Branding: To Watermark or…

A couple of weeks ago, a very interesting discussion went up on Jewelry Making Journal: is it really necessary to watermark jewelry photos? The general consensus was that yes, watermarking is worth the time and effort because and it is less about preventing people from stealing your designs – and more about facilitating self promotion.


“Pale Twilight” Earrings on a white mannequin, acquired from Rio Grande.

Originally, I was going to try out watermarking simply because I had designed a logo. I thought, “How cool! Here’s something I can use it for, and maybe my photos will look smooth and professional.” So I took my already complicated-looking logo and “enhanced” it in GIMP: removed some details, made the lines thicker (hoping that the result would look less cluttered when scaled down).

WildNaiada Logo White

The “Before” logo

WildNaiada Logo - clean

The “After” logo

To convert the black and white logo into a watermark, I inverted the colors in GIMP to make the drawing white, and then applied it at low opacity in Lightroom. I sized it at “to fit” scale, so it would be fully visible over the earring shots. Can you imagine how it looked?

Busy, right? It was kind of cool that I could do that, but the logo was pretty distracting. More importantly, you could NOT read the name of my shop in it, therefore it would carry no information to customers who were not already familiar with my shop. In about a week I became so dissatisfied with it that I deleted all the resulting photos – so I have no examples to share :/.

Just around the time of this dissatisfaction, I participated in a discussion about Watermarking on Jewelry Making Journal. It convinced me of my initial instinct, and from now on I will try to watermark my images – at the very least, all the photos that I actually use for Etsy listings.

Here are the potential benefits of watermarking:

  • When images of your work end up all over the net (linked to via Pinterest, Tumbler, Facebook, etc), the presence of your logo will result in free marketing – it will allow people to find you.
  • Even if someone copies your design, they will be deterred from using your photos and will at least need to take their own.
  • It can make your images look more professional.
  • A watermark can be used as a visual element to balance your photos compositionally in post processing.

Since the main benefit of watermarking is promotional, it made no sense to stick to my original logo – instead, I decided to use the first calligraphy draft my friend Sarah drew for my Etsy shop banner. (Hi Sarah!! You are awesome!) I can’t get enough of that calligraphy. It is so swoopy and full of energy – it makes me think of the wind. I loove it! Watermark-black 🙂 Anyhow – this proved to be an excellent choice. In most photos, the watermark is memorable but not distracting. In others, I feel like it actually makes the photo compositionally – like a period at the end of the sentence. Here are a couple of examples:

In this cover photo of “Cloudy” Earrings, the floating look to the earrings would probably be visually mind-boggling. With the watermark, the earrings are grounded.


In this hand shot of “Weeping Maple” Earrings, the watermark takes up an empty space beneath the subject, balancing it out. Without the watermark, that space would distract the eyes. However, cutting that space out entirely would leave the shot filled with hand, which would be more overwhelming for the eyes.

Interestingly, most of the shops I’ve come across on Etsy do not use watermarks. I mean, I get that they’re extra work and potentially a hassle, especially if you’re trying to use them specifically to protect yourself from copyright theft. What I’d really like to research further though: I heard that Etsy admins do not like to feature watermarked images on the front page. If so, I wonder if that’s purely for aesthetic reasons, or because Etsy would like to keep their own branding intact?

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2 Responses to Branding: To Watermark or…

  1. Amy says:

    I never noticed it before but you’re right. Etsy never uses images on their homepage w/ watermarks! Kind of bogus. I’m a big fan of the watermark, mine is pretty subtle though…maybe I need to amp it up a bit.


  2. Sarah says:

    love what you’re doing with it! you make my stuff look good. : )


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