I've gotten a few questions and subtle inquiries as to why I watermark my images, so I thought I would address this today! Without freaking people out and not wanting them to ever allow an image online ever again, lol, I wanted to highlight the main reasons I do this.
One of the main benefits of the watermark is the obvious reason I do it - exposure! The pictures I put on Facebook, especially, have the potential to be shared and passed on, seen by many more people than I can reach on my page. And that's the reason I also ask that if you do use an image online - not just mine, any photographer's! - that you do not crop out the watermark (or lose the original tag in the picture). So many people will see your picture and not know who photographed it - keeping the link and brand helps tremendously with word of mouth advertising. :) A huge boost.
The more important reason I watermark is also exposure, but of a different kind. Image theft is actually quite a problem in this digital age. Because it is so easy to right-click on an image anywhere online and "Save As", pictures are stolen frequently... and it's a pretty lame thing to have to protect yourself against, but there it is. The photography community is actually a fantastic network of very caring people who watch each others' backs and build each other up... for the most part. There are others out there who want to cycle through the learning phase, the building up of their clientele, the word-of-mouth advertising - the building blocks of starting a business - faster than paying their dues will allow. And these people sometimes quicken their first stages up by stealing others' work and branding it as their own in a portfolio. Awful! I have seen it quite a few times even just in this past week - luckily the people they stole the images from are very well-known, so they had many people out there that recognized their work to let them know their images were being illegally used. I wouldn't have the benefit of that yet. :)
A sad fact, but it's another reason I watermark, and do it in hard to crop out places - that may end up making the image more distracting, but it's a balancing act.
Another image theft, more horrible, if you can image - are images taken to be used on porn/fetish sites. Crazy, but true - the image is taken, watermark removed and the subject of the picture taken out of context. Things added to make it their own, disturbing image. So, I watermark in a hard to clone out area, over multiple layers of background, to make it as time consuming and therefore, a most unprofitable theft. Some people use bars that go along the whole picture for yet another added layer. As for what may already be out there, I search Google Images every week to see if there are any obvious problems, and I am working on a way to disable right-clicks on my blog. Hopefully, those steps will help lessen the threat of an image theft - it makes me quite sick to think of people out there preying on others working hard to make a living.
Many people have said that the watermark takes away from the image, distracts and looks like shameless self-promotion. I say, you can never be too careful, and it's a bonus that people may find me that way. :) This was just an fyi post, since some were wondering. I hope this sheds some light!
An example of the opaque bar, and how much someone would have to clone out to use this image. A little more protection! I could have placed it better, more challenging, but honestly this was before I really knew and wasn't thinking along that vein yet!