I’ve been following an interesting debate recently between Trey Ratcliff and Miss Aniela regarding watermarking on images. I’ve shot alongside both Trey and Natalie in the past, and respect their work hugely.
Trey never watermarks his images, licences Creative Commons and shares a full size image on his website every day. His philosophy is that his art is to be shared, and by trusting his 11m followers on Social Media not to abuse that he can still generate his revenues via licensing. When he discovers that his images have been stolen in breach of the licence, he takes action.
Natalie watermarks her images with a discreet watermark, and they are all fully copyrighted. She argues that too many people are out there just trying to steal artists works, and that with the new Orphan Works legislation in the UK this will only make things easier, so takes the steps she feels necessary to protect herself.
Over the years I’ve taken both approaches. Originally I shared everything Creative Commons, and took pleasure when I found people sharing my work, although all too rarely was I advised, and not always even credited. I then went through a phase of watermarking and copyrighting, but as I found nobody willing to pay for my work, I reverted to the Creative Commons model, with the exception of the images I have licensed with Getty.
I don’t practice photography to make a living from it, and I do enjoy people sharing my work. I think going forwards my strategy will be a compromise – I think I will use discreet watermarks to identify the work as my own, but at the same time use CC licensing so that people can continue to use my work in a non-commercial manner.