How to get high quality photos without watermarks?

A company always needs great pictures. Whether that’s to make attractive leaflets, for social media campaigns, or simply for their website.
While looking for such images, you may have encountered watermarked pictures. What do watermarks mean exactly and how do you deal with watermarked photos?

What are watermarks?

Let’s start with the basics: the definition of watermarks. Watermarks are a pattern, image or text added as an overlay on a picture, to limit its unauthorized use. Here is an example of a grid watermark, placed on an Alamy picture:

Brands will usually impose a watermark on a picture they showcase on their website. When properly purchasing the image through the website, a version without the watermark will be available for download and you will be free to use the image.

By doing so, the stock agency protects itself from users simply downloading the image from their website without paying for it since, when shared, the image will always show where it is coming from and give the credit back to them.

How to get photos without watermarks?

Buy pictures

Of course, the easiest - and safest - way to get a picture without a watermark is, well, to simply buy it. That’s the entire purpose of watermarks: to restrict users from using the images without paying for them.

Truth is, you don’t simply pay to get the watermark removed. You pay to legally be allowed to use the image. This means that, even if you were able to remove the watermark by editing the picture, you would risk legal action for copyright infringement.

Buying the picture itself is therefore really not that bad of an idea, especially if you’re after one specific picture, only available for sale. It might be quite costly though, especially if you’re a small entrepreneur and need multiple images. The premium price does cover for premium quality though, and you are sure to get high resolution images.


Get free pictures

Downloading free pictures can be an alternative if you don’t have the budget to spend on expensive stock images. Note however that you might not always be able to find the exact picture you are looking for.

Since the images are for free, there are usually less choices and, if you’re looking for something very specific, you might have to go to paid sites. That is often the case for illustrations or news images for example.

You can still have a lot of free picture options, especially when it comes to generic pictures of travel or people. Simply be careful not to mistake google images for free images. If you are wondering which images you can use for free, check out our guide on Which photos you can use from Google Images.


Use a watermark remover tool

If you’re up for the thrills, you can also use a watermark remover. There are nowadays plenty of websites offering to remove watermarks for free online. What’s the catch? Well.... there’s actually a few.

Not only do they not give you legal rights to use the image, watermark remover websites also often profit off forced clicks on spammy ads (that may or may not contain viruses).

In addition, when you download a watermarked image, you usually only get the low resolution one, with less than 758 x 505 pixels. It also means that, if you need to use it on a larger support (website, banner, poster…), the image will become very pixelated, even after successfully removing the watermark.

Of course, that’s not our favourite solution and we really advise against it but it’s up to you to decide which one works best for you.

Edit the pictures yourself

Here again, you might consider editing the pictures yourself with Photoshop or another design tool. Sometimes you can even successfully remove the watermark using Paint or a little bit of cropping. That’s right, paint isn’t solely for meaningless doodles. Depending on the complexity of the watermark pattern and your mastery of design softwares, it will take from a minute to two or three hours. The picture showcased above, for example, still features a lot of colour variation that you need to respect if you want to hide the watermarks correctly.

Here again, removing the watermark will not give you legal rights to use the image. It means that, if you are caught using it publicly, you might face legal action against yourself for copyright infringement.

So do be careful about this method as well and duly consider the risks versus advantages! Certain stock photography agencies make it a point to track down all unlawful use of images after all.



(Oct 8, 2021) Clemence Servonnat Getting started

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