5 Reasons Why Stock Photos Have Watermarks

We’ve all seen stock photos in articles or blog posts. However, you may occasionally come across some that have watermarks on them. We will be covering 5 reasons why stock photos come with watermarks.

I’ve discovered quite a bit in my research to find the answers you are looking for, some of which may intrigue or surprise you!

1. Copyright Protection

While photos and other art are given basic copyright protection from the get-go, there are some reasons why the watermark is important.

The reason why stock photo websites have watermarks on their photos is for added copyright protection. Stealing a photo without a watermark is illegal. However, this way, if you tamper with a watermark without paying for the rights to use it, you can be looking at even more violations.

These watermarks are there to let you know that they are owned by someone else or a company and that you can’t just use them as you’d like to. It will also let people know that you are using an image that you did not pay for.

2. Advertisement

Watermarks can also sort of act as an advertisement for a photographer or artist. They can put their images up on the internet and maybe they do let people share the watermarked image.

People who like what they see can take note of the watermark and search for the artist/company that produced the image. It may be to purchase the rights to properly use it or maybe just to see what other time of images they have in a portfolio.

This isn’t a huge reason why watermarks are used, but it’s a notable one that many people have used to their benefit to generate more traffic to their personal websites and online stores.

3. For Artists

This point is somewhat entangled with the last one. When you are an artist or designer and need to find the perfect stock photo, you may be going through hundreds of images, looking for the few that are really going to drive your vision.

The watermarks can act as a way to sort through the ones you need. If you download the watermarked images into a folder on your computer and decide you really like one of them, the watermark will most likely lead you back to the website you got it from.

This is incredibly helpful for artists that end up filling their browsers with open tabs or tons of bookmarks. It’s hard to know which image you saved via switching tabs or individually opening up saved links.

This way, you can simply open the folder of the images you saved and scroll through to mix and match exactly what you need. Then, you simply look at the artist/stock website name and can easily find it.

A lot of artists can appreciate this and won’t complain that there is a watermark because it helps them and they also understand how important it is to have their work marked in general.

4. Deterrent

Stock photos also have watermarks because it does deter people from trying to steal the images. You end up with two scenarios; thieves with unprofessional images or chopped-up photos.

If you see a website that is using stock photos with the watermark still on it, you can bet that it’s stolen. It’s unprofessional on any website to have watermarked images like that. It really tells you what type of company they are if they have to resort to basically stealing photos.

The other option is someone ends up stealing the image and then tries to photoshop the watermark out. Now some are easier to remove, such as ones that are only on the edges/corners.

Most professional stock photo websites use massive watermarks across the entire image making it nearly impossible to remove them in any sort of decent way. These photos will have obvious cuts and questionable-looking elements where the thieves tried to cover it up.

Now there are some seriously skilled people out there, but with the size/placement of watermarks that you see from most places, it will never look good. So, if you come across a website using choppy images, they likely stole the images they are using.

5. To Prevent Accidental Image Thefts

Now, you may be thinking that it’s obvious you shouldn’t use random images you find online without permission, especially in a commercial capacity.

However, there are a lot of people out there that aren’t familiar with copyright laws or what is and isn’t allowed. Is the lack of knowing an excuse for them? No, but it can explain how people end up using images without permission.

The watermark can act as a sort of warning to everyone that it is a protected image and if you want to use it, you’ll have to pay for the rights. Obviously, some people may not figure that out either, but it does add an extra layer of protection against accidental thefts.

How to Deal with Accidental Image Theft

It’s not right to assume every single person using a watermarked image did so maliciously. There are a lot of things out there that people aren’t privy to, especially those that are much older or younger.

If you see someone using a stolen image and it bothers you, you can politely inform them that the image they are using is not free to use and requires a license.

Now, if they react with hostility or don’t remove the image, it’s okay to report the stolen image to the owner/stock website.


As you can see, there are some less-known reasons why stock photos have watermarks, such as using them for advertisement or being helpful for artists that work with photos regularly. The important take away though, is that photos with watermarks are not free to use whenever you’d like, even on things like personal blogs. They require licenses to use.

The more everything integrates with the internet, the more often we see copyright issues, especially with images. So, be aware of what watermarks are and why they are important!