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Why you should not watermark your Etsy shop photos.

Why you should not watermark your Etsy shop photos.

You worked so hard creating your hand-crafted products and artwork and just as hard listing your artwork on Etsy. The last thing you want right now is some knock-off Nigel to come along and nick your photos to use them as their own. A good reason to splash your logo and text across your pictures, you can argue. Stop and read this article before you do so. In this article, I will explain why you should not watermark your Etsy shop photos.

What is a watermark?

Watermarks date back to the thirteenth century in Italy, around the same time as the birth of the printing press. Traditionally, watermarking was, and still is, a way that paper mills brand their products by stamping a mark, initials, or logotype into the paper or polyp while it is still wet, Hence the name; watermark! Once dry, the watermark is almost invisible until the paper is held to the light. The light shows through the slightly thinner paper created by the watermarking process, revealing the watermark.

An example of a single tone ‘Line’ or Electrotype watermark produced at  Stowford Paper Mill commemorating the mill’s bicentenary in 1987.
An example of a single-tone ‘Line’ or Electrotype watermark produced at Stowford Paper Mill commemorating the mill’s bicentenary in 1987. Courtesy of The Ivybridge Heritage & Archives Group.

Watermarking become the first security feature with the introduction of paper currency banknotes in the eighteenth century.

Fast forward to the digital age.

These days, with the age of sharing and promoting everything digitally and especially on the internet, watermarking your content may safeguard it from copyright theft.

Unlike traditional watermarks on paper, a digital watermark can be a semi-transparent image or text placed on or across digital photographs and other documents.

A great idea when showcasing your stuff to the world on the big vast interweb via your Etsy shop. Wrong!

Unusable watermarked etsy photo from Steampunk Mastery

Steampunk Mastery makes great steampunk and military cosplay costumes and related products.

I promoted one of these very jackets on behalf of Etsy on my Early Mojos Collections page and Steampunk Stuff blog back in 2019 that helped sell some of the shops hand made clothing and other goods on Etsy.

Unfortunately, this shop has decided to make its photos unusable for promotion.

Why you should not watermark your Etsy shop photos.

If I told you that your watermarked Etsy photos are unusable, or more to the point, I say, “I can’t use your Etsy product photos, “you will probably think “, Yes, but isn’t that is the point”? Exactly. You have made your Etsy shop images unusable to me, and I have no intention of stealing your intellectual property or ripping anyone off.

A little about my fellow publishers and me.

I am one of the many, many Official Etsy Affiliate Partners. As publishers, our job is to publish content and share, influence, and promote our partner’s products and services on blogs and other online platforms. And who is my biggest partner?.. It is Etsy! 

Why you should not watermark your Etsy shop photos.
Freak Show – Ramoan Original Artificial Halloween Wreath by RamoanOriginal.

Above is a great example of why you should not watermark your photos. This shop has great stock that perfectly fits my niche, but sadly I can not feature them on my blog.

Etsy doesn’t like you using watermarks.

Etsy also recommends that you do not use watermarks for the same reasons. When choosing products for promotional emails, front page articles and TV advertising, like us, publishers and influencers, Etsy is looking for good, clear photos that show the products, vintage finds, collectable artefacts and works of art in their best light.

“While some sellers use watermarks, we generally wouldn’t recommend them. Using watermarks makes photos unsuitable for features within Etsy (like Etsy Finds emails), and ineligible for off-site advertising programmes like Google Shopping.”

Etsy Help Center: How to Protect Listing Images.

So if you want to get your creative work Featured by Etsy and its army of freelance publishers, you should not hide your beautiful creations behind a watermark or logo.

Etsy invests much of your fees into promoting the Etsy Marketplace, so they should. But your products will be overlooked if your images are obscured and unusable. And you could miss out on much-needed exposure, especially if you are in a speciality niche like Steampunk, movie props, or wicker, to mention just a few.

And if someone steals your product photos?

Yes, it isn’t very nice, but it’s not your products they are stealing; if they had any talent, they would have made their own art and taken their own photos. They will soon get caught out when they can’t deliver on their “promise”.

When this happens to you, report it to Etsy or the platform you find it on. Nobody likes a Knockoff Nigle; the site will take it down in hours.

You can use tools like Google’s lense image search to see if your images are published anywhere and by anyone; they shouldn’t be. If you use the Chrome browser, it is already built-in. Just right-click over your photo (on Etsy/online) and select “Search with Google Lens”. The right-hand pane will open and show your picture with links to any website it has been shared.

google lens search
Google lens search: The first three images show the same item. Each one is linked to a different Etsy shop.

Ways you can brand your Etsy photographs without watermarks.

Some Etsy users brand their photography without superimposing it like a watermark.

If you have your own branded packaging, you can include this in the backdrop of every photo. Then the last image can show the item inside its box with the lid open, for example, or sitting on top of your branded tissue paper. 

You can get printed wrapping paper and boxes on Etsy with your shop name on, or you can get a reusable stamp and ink plain packaging with your logo.

A printed card next to the item is a good way of branding your photos. This is often done against the same backdrop. Like this Cufflinks photo from CosmicFirefly.⇣

Alternatively, you can make or buy branded photo props for your Etsy product photos.

JADUHome uses a framed card with their Etsy shop name in their candle photos. ⇣

JADUHome uses a framed card with their Etsy shop name in their candle photos.

But at the end of the day, please don’t ruin your lovely photos with overlaid logos and ugly watermarks. Allow them to stand out and shine and allow them to be shared.

I hope you have found this post useful and answered any questions if you were thinking about watermarking your Etsy photos.

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* Etsy User Photographs are shared here, with the authorisation granted to Etsy and their partners under section 5c of Etsy’s terms of use to promote Etsy, its services and its products.

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