What Famous Photos Would Look Like if Their Photogs Used Ugly Watermarks

Watermarks are commonly used by photographers these days to protect their work from unauthorized use and distribution. However, they’re not very popular among photo viewers, since they do a lot to detract from the content of the photographs. Photographer Kip Praslowicz was thinking about this earlier this week, and writes,

[…] it seems like many amateur [photographers] spend more time putting elaborate watermarks on their images than they do making images worth stealing […] I don’t really recall ever seeing the photographs of famous art photographers with a gaudy watermark.

He then decided to see what famous photographs would look like if the photographers behind them had slapped obnoxious watermarks onto them.

The photograph above, which you probably recognize, is Afghan Girl by Steve McCurry.

Here are some more examples of what he came up with:

Not quite the same as the non-watermarked versions, eh?

Praslowicz tells us that he plans on adding more to the series once he gets his creative juices flowing again. You can see the series here.

Thanks for sending in the tip, Eric!

Image credits: Original photographs copyright their respective owners. Parody images by Kip Praslowicz and used with permission

  • Michael Godek

    heh…kinda funny

    almost makes Soth’s photo more interesting lol

  • Phil A

    This made my day!

  • chris steel

    are people so design inept that they would put this stuff on their work? I’ve seen watermarks but not like these. any examples of ‘real’ watermarks in this vain?

  • Denis Wettmann

    Watermarks are for uncreative, paranoid people that often have the tendency to steal work from others and therefore have the urge to protect their work from being stolen. Be brave, be proud, don’t use watermarks and prove ownership by shooting RAW!

  • sergei

    I don’t spend so much time learning my trade and perfecting my skills so that everyone could look at my image for free. I have a family to support and prefer to get paid for what I do. Clients pay me to create the images and can purchase them on a Wall Print, in an album or collage and show it to their guest and family to their heart’s content. Same goes for galleries and exhibitions, movies etc… ( you buy tickets).

  • ion sokhos

    I dunno, Soth, Eggleston and Gursky look like halfway decent examples of self-published book covers.

  • Denis Wettmann

    What are you trying to say?

  • Renato Valenzuela

    i guess that makes me double paranoid. yes, EXIF data does wonders. but EXIF can also be tampered with. what if the watermark is a simple ligature of a monogram on a corner? ideally we’d all want to be recognized for our work without using one. i mean, we want to achieve that level at some point. i’m pretty discerning when it comes to using my watermark though. sometimes it makes sense for it to be there, (sharing on facebook for example) others it just kills it. i’m on the fence.

  • Fred Nerks

    The photo of the lady in the red and blue dress is particularly funny with that huge watermark! I would have stolen it and had a canvas print made if it wasn’t for the watermark!

  • Denis Wettmann

    Sorry, I was not talking about EXIF data but Watermarks & shooting RAW. EXIF data can be tampered with and watermarks can be removed with editing software. Therefore is the only to prove ownership by shooting RAW (or film and owning the negatives). Sharing photos on Facebook? I am not sure if you are serious!

  • Polly

    LOL! I have seen real watermarks like these! It’s usually amateur photographers who worry the most about image theft.

  • bugphotoguy

    Very famous photos don’t need watermarks. They’re recognised by everyone everywhere. I am not famous, but my photos are pretty good. I have discovered other people stealing them for Instagram, or other social networks, and claiming ownership of them. I probably should use a watermark, but don’t, because it detracts from the appearance of the shots. Nobody questions my ripped off shots, because only a few hundred people have seen the originals, as opposed to millions of people worldwide, like these billion dollar shots.

  • Daf

    I’ll admit there was a certain worry about having stuff “stolen” – however that was because it would happen a fair bit within the sector I covered (nightlife, clubs, DJs) even though I usually let people use them for free anyway. (I’m not a full time pro)
    A more significant element is trying to establish a name for oneself – so want people to know where they came from.

  • Daf

    Google images also strips metadata

  • Daf

    PS Mine are a lot more subtle – blended opacity in a corner

  • Antonio Carrasco

    While I agree that a big obnoxious watermark ruins an image and makes the photographer look like a fool, let’s also remember that all of these images were shot before the internets were even a pipe dream and stealing a photo required a lot more than a right-click.

  • Simoneth

    It is said that if you do have a watermark, it actually adds to how much you can receive if an infringement is made…dunno where i read it but is there any truth to it?

  • Max

    This is not invalid.. A lot of these photos ad their heyday in print and the photographer made their money independent of the internet. Today things are very different, watermarks sadly are a necessary fact of life these days.. back then hardly anyone at all had the internet and Facebook was not the image-stealing-exif-data-erasing beast it is now.. Today the entire planet is online and people will hijack your image for personal use from Dublin to Tim-buck-Too without a second thought. Look at all the big international image agencies like Getty, Rex Corbis etc and all the stock agencies and all online press.. they watermark absolutely EVERYTHING!

  • James Faris

    Small marks have a real use. A London agent found me that way.

  • James Faris

    Well said.

  • Yvo Bronsvoort

    I might be mistaken,
    but there’s a slight chance Kip is not talking about copyrights. Perhaps he’s
    making a statement about the way photographers used to work compared to how quite
    a few of them work now. How the latter focus more on their rights instead of
    their subjects. How some are more interested in the market value of their work,
    instead of it’s artistic value. But then, I could be mistaken.

  • James Faris

    Not true. LVMH group is a world leader in luxury. On it’s site, De Beers Diamond Jewellers, and many more have watermarks on the images.

  • Max

    And BIG watermarks to NOT make photographers look like fools at all…
    if you value something you HAVE to protect it. If you have a beautiful
    home or a gorgeous car I can assure you that you will have a big fat
    LOCK on both..

    And that’s despite the fact that securing either of those two items is
    easy.. securing a photo is NOT. People have become so outright selfish,
    greedy and spoilt by the instant “GIVE ME I WANT IT ALL NOW”
    gratification that the internet has developed in them that seeing a watermarked image evokes anger and even hostility as even seen here in these comments.

    Why on earth should a photographer be obligated to satisfy the selfish
    and greedy visual cravings of the entire planet who have absolutely no
    intention of ever buying work they look at anyway?

  • Max

    Good point…

  • Bret Akins

    How does shooting ra prevent it from being stolen? Furthermore how can you look at a photo and determine it was shot in raw or not? Answer you can not

  • Ethan Meleg

    A pro photographer who puts sample images online without a watermark clearly identifying their copyright is increasing the likelihood that their images will be used illegally and creating more work in having to track down infractions. Watermarks aren’t foolproof, but they’re a first line of defense in protecting the value of images.

  • Neoracer Xox

    When your pictures are viewed probably 99% online how is anyone gonna know who did it if there’s no watermark?!? What if its seen out of context from where you originally placed it (your own website) or you just post it somewhere, you might have lost a chance for further work or exposure. While these photogs they highlighted where brilliant..we’re not all masterminds of photography..gotta maximize your profile and get out there. Having said that, plastering it right across the image is not the way to go either heh..

  • Jaguara

    How easy it is for you to judge people as uncreative. Do I detect some bitterness here?

  • michaelp42

    Gursky is an improvement!

  • jim lewis

    seriously modern water marks like widevine use pixels not large white letters across the photos.

  • Hervé Saint Raymond

    I think his point is that you can produce the RAW file to prove ownership in a conflict.

  • Denis Wettmann

    Very easy, the watermark gives it away. Do you?

  • Denis Wettmann

    I never claimed that shooting RAW prevents it from being stolen. You can not see if the photo was shoot in RAW or not, but this is irrelevant. The point is that you are able to provide proof of ownership with the RAW file.

  • Denis Wettmann

    There are very few exceptions where the watermark has been implemented in photo and it actually provokes a smile because it was done creatively. The emphasis is on “very few”.

  • phloiterer

    Try youarenotaphotographer blog. Lots of examples where the watermark is way uglier than these. Plus that other blog calling out people who steal other photogs work and then place thier own ugly watermarks on the stolen photos… stopstealingphotos.tumblr… You can see that many of the source photos were watermarked, but that didnt stop the thieves.

  • Donald Chodeva

    So agree with you on this.

  • jake

    + on the raw; – for the rest

  • CunningLinguist

    Hey, I was wondering if you could possibly try to be any more pretentious? Dude, you don’t have to worry about ANYONE stealing YOUR images. Anyone with Instagram at a party can can take photos just like you, oh snobby keyboard warrior.

  • A. Core

    Proof of ownership does no good unless you have the means to take someone to court after they steal and profit from your photo. So putting a watermark (discretely) on an image is a way of keeping the average person from stealing your work.

  • A. Core

    Hes saying that a client pays a session fee for him to do his work. Then he uploads that work to a gallery for them to view and place an order with him. This is how he supports his family. Without a watermark on the images, what is to stop them from just downloading and printing themselves? He is protecting his work, his livelihood, by placing that watermark.
    Yes it might be able to be removed BUT the average person doesn’t know a photo editing program well enough to go in and remove it. Also most professional photographers dont paste big bold watermarks across their images like this. They use discreet, low opacity marks that dont distract from the image.

  • Messenger

    Agree indeed sir, agree indeed!

  • Messenger

    I see the connection but I believe it to be circumstantial. I know a good number of quality photogs that have wonderful images and others that think anything in sepia is a masterpiece. Both groups have the same struggle with image theft and loss of potential income as a result. I think this was a dig at the wrong people because of a new set of obstacles facing the industry. If an image is presented with the intent for profit, why belittle those who seek to protect their property until it is sold?

  • Frank Martinez

    Cool Shots Daf, what are you using for lighting?

  • J. Nichols

    I couldn’t agree more with A. Core. I am in a corporate infringement case right now on an unwatermarked image that was stolen from me to create an entire line of products. My copyright and owning the original file is sure as hell not paying my legal bills right now.

  • Mansgame

    That makes no sense. How about you do both? Watermark the pictures you post publicly and use the raw to make unwatermarked copies for publications.

  • Jason Ridge

    those watermarks are ridiculous so the point is invalid, sadly there are people out there who will claim your work, not matter how good, bad or average it is…

  • Todd Thompson

    I’m pretty sure Afghan Girl’s parents, aunts and uncles weren’t looking to download that image and get it printed at Walgreen’s.

  • Angel

    I hate those huge water marks! I love photography, I like to share what I love, as a professional photography has put the daily bread on my table for a few years. I try to avoid water marks as much as possible, and when I do, I try to make it the smallest possible. but still hate the fact that I do it. I like people to see my work and showcase the subject, family, landscape, etc. it makes me feel good seeing people smile or express emotion when looking at their portrait. If the water mark it’s huge, they wont share your work with other people, they wont recommend you with their family and friends. I know we all photographers would like to be discover for big agencies or, would like the world to know that we are great! but if we water mark our work so big like some of them do, people won’t appreciate your work. I would say. Let your work speak for you instead of a water mark! there’s no better publicity than the world of mouth. If you are great, People will find you!

  • Renato Valenzuela

    1 in 5 people who live on Planet Earth have a facebook account. how can it not be ignored?

  • LaVae Mathis

    hmm? I am building a website that will allow artists to showcase some of their work at no cost to them. I wonder how I can help protect their work on my site?