How to Protect Your Photos With A Watermark

I've always disliked watermarks.  When I am asked to provide a portfolio review and see watermarks on the picture, I'm unable to even concentrate on the photo because I'm so distracted with the watermark.

However, about a year ago, I started watermarking my photos because I found a way to do it unobtrusively by using my signature on the photo.  After all, when you walk into an art gallery there are signatures on the photos, so why not recreate that same branding on your digital photos?

In this tutorial, I want to explain why watermarking your photos is important EVEN IF the watermark could easily be cloned or cropped out.  Also, I'll show you step-by-step how to watermark your photos in Photoshop or Lightroom.

Note: If you receive this post via email, be sure not to miss out with this video on watermarking that is associated with this post.

How to add a watermark to your photos in Lightroom or Photoshop, and why it is so important!
How to watermark your pictures.

Why watermark photos if they are so easily removed?

Disclaimer: While I did go to law school, I'm not your lawyer.  The information presented here is my understanding of the law as I have applied it to my business.  Seek competent and licensed legal advice from an attorney licensed in your jurisdiction to apply the law to your circumstances.

There are three compelling reasons to watermark your photos: (1) It is an obvious visual cue to a potential infringer that the photographer wants to protect her rights, (2) It enables those who see your work to find you to license it, and (3) If the watermark is removed, the photographer may receive additional damages in the case of an infringement.

In the U.S. Copyright Law, under section 1202, copyright holders are granted up to $25,000 in damages if an infringement occurs where the wrongful party removed the watermark.  This money is in addition to damages for the infringement, and it provides for attorneys fees, and it can be collected even where the photographer did not register her images.  More on the legal aspects of watermarking on the FANTASTIC PhotoAttorney Blog.

How do you watermark your photos using Photoshop?

There are several ways to watermark your photos in Photoshop.  I have found, however, that the simplest way of doing so is by creating a brush of your logo, and then simply stamping the photo inside Photoshop.  If you're receiving this post via email, you can see a video of how to watermark your photos in photoshop here.

Step One: Create a black document in Photoshop that is 500px wide and 300 in height.  Resolution 150, transparent background.

Step Two: Get a paint brush with black paint and draw your signature on the canvas.

Step Three: Go to edit >define brush preset

Step Four: When you want to watermark an image, simply go to your brush tool and find the brush logo you just created, and stamp it on the picture.  Simple!

How do you watermark your photos using Lightroom?

Watermarking photos in Lightroom is even faster than using Photoshop.  If you're receiving this post via email, you can see a video tutorial on how to add a watermark in Lightroom here.

Step One: Create your watermark logo in Photoshop or other program (see directions above)

Step Two: Highlight the photo you want to apply the logo to and go to File > Export

Step Three: Go to the bottom of the export dialogue to watermarking and click edit watermarks

Step Four: Browse to the graphic watermark you want to use and position the graphic on the photo.  Save this watermark.

Step Five: Whenever you want to watermark a photo, Lightroom will automatically watermark it with the graphic you chose.  If you don't want to watermark a particular image, simply uncheck the watermark box as you export.  Simple!

30 thoughts on “How to Protect Your Photos With A Watermark”

  1. Can you show how to make a watermark using only lightroom? can you make that same watermark by not using photoshop and then going to light room?

  2. Excellent tutorial! No point in re-inventing the wheel, I hope you don’t mind, I’ve linked to it from my blog, for my readers. Thank you.

  3. Thank you SO much for this post! I’ve been wondering how to create a copyright/signature that I can re-use easily and effectively. This is perfect!

  4. I’ve done other watermarks using Lightroom before but i like the idea of using my signature instead. i made it in photoshop following your instructions but when i import it into lightroom, it’s a white box with my black signature not the transparent box with the signature like yours was…what did i do wrong? Also i couldn’t get the white signature to work as a brush in photoshop (it tells me no pixels are defined so it can’t do it). Any suggestions on that?

    1. Mel, I had the same problem and as I am a bit of Photoshop dummy I spent hours trying to figure out wha went wrong. Then I saved a file as PING and imported that to Lightroom. Problem solved:)

  5. you can create watermark in Lightroom (edit watermarks), but it is more limited than Photoshop, however you can reposition watermark any time you want (you just have to save new presets every time).

  6. I typically use a watermark I created in Photoshop and recorded in
    actions so I only have to press play if I want to add it to a photo. I
    like the idea of using my own signature but hell if I can write neatly
    or anywhere close to my actual signature with a mouse. Suggestions
    besides buying a new piece of technology? Couldn’t I just can a copy of
    my actual signature and than convert it to a PNG image?

  7. I made a temporary watermark using your tutorial for Photoshop and the text tool because I am not happy with my brush tool signature yet. However, PS will not allow me to save the white one, it keeps telling me there is nothing in the selected area. I am on a Mac with CS4. Thanks!

    1. Sheri: Create your watermark as directed, making sure you create a New document on a Transparent background, then create with a black ink brush. When I want to apply the signature in white, I select the signature Brush tool, type an x (which switches foreground/background colors), then click on canvas where I want my signature and it appears white (provided I started with default colors of black/white – just type a d to get that before typing x). I hope I understood your dilemma!

  8. I just read where I can leave a copyright in the EXIF data on my Nikon D3200. However, it can be removed from the EXIF data just as easily if the person stealing your photo knows it is there and how to remove it…Would this be a good idea for added protection?

    1. Hey I have same camera as you, nikon D3200 and would love to know how you got your watermark using it if you have a chance….thanks Katie!

  9. I love the tutorial and was able to do the black also but when I do the same steps in white it says could not use the define brush preset because the selected area is empty. What does this mean and how do I fix it?
    Dawn Hammond

  10. ithurtswhenipee

    The signature is a cool idea, but it isn’t very useful for getting someone who wants to license your image to your website. My watermark is just –> mywebsite.com in the lower right corner in vertical 50% transparent white text with a faint, black outside glow that is about 8 to 10 points in size with the image size of 700 pixels on the long side. Very easy to crop off, but so unobtrusive that it will most likely get left in. I just made it in Lightroom so when I export images to post on my blog, my blog export template puts the watermark on.

  11. Thank you for the tutorial! I’d like to add, if you want to do a typed stamp, for instance, mine is “Bri Free ~ 2012”, you type it with the letter tool, simplify the layer, and then select the brush tool on the bar before you click “Define brush”. Worked for me in Adobe Photoshop Elements 4.0, so I’d like to assume it works in newer verions 🙂

    1. Heya

      in Lightroom in your Library once you have finished editing the pictures.
      click ONLY *once* on a picture in the Library now on the Keyboard Press and Hold ‘Ctrl+A’ then you will see all the images highlighted, select at the top left drop down menu, look for Export and choose your folder where you want them to go, and further down adjust quality and you can add a watermark and remove a watermark like the video says. then this will apply to all the images that where selected. Click Export and now you can use that extra time you have saved taking more pictures and learning always “Light and Love”

  12. Wening Cintron

    Great information thank you.
    I have a question can this procedure be done by installing the signature on my Iphone?

Comments are closed.

Scroll to Top