Watermarking Your Images

Learn to use this simple technique to protect your photos from theft.

by Cindy Shebley
- Apr 29, 2010

A watermark is simply a way to identify a photo as yours. The use of watermarking is a form of image management—either to track the image or to protect your copyright. Photographers who make their living on the sale of their work have traditionally used watermarks to prevent theft or unauthorized copying of their images. Because the Internet has made it easy for anyone to right-click and save an image, watermarking is a way to make sure your photo is protected from this type of theft.

There are two ways this is done. The first way is to digitally add information (or meta data) to the file. This type of mark is invisible to the eye. The second way is to add text or a logo into the photo and make it visible.

How do you create a watermark?

For an eBay seller, the most practical way to watermark your image is by adding text. eBay makes it easy for you to add a simple watermark when you load your items into the Sell Your Item form. Auctiva's image hosting service also provides free watermarking and disabling of right-click saves.

There are other ways and techniques to create watermarks as well. Of course, it depends on your eBay listing workflow. I prefer to have everything ready before I list an item, so I use the text tool in Photoshop to add my user name and/or eBay store URL to the image.

The really nice thing about Photoshop is you can use layers to create a branded logo/watermark combination that you can easily add to all your images during the photo-editing phase.

If you don't have Photoshop, or aren't familiar with how to add text to an image using photo-editing software, don't despair. There is a simple, free online alternative. It's called Watermarktool. With this service you can upload your photos, decide what font size and placement you want and, with a push of a button, they'll create a watermarked copy.

Photo-sharing sites also offer watermarking features. If you're familiar with Flickr, you'll probably find the tool PicMarkr easy to work with. Google's Picasa software now includes a text tool as well. Just click, type and add.

It's very important to watermark your photos when you're selling higher value, unique items

When would an eBay seller use one?

There are times when you may decide watermarking your images doesn't pay off. It takes extra time out of your workday. If you are a "churn and burn" seller, watermarking every image may not be practical. In this case, it might make more sense to leave the watermark off. If it's a good photo, it will be eligible for inclusion in eBay's catalog, and your store name will automatically appear as the copyright owner. You never know where you'll find your next customer and a good looking photo just might win them over.

However, there are times when it's very important to watermark your photos, such as when you're selling higher value, unique items. You don't want a scammer to see your nice looking item on auction, right-click save your photo and later use it to create a fake listing. Having a watermark placed where the crook can't clone it or crop it out will prevent the possibility of fraud.

What style works the best?

There are several different approaches you can take when watermarking your photos. Let's a take look at a few of the common watermark styles and how they can help you.

Generic eBay Watermark: You've seen the little camera icon on eBay photos. It's a simple approach that helps slow down right-clicking—but it really does nothing to build your brand. It's down in the right-hand corner of the photo, and very easy to clone or crop out if someone really wants to "borrow" an image.

Specific Text Style Watermark: This is the technique I described earlier of adding text to the photo. You can add your store name or user ID to help build your brand as well as prevent fraud. Placement is the key. If you simply want to slow down right clicking, put it down low on the right or left bottom. If you're worried that the image is valuable enough for the thief to take the time to crop it out, then put it in the middle, over the item.

But be warned; most buyers are turned off by the look of text over the image of the item they are considering buying. So, if you feel it's necessary to do this, be sure to turn down the opacity. Opacity is how transparent the text will appear. As you slide the opacity tool up and down, you'll notice it gets fainter or bolder.

While it's perfectly acceptable to watermark your eBay photos, be careful if you're selling across platforms

Date Watermark: Adding the date to your photo is a great way to prevent theft and to prove ownership, especially when those big product rollouts happen, where demand outpaces supply, and you're the lucky seller of the hot item. You're going to want to include the date the photo was taken as a way to prove that you have the product. Of course, this type of watermark doesn't help build your brand—but it does help build your credibility within the specific listing.

Copyright Watermark: Be sure to add the copyright symbol next to your name if you're selling a copyrighted product, or if the photo itself is the item you're selling. Things that you've created like photographs, paintings, watercolors, etc., should all carry the reminder that these works are copyrighted and not intended to be borrowed.

Branding Watermark: These are a little more elaborate than just your store name in text. Here you can use your watermark creatively to build your store brand. Using a border around your image with your store colors and incorporating your logo into the design will not only protect the image but help buyers to easily identify your store. Think creatively here. You can create the image once and layer it into all of your images quickly during the editing process if you use a photo-editing program like Photoshop Elements.

Using watermarks can help prevent theft by others and build your brand. I just want to remind you that they are not accepted everywhere. While it's perfectly acceptable to add them on your eBay photos, be careful if you're selling across platforms. Many sites do not allow watermarked images for inclusion in their catalogs. It's a good idea to have two copies of the photo, one with the watermark and one without.

I'd love to hear your feedback. Please come ask questions and feel free to suggest a topic for next month on my Facebook page. I'll see you there.

About the Author

Cindy Shebley is an eBay Certified Business Consultant, Education Specialist, Store Designer and author who teaches throughout the Northwest. The recently released eBay Marketing Bible is available in bookstores everywhere. Cindy’s Web Sellers Circle program helps sellers grow their businesses and stay competitive in today's marketplace.

Opinions expressed here may not be shared by Auctiva Corp. and/or its principals.

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