large industry of professionals who think that taking free photographs is killing their (our?) business. When I share digital images on social media, it should be viewed as 'my gift' to the participants. If you've come to 'expect' pictures from me, your head is in the wrong place. Yes, I do feel it's important to make my clients a priority, so if I snap them and not yours, it may be that I'm just busy right now. Remember the other 40 times I DID shoot your kid. Then, to the watermark - I don't think it's unreasonable that my signature (watermark) is on the image, so people know the source of the image. If you do think it's unreasonable, skip to the closing paragraph right now.
Here's a BIG one: now that I have a business (vs just "hobby" photographer), I am accountable to the IRS for all my income and to the State of Ohio for sales tax. To avoid any question of impropriety, I don't grant print privileges to anyone that hasn't paid for them. As a small business owner who deals in financial transactions, I've made it a priority to not hide any income, including cash payments. If ever audited, I want my books and my work to be top notch and without question. I don't want the IRS tracking down some prints that a friend has and I try to tell them they were not paid for, and the IRS thinks I'm hiding income. There have been many times I've printed something for a friend, and processed it as 'an order', logging it in my books as paid by me. This personal policy goes back to watching a close family member hide all of their self-employment income for years and NEVER pay a dime of taxes. I'm not a cheater. None of us like to pay taxes, but the Bible says "render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's" and "Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established." (ps: in case you're twitching here, the bible also says "He changes times and seasons; he removes kings and sets up kings).
There are actually more reasons why I watermark, but I have ranted enough. I watermark images on my personal page as well as my business page, because I am a sole proprietor. As I have always done, any individual who feels that my posting an image of them is self-serving, inappropriate or doesn't want to be associated with my name, I will respectfully delete any image on request and will avoid taking future photos wherever possible. You won't be the first person to ask! If I took a picture of you/your kid and you really just have to have it without my watermark, try asking me. I'm a fair and generous person. Aside from stirring up my dark side, taking it without permission and editing it to remove the source is actually illegal and violates the Copyright Act of 1976 which protects my images as the owner/creator.
Rant over. I hope you found my rant to be insightful.