Whether to watermark your photos or not when posting them online is something that often polarizes photographers. Some strongly believe that you should always watermark your photos, while others strongly believe that you should never add something that detracts from the image.
In this article I'll cover some of the reasons both for and against watermarking, so you can make up your own mind.
What is a watermark?
A watermark is a piece of text or a logo that is overlaid on top of the image. Usually this will be semi-transparent, giving an effect somewhat similar to watermarked paper. Most Photographers use their name or business logo for the watermark, sometimes including a copyright notice, e.g.
© 2013 A. Photographer.
Preventing image theft with a watermark
One of the main reasons for using a watermark is to deter image theft. If an image has a watermark, then people are less likely to use the image without first getting permission from the photographer.
However, while it may deter image theft, a watermark cannot prevent it. Watermarks can always be cloned or cropped out.
Using a large watermark that goes right across the image is more likely to prevent image theft as it will be much more difficult to remove than a small watermark in the corner of the image. But this will also make the image much less attractive to viewers. The purpose of sharing images online is usually so that people can enjoy your images, and a large watermark somewhat defeats this purpose.
Including a watermark on your image can make it easier to claim for damages if the image is used without your authorization. This does vary from country to country, and in the US you will need to have registered your images with the copyright office.
With a watermarked image, especially if the infringer has removed the watermark, it makes it easier to prove that the copyright infringement was willful. In the US this allows you to claim up to $150,000 damages per infringement.
Marketing yourself through a watermark
The other main reason for using a watermark is simply to promote yourself. When looking at one of your photos, it makes it easy for the viewer to see who took the photograph.
Most business brand all their products, for example clothes manufacturers often include their name or logo quite visibly on their clothes. Electronics manufacturers nearly always include their name or logo visibly on their products. So why shouldn't you do the same for your photographs?
If your watermarked images are used without permission, at least you will still get some benefit out of it in the form of getting your name out there and associated with those photos.
This point is somewhat debatable, but a watermark, especially a well designed one, can make your work look more professional. Most people do not have a brand or logo, or take the time to watermark their images. If yours do, it can help them stand out against the mass of other photos on social media. (Though of course the images themselves should be good enough to stand out anyway).
Conversely, a badly designed watermark may actually make you look less professional. Remember that a watermark is your 'brand' that you stamp onto your photos. You want it to be something that looks good, complements the photo (or at least doesn't detract much from the photo), and represents you. If you don't already have a logo, it may be worth hiring a designer to design one for you, with a watermark version as part of the design brief.
A watermark can be seen to be similar to an artists signature. However, in most cases while people prefer purchasing signed artworks, they will prefer photos without the printed 'signature'. If a client orders prints from you and the prints turn up with the watermark still on the image, most clients will not be very happy.
Image type and watermark placement
One aspect that may determine whether you choose to use a watermark or not may be the type of photography you do. Watermarks are more suited to images with out of focus areas (such as portraits), as they can be placed in an area where they don't cover up important image detail. (Though bear in mind this also makes the watermark easier to remove).
With images that contain lots of detail (such as landscapes), the watermark will inevitably have to cover up some area of detail in the image.
A portrait photographer may also find that a watermark helps more in terms of brand promotion. If a client shares your watermarked photos of themselves amongst their friends, the friends can easily see who took the photos, and may contact you for a photo session themselves.
With landscape photography it is more likely that you will be making money by selling prints of the image. Unless you are sharing large size images online, the small compressed images commonly shared online are not good for printing. So the watermark does not have much benefit in preventing people from printing the photos, since the photos are not suitable for printing anyway. It does let people know who contact for prints though.
Watermarking images is not effortless
Adding watermarks to your photos does take a bit of extra effort. First you need to get a watermark designed. As stated earlier, this represents your brand, so it is important to spend time getting this right.
Next, adding the watermarks is another step in your workflow. Most image editing software will allow adding watermarks to images as a batch action, which can speed things up quite a bit. But batch adding watermarks does mean that the watermark placement might not be optimal compared to manually positioning it on a per photo basis.
In terms of creating and adding a watermark, there are many tutorials available online. Just search the web for 'watermark' and the name of the image software you use, you're sure to find a good tutorial.
Ultimately, there is no right or wrong in adding a watermark or leaving your image unwatermarked. There are good reasons both for and against watermarking. But if you do watermark your images, try to use a watermark that looks good and promotes your brand.
When photographing certain subjects or scenes, we want all of the image in focus. This is often the case in product photography and landscape photography. We want sharpness from front to back with no area of the product or landscape out of focus.
This can be tricky to achieve, but there are a number of techniques that can be used to achieve a very large depth of field (the amount of the image in focus).
Probably the first thing that would come to most people's minds when trying to achieve a large depth of field is to use a small aperture. The smaller the aperture (the lens' iris), the larger the depth of field will be.
There are a couple of negative points about using a small aperture though. The first is diffraction softening – at very small apertures, although the depth of field will be large, the area that is in focus won't be quite as sharp as it is at larger apertures.
Generally you will find diffraction softening starts to become visible at apertures around f/22 or smaller. But the exact limit will depend on your camera. You can find a diffraction calculator (plus a good article on the technical side about diffraction at Lens diffraction & photography – Diffraction calculator.
The second problem is that even with the smallest aperture that your camera / lens can manage, you might still find that this does not give a large enough depth of field to get everything in focus.
Plane of focus placement
Where you choose to focus can have an effect on how much of the image is in focus. Typically the depth of field extends for further behind where you focus than it does in front. For a landscape photograph, approximately one third of the depth of field is in front of the plane of focus, while two thirds is behind it. So focusing one third into the scene ensures the optimal use of the depth of field.
At closer focusing distances (e.g. in product photography) the difference is not so large. But unless you are photographing very small objects, then the depth of field will still be greater behind the focus plane than in front of it. So when focusing, focus a little in front of half-way through the area you want to be completely in focus.
In terms of landscape photography, typically you will want to make sure that the horizon area (infinity) looks sharp while also having as much as possible in front of the horizon in focus. The distance you should focus at to achieve this is known as the hyperfocal distance. Again, the Cambridge Colour website has a nice article on this, along with a useful hyperfocal distance calculator.
To create a focus stack you take multiple images of the same subject / scene. You start by taking a photo with the very front of the subject in focus. Then adjust the focus so that it is further back, but ensuring that the area of sharp focus overlaps with edge of sharp focus on the previous image. Then continue this process, shifting the focus slightly further back, until you have a set of images, each one with a different area of the subject / scene in focus.
The number of images you need to take will depend on how large the depth of field you have is, and how large the area is that you need in focus. In some cases you will only need 2 images. In extreme cases (for example very high magnification macro photography), you may need 100 images. Around 2 – 5 images is probably quite typical for most subjects though.
A set of photos, each with a different part of the subject in focus. This example is a relatively high magnification image, and so needed quite a few shots to cover the whole subject. Note that I focused by moving the camera nearer / further from the battery, not really the recommended method, but fine for this example.
Next these images need to blended into one single image that takes the in focus area from each image. This can be done manually, by adding the images as layers into photo editing software, and then using layer masks to combine them.
Tilt the focal plane
Normally the plane of focus is parallel to the camera's image sensor. However, with the right equipment it is possible to tilt the plane of focus. By tilting the lens, you can achieve an image with sharp focus from front to back.
The correct tilt direction depends on the subject and camera angle. For a landscape typically the lens would be tilted downwards so that the plane of focus is more parallel to the landscape.
The main issue with this technique is the need for specialist equipment. Most DSLR cameras have tilt shift lenses available for them, but they are quite expensive.
You could also use a large format camera (and lens) with a DSLR mounted on the back. Large format cameras usually allow for lens or back movements, so you can tilt the focus plane as needed. But this equipment, as well as being expensive, is also very large and heavy.
Another problem with tilting the focus plane is when you have an upright object in the foreground (such as a tree). The bottom or center may appear in focus, but the top will likely be out of focus when the lens has been tilted down.
An easy way to get more depth of field is to stand further back from your subject or use a wider angle lens. The subject will appear smaller in the frame, but more of it will be in focus. Then crop down the image to enlarge the subject to the needed size.
In the same way, you can try photographing the subject with a camera that has a small image sensor, such as most compact cameras and camera phones. These use very short focal lengths, but effectively crop the image by using a small image sensor that only covers a very small portion of the field of view.
View your images at a smaller size
You might have noticed that in most of the example images for this article I've had to include close-up crops of the image so that you can see the difference a technique makes. The fact is, that when viewed at standard web sizes, an image may look completely in focus from back to front, even when areas are clearly out of focus when viewed at 100%.
This is important to bear in mind. It's not worth sweating too much in making sure your image has everything in sharp focus when viewed at 100% if it's never going to be viewed that close.
As I have covered, there are quite a few ways to enlarge the depth of field available to you. Most often you would not want to use one of these techniques in isolation, but rather combine them. For example, setting the focus distance to one third into a scene, and using a small aperture as well for a landscape photograph.
So, now you know how to get a large area of an image in focus. If, on the other hand, you want only a small area of the image in focus, you can read some tips on achieving that here: How to take photos with a blurred background by using a shallow depth of field.
Getting good photographs of fish in an aquarium can be very tricky. The lighting is often quite dim, and it can be difficult to shoot through the tanks without capturing reflections on the glass. In this article I'll share a few tips on how to try and deal with these problems and get better aquarium photos.
Kuroshio Sea - 2nd largest aquarium tank in the world by Jon Rawlinson on flickr (licensed CC-BY)
The light levels in aquariums tend to be very low, meaning it is difficult to get a fast enough shutter speed to avoid blurring. One solution to this is to add additional lighting, in the form of flash.
It has been argued that you should not use flash when photographing fish as it causes them undue stress. Whether this is actually true or not seems to be up for debate. However, one thing is sure – if the aquarium does not allow flash photography, then using flash is out of the question.
If you do decide to use flash, then ideally you should use off camera flash rather than your camera's pop up flash. The external flash could be connected to your camera by wire or a radio system. You can read more about that here: Off-camera Flash Trigger Options.
There are two main reasons for preferring an off camera flash. The first is that you can move the flash and position it so that it does not create any reflections on the glass that will be visible from where you are photographing. The second is that you can control the angle of the lighting, rather than lighting the subject straight on from the camera position, which often results in quite flat lighting.
There are a couple of other benefits as well. Having the flash further away from your subject means the light intensity will be more even across the subject and the background. You are less likely to get images where the subject is over-exposed by the flash, or where the background is completely black.
External flashes also allow for a greater power output than pop-up flashes. This could be useful in some situations, though I wouldn't advise blasting the fish with a flash at full power.
Using your camera's Pop-up Flash
If you are using your camera's pop-up flash to help light the fish, then the main issue is positioning the camera so as to avoid capturing the bright reflection from the flash on the glass. Holding the camera right up against the glass is a method that can sometimes work well. (I'll cover this a bit more later in the article).
The other method is to try and angle the camera so that the reflection of the flash is out of the frame. Since you can't preview where the reflection of the flash will appear, this will take a bit of experimenting. Shooting straight-on to the glass is where you're mostly likely to capture the reflection of the flash.
Avoiding reflections caused by ambient light
Using flash allows you to use a faster shutter speed, which in turn cuts down on the amount that ambient light contributes to the exposure. So you are less likely to have problems with reflections caused by ambient light when photographing with flash. When not using flash the reflections caused by ambient light can be quite problematic. Even with flash they can still sometimes cause problems.
To minimize these reflections, try and choose the area of the tank that you will shoot through carefully. Look for the area with the least reflections. If possible, try to find an area of glass that is relatively clean as well. This will provide a cleaner, clearer photo of the fish. Carrying a pack of tissues with you to wipe smudges from the glass is a good idea.
Using a rubber lens hood and pressing it up against the glass often works very well in avoiding reflections. It creates a light-tight seal between the glass and your camera, virtually eliminating any reflections.
A polarizing filter is a commonly used filter for reducing reflections. Unfortunately it is not so useful when shooting in an aquarium. While they can reduce reflections, Polarizers reduce the amount of light that reaches your camera. Most aquariums are dimly lit, and you want every bit of light you can get to avoid blurring.
It is very rare to find daylight balanced lighting in an aquarium, most likely you will find a mix of fluorescent and tungsten lighting. Fluorescent lighting can give your photos a green tint, while tungsten will make them look orange. So it is important to set the right white balance for your photos to avoid any color cast.
Because the lighting can vary from one exhibit to another, I would advise on shooting in RAW format if your camera has this option. This will allow you to shoot using a single white balance setting e.g. auto, and then adjust the white balance to the correct setting for each image later.
Taking a photo of a blank piece of paper in each lighting condition that you photograph in can be helpful in this instance. When converting the RAW files, you can sample the white paper to achieve the correct white balance settings, and then apply this setting to all images shot in the same lighting.
If your camera does not support RAW format, then it is a good idea to correctly set your white balance manually. The auto white balance setting on virtually all cameras, while better than nothing, does not usually do a very good job in setting the white balance correctly under artificial lighting.
If your camera supports setting a custom white balance, then you can (possibly) do that. This usually involves photographing a white piece of paper under the lighting you want to set the white balance for. But some cameras will not do this in low light levels, and just give an error about there not being enough light or the shutter speed being too slow.
Exposure wise, you will probably want to use a large aperture (e.g. f/3.5) This will allow more light into the camera, for a faster shutter speed. A high ISO (or Auto ISO) is also helpful to allow a faster shutter speed (at the expense of slightly noisier images).
The reason you want a 'fast' shutter speed, is to avoid image blur. At slow shutter speeds you may see the image blur from small movements of the camera as you hold it, or from the movement of the fish themselves. The shutter speed doesn't need to be what would considered 'fast' in daylight, just fast enough so that you can capture images in the low light levels without blurring.
On the other hand, it is a good idea to try some photos where you intentionally use a slow shutter speed, but pan the camera with the subject's movement. This creates an image where the fish is sharp, but the rest of the image is blurred.
To do this find a fish that is swimming, preferably in a mostly horizontal plane rather than towards or away from you. Follow the fish's movement with your camera, then press the shutter, continuing to move the camera at the same speed and in the same direction. You will probably require quite a few tries at this before you have a success, but it makes for a more dynamic shot than a static photo.
When checking your images on the camera's rear LCD, bear in mind that the images may look quite bright due to the dim light you are viewing them in. Check the histogram for the image to see how bright the image really is. If the histogram shows all the tones bunched up towards the left side of the histogram, it means the exposure is actually quite dark. You can read more about understanding the histogram here: Stop Exposure Problems Ruining Your Shot.
There's no doubt that capturing photos of fish in aquariums can be difficult. With these tips though, hopefully you can come away with some great fish photos.
Most modern cameras handle quite well. However, they are designed for the average person, and if your hands are larger or smaller than average, then you could find that keeping a firm grip on your camera is not as easy as you'd like.
This is one reason why it is often a good idea to try out a camera before purchasing it. How a camera handles is an important factor in how easy it will be for you to use. But if you do find yourself with a camera that is not quite grippy enough for you, there are a number of different things you can do to remedy the situation.Read the rest of this entry »
A website is almost essential for photographers today. It helps you market yourself 24 / 7. It lets potential clients easily see the sort of work you create, the services or products you provide, and will bring in new clients or sales. Even if you are not interested in sales, it still lets you share your vision with the rest of the world.
However, there are quite a few factors that go into creating a successful photography website. In this article I am not going to go into how to code a website or look at a specific website provider.
Rather, I will go over the important points you need to consider when building a photography website. These are the same whether you are having a website custom built for yourself, or using one of the many photography website providers, such as Zenfolio or Smugmug.
Read the rest of this entry »
Website screenshots - New Website by Grégory Tonon (licensed CC-BY-SA), Live to Create Photography by Sarah Zucca (licensed CC-BY-SA), Redesigned Cat's Eye is Online by Jayel Aheram (licensed CC-BY), ardenswayoflife.com by Arden (licensed CC-BY-SA)
A quick release system is designed to make it quick and easy to attach a camera to a tripod, or remove a camera from a tripod. Instead of having to screw the camera onto the tripod, you fit the camera with a quick release plate that slips into a quick release clamp on the tripod.
This can be quite a time saver, and many photographers make use of a quick release system. Many of the different heads available for tripods (or tripods that come with a head included) also make use of a quick release system. There are a few different quick release systems you may come across, and there are also a couple of issues with using a quick release system that you should be aware of.Read the rest of this entry »
One of the phrases you hear quite often in photography, particularly from a landscape photography perspective, is the Golden hour. This refers to the period around sunrise or sunset. Slightly less common is the phrase Blue hour, which means the period shortly before sunrise or after sunset.
Neither of these periods are precisely an hour, and their length varies with the seasons. But both periods are important to many photographers in the terms of the natural lighting found at these times of day.Read the rest of this entry »
Most photographers don't modify the appearance of their cameras at all. However, you may sometimes see a photographer (typically a professional) with the logos on their camera covered by black tape. Why would they do this? Are they testing exciting new camera models before they're released?
While this could be the case, there are actually quite a few good reasons why some photographers might want to cover their gear in black tape.Read the rest of this entry »
Fungi don't seem to be as popular a subject as flowers. Maybe it's that they're not so easy to find, or that many of them are quite dull in coloration compared to flowers. Or maybe it's that photographing them often involves getting down in the dirt.
The fact is that fungi do actually make great subjects for photos, and I want to share a few tips on photographing them in this article.Read the rest of this entry »
In the previous article Product photography on the cheap with only one light pt. 1 - Taking the photo, we looked at taking multiple photos of a product using only one light, and lighting each shot differently. The next step is to combine those images into a single image, which will look like it has been shot with multiple lights.
The final photo will look like this:
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