Watermarking for Fun

Folks complain about watermarked photos. They mostly complain about terrible looking watermarks. Some stock watermarks are designed to destroy value, "pay us to remove this terrible thing". Ok, that's a reasonable line of thinking.

Thinking backwards, the goal is to have an image go viral, and translate into business. You'd think ugly watermarks prevent the first step, but strong images get stolen anyhow.

Let's say a good watermark adds value, and make that the goal. Do we really have to do this? No, but these are miss opportunities.  Each edit should fit the image we have in mind, and the watermark is another creative choice. Lots of solid images contain cool signatures and logos, so it's very possible.

Metadata tools and digital-watermarking are slowly evolving, and there's potential here. Tools like Google's Image Search can read metadata and render something. It's even possible to embed license data invisibly into pixels.

I used the excellent ExifTool by Phil Harvey to add WebStatement and LicensorURL to the above image. This will, in theory, integrate with Google Image Search. This is what I'm currently testing:

exiftool -m -WebStatement='http://www.exsulto.com/p/photos.html' 


  -Creator='Brian Williams / Exsulto Corporation' 

  -Copyright='Brian Williams / Exsulto Corporation' sea_baptism.jpg

Google's Image License badge won't fix everything - licensing is one narrow case that kinda assumes the work is for sale, but I am encouraged that we have big industry players working on this. Ideally we'd have visible watermarks, digital watermarks, and metadata standards - integrated with open-source tools, social media, and AI. 

The unfortunate reality is that images are constantly being harvested and used in unlicensed ways. It's encouraging to see folks on social-media attempting to (at least) credit the original author, but this should be super easy. Hard problems include - preventing facial recognition and identifying fakes. Ownership shouldn't be a tough problem. 


Ry Jones said...

if you look for Stickman on flickr, he puts in really nice watermarks that look like they're part of the OEM stuff he shoots.

Brian said...

You're right; some of his watermarks really do look like etched metal, and consistent with the story.