An Open Letter to Wedding Bloggers

posted on: December 28, 2010

Lately, something very disturbing has been happening in the blogging world.

Dear Blogger,
I love you. You've dedicated your time to becoming the most awesome curators of this crazy world we call the internet. You've defined and refined your own personal vision by selecting the best images to covey your carefully crafted boards of inspiration alongside your witty words of wisdom. Seriously, I dig what you've got going on and I think what you're doing is fabulous. Period.

I would love to continue supporting you by giving you awesome content for "free."

All of that beautiful work my clients invest into their weddings, or that I personally invest into a special creative shoot just for the benefit of you and your readers, all of that has value which you get to benefit from in ad dollars and clicks and hits to your blog. Hopefully, I get to benefit by getting at least one more awesome client out of it.

Casey Jon New England Seaside Wedding

You see, in order to continue providing that beautiful content and in order to keep getting clients who are awesome enough to design those super creative real weddings, I really need my name to be ON my work. As awesome as it is to have a link to my site under an image I provide you, it's equally NOT awesome when someone takes that inspiring image of my couple from your blog and then uploads it to another website, inspiration board, or commercial site where it provides zero credit to the creator, zero credit to the couple, and doesn't give you any credit for featuring it.

It's totally not your fault... or is it?

There's a good reason why I watermark images on MY own blog and on my facebook page- it's because I KNOW people will take those images and put them elsewhere online, but that watermark helps me track where that image goes.  That's what makes blogs so awesome! I'm totally willing to put my work out there for free because I know that if someone ends up finding my image in some random place online and loves it, they'll still know how to find the creator because my name is ON the image. That someone could be a cool client who hires me to create more beautiful images, or maybe a magazine editor that wants to feature one of my couple's weddings.

That watermark also provides my clients with an extra layer of security, so that with image matching search software, we can track usage of their image as it travels the internet to make sure it isn't being used for unapproved sites like pharmaceutical ads or commercial companies whose web designer is inexperienced or uneducated enough to think that all images Google can find are model-released or royalty free.  These things generally happen to images that don't have a watermark to begin with, or in cases where clients have uploaded images to Facebook or other social media sites, but cropped out the watermark from visibility.

nancy mike historic newport wedding

How will they ever find the content creator once the image leaves your blog if a name isn't on the image itself?

How are you protecting and supporting the work of photographers who are providing you with the yummy FREE content you need to keep your readers coming back for more which ultimately keeps your bank account full of ad revenue? Seems like the least you could do is provide a link AND let us put branding or some kind of watermark on the content we're giving you for FREE.  I've shared three different styles of watermarking on this blog- create a style that works for your blog content and style and provide the info in your blog submission details so photographers can do the work in advance for you!  We're happy to do the work when it helps protect our work and our clients.

I know it won't prevent people from cropping out the logo or watermark if they really want to- but at least you've done your part. At least YOU have been the responsible one who is committed to keeping your favorite photographers connected to their own work. Even if you created a small border around the image that blends into the background of your blog with a simple website or copyright text in the border with matching font from your blog, you'd be able to provide creator credit ON the image without disrupting the overall flow or look of your carefully designed blog or inspiration board.

Flower Girl Petal Basket

To the wedding bloggers who HAVE incorporated these practices all along,

I thank you for being smart, savvy, and for doing your part to help support your content creators.

I'm encouraging photographers and wedding vendors to invest their advertising budget with you because you really do care about the success of your content providers and advertisers. I'm encouraging brides to visit YOUR blog because I know that they will be able "borrow" the images from your blog guilt-free for their inspiration boards because you've already let the creator provide creator credit on the images at their own discretion.

To the following wedding blogs, thank you for continuing to be awesome:
Offbeat Bride
So You're Engayged
Wholly Matrimony

Since writing this blog post, these bloggers have either declared that they allow watermarking or have committed to allowing watermarks starting now:
Rock n Roll Bride
Polka Dot Bride
Brides Up North

If you know of any other blogs who support their content creators by providing credit ON the images themselves - please let me know so that I can thank them with a link in this post! To the bloggers who insist on NOT allowing any creator credit ON images, perhaps you could at the very least disable right-clicking and dragging images off the blog, or put all of your images in a flash gallery to help protect your content creator's rights and usage of their work. We work hard to create that content you're earning money from and our clients who paid us to create it have a stake in where it ends up online- it's the least you could do.

Hugs & hot cocoa with marshmallows,
Anne Ruthmann

38 comments, to add [click here]:

  1. Thank you Anne! Yes dear wedding bloggers, please let us all put a small logo/watermark on our images--they are showing up everywhere and once they leave your wedding blog, no one gets any credit!

  2. Yay to Anne, ever the voice of pull-no-punches kindness and reason... The epitome of straightforward diplomacy...Happy New Year!

  3. You said it all : ) We agree 100%!!

  4. Thank you, Anne. Though I am not a wedding photographer, I encourage people to use my photos AND request a link back. Few do but to those that do, I am very grateful.

  5. You are just awesome. Period. Happy New Year! Many blessings to you and MUCH continued success.

  6. I thought this was going to explain to bloggers with cameras that they're not "photographers" by proxy or due to their equipment.
    But these are good points too.

  7. As always - the voice of reason :) I don't know why many of the bloggers don't understand this situation. I think more photographers need to make this point

  8. Well said.


    >I don't know why many of the bloggers don't understand this situation.

    I'm absolutely 100% committed to giving others credit for their work. I would never, ever use any form of content that belonged to someone else without giving both credit and a link*.

    But while I haven't used someone else's picture before, I fully admit that I would have thought that an under-the-picture byline with link would have "counted" as full attribution. Mea culpa!

    Anne, I hope your message gets out to the many, many bloggers who are committed to doing the right thing but wouldn't have thought twice about cropping a watermark (and replacing it with "attribution").

    * When I was considering a personal blog name with Sharpie in it, I actually called the company and spoke to them about their brand use policy. They were very polite, if surprised.

  9. lets you keep your logo ON the images and provides a link :) Some photographers send without logos and some send them with but we allow both! Thank you so much for this post!

  10. Well put Anne. You state your case clearly and respectfully, even though the issue you're addressing is clearly frustrating!

  11. Anonymous2:47 PM

    You don't have to be a wedding photographer to have this issue.

    Anything I post outside of password protected galleries is watermarked 100% of the time. I have had major media/journalism sites stealing and modifying my images to post on their blogs. No credit provided.

    The watermark in a corner idea is a big fail. They just clone or crop it out. I throw up a several light opacity watermarks across the image, complete with my e-mail address. It's hilarious when I find one of my images rehosted, but it still has the watermarks. I send a letter to the webhost and it's usually gone within 24 hours.

    I have many very unique images, so if someone doesn't like the watermark, too bad. They won't see many of these images elsewhere.

  12. A newer blog,, allows watermarks!

  13. I was on the other end of this scenario not long ago - desperately looking for the original source of a photo that was on blog after blog after blog with no credit! Very frustrating for everyone, and I missed out on using a really cool photo for the magazine.

  14. Anonymous3:43 PM

    10 minutes of quick and dirty work: Your watermark removed.

  15. I welcome watermarks by photographers on their image on However, It behooves said photographers to make sure you are not messing up your images with a water mark that takes away from your gorgeous work.

    IMHO- the first and second pictures in your post are ruined by your watermarks. The third picture is much better. Your name is on the image but it does do take away from the image.

    I see sooooooo many wedding pictures by photographers that are ruined by the very thing they are trying to use to promote their business.

  16. Brava, Anne!

    I am a big believer in giving photographers their due credit. I empathize with the decline of photo developing as a result of the proliferation of digital downloads and online sharing. Photographers used to be able to make a living off their reprints; sadly, that is no longer the case. When I got married, I purposefully didn't post the photos taken by our photographer to Facebook or anything of that sort, because as a songwriter, I deeply respect creativity and understand the value of intellectual property.

    And for what it's worth, I don't think the first and second photos on your post are ruined by your watermark. As long as the text is in a clear space, it doesn't interfere in my opinion.

    So glad that Scott Stratten pointed me in the direction of this post. Have a wonderful New Year!


    P.S. I'd raise the point size a tad in your blog -- a bit hard to read!

  17. Thanks friends for taking the time to share your thoughts and comment. I'm concerned for our clients as much as I am for photographers. I've had far too many incidents of people using my work illegally without my permission AND without permission from my clients. My clients signed a contract to allow ME to use their image to represent MY work, but they did not sign a contract to allow any third party to use their likeness for any reason.

    I think photographers need to be smarter about protecting our clients- so that we can continue to keep their trust and respect. I've sent plenty of information requests to my former couples when people have wanted to feature their weddings or know about where they got their cool dresses, accessories, or custom whatchamacallits. I wouldn't have been able to do that if my name hadn't been on my work. Even when people have been ridiculous enough to crop out my name, I've had recourse when it comes to stating my case against illegal use because there are versions online with my watermark.

  18. michael chan9:21 PM

    i'm sure that the art director at Twitter shares your concern -

  19. I totally get this! I agree with the post because, as a floral designer, photographers take pictures of my intellectual property, my floral designs, and then do not give me credit as the artist when they use the image of my work. This can be especially frustrating when the flowers ARE the picture and the image of my work gets placed on a blog with no credit to my artistry, whatsoever.

  20. Anonymous - should I send you a bill for the usage rights to alter my photography? Luckily most people won't waste 10 minutes on trying to remove a watermark- those who do are going out of their way to bring a lawsuit upon themselves.

    Judy - How can you stand to look at magazine covers or fashion ads with those big letters all over the high end commercial photography? How can you stand to look at an Anthropologie catalog? Those publications are laden with "ruined" imagery! ;-)

  21. Michael - HA! I knew someone would bring that up! The bird & branch on my blog is a stock image available for purchase by anyone and available to use for commerical purposes:

    While twitter did start to use it around the same time I did, it is no longer Twitter's "official" logo... and to that point, it's not my "logo" either. Twitter has gone to something that was custom designed for them and as much as I love my little bird & branch, it's been used too much by other people that I'll eventually go to a more customized design as well. In the meantime, it is annoying that this graphic has become so popular... but that's what happens when you purchase stock that anyone else can purchase and use as well, and why it's increasingly more important to create custom design and imagery for your site... which I'm in the process of doing.

  22. Good Point Anne! But those images are purposefully created to sell a product. The copy is there to help sell the products in the images.

    Your images sell your photography. So it would stand to reason you would not want to distract from your beautiful pictures. The first image in this post of the couple has all the lovely negative space with the moon to draw the eye. Most of the impact of your beautiful composition is lost because of the watermark.

    I have always allowed watermarked images on my blog.

  23. Judy - I would rather people hire me to get access to beautiful unwatermarked images that I create uniquely for them than have access to all of my work without watermarks and without hiring me. Thank you for appreciating the negative space and the moon in spite of the watermark.. which lets me know my artistic choices haven't been completely overshadowed by my watermarking choice. Still, the financial loss and word-of-mouth referrals lost for NOT watermarking my work is of greater damage to my brand and business than the artistic distraction of my watermark on my work.

  24. Amen! Anne, I've made a resolution now for 2011- only giving out watermarked images! What if ALL of us did this?

  25. Hi All! ;)

    I'm a Blogger who runs a popular UK based blog - Love My Dress -

    I usually ask for watermark free images, but have no problem at all if Photographers come back to me asking if they can send me watermarked images, because I respect that the Photographer is the Artist and the image belongs to them.

    I do however prefer for the watermark to be a small/subtle one that doesn't, in my opinion, detract from the beautiful image itself. I wouldn't be able to use the top 2 images on this feature Anne (I'm so sorry!) because I feel the size and positioning of this particular watermark detracts from your lovely photographs.

    Examples of watermarked images I've been more than happy to use on my blog are here:-

    Where I have been sent watermarked images in the past and the watermark is, in my opionion a little too large or detracting, I've usually had no issue at all negotiating making the watermark a little smaller.

    I always provide a credit too and check the Photographer is happy with the anchor text I use.

    Kindest regards,

    Annabel :) xXx

  26. Sorry! Can I correct that - I usually ask for NON-watermarked images (trying to see to my 4 month old right now too! Sorry about that!) :)

  27. Rachel Scott6:29 PM

    Watermarks as Anne has posted in her first 2 image samples do not ruin the image. The viewer is still able to see just how beautiful the image is, and they can clearly see who created the images which blog viewers will find 100% helpful. The problem with putting a small watermark on a corner or even in a frame outside of the actual image is that people just crop it off and use it for anything they want to use it for (including representing it as their own work). Watermarks need to be a "part" of the image to work effectively for it's purpose

    For those of you bloggers who complain about these watermarks, I think you are more concerned about your site looking pretty than about the Photographers individual images looking pretty.

    You're getting use of the images for free, so you don't have the right to complain about a watermark like this and you certainly should not feel you're in some position to "negotiate" something different. Unless you have major advertising behind you that is going to do the photographer any good (such as the Martha Stewart blogs and Style Me Pretty) then you don't really have much to offer a photographer in the way of guaranteed viewership or prestige of reputation.

  28. Anonymous7:43 PM

    Amen Rachel Scott, amen.

  29. Totally disagree with those who feel the watermark "destroys" your beautiful work in the first image. If anything, it is an amazing composition with the focus being where it belongs for this purpose: to showcase your talent as a photographer. It's a given, isn't it that the bride and groom--YOUR clients-- received a copy without the watermark?

    With the second, I feel the placement of the watermark detracts from the watermark. I would have suggested placing a shallower version at the base of the photo, just below their feet where it would be easily seen, make sense (to me) aesthetically, yet not detract from the overall composition.

    Considering the cost of legally posting a professional photographer's photo posted on any news journal site, putting up with a tastefully place watermark seems a small price to pay for the free use of a photo which the blogger cannot guarantee security against future mis-use.

  30. Its very surprising that you'd need to "apologize" or justify watermarking work! If it goes on the internet, its going to get lifted by someone eventually - at least marking the heck out of it makes it less useful to them.

  31. I am happy to watermark or not, depending on what the photographer prefers. I agree that these should be tastefully placed.

    Anne - would love to featured some of your work (yes, with watermarks!) on Brides Up North!

    Brides Up North

  32. Since my original work is a limited resource, and I know bloggers and magazines like exclusivity, I try to be very careful about where I share my work online. I spend quite a bit of time following a blog and understanding the audience before I feel comfortable contributing. ;-) You're on my list now and I sincerely appreciate the invitation!

  33. Well put, Anne! You said what needed to be said without giving violators anything on which to cling that could detract from your point. I have to say, I wholeheartedly agree with you. :) (Also, love the sign-off! With LOTS of marshmallows!!)

  34. Anne, fabulous post. I recently contributed most of these thoughts -- and more -- to a pro/con article that will run in a UK photography magazine in February. We hit on a lot of the same points.

    I also included some great input from the 7,000-photographer-strong DWF membership (99.9% of whom agree with you, and many of whom are now refusing to submit to blogs unless they allow a small on-image credit of some sort).

    I've personally had my work stolen (and used on web sites and even in printed ads) many times. When I give someone my work for free, I have the right to have my credit on that art so when it is screen-captured out into cyberspace (as it absolutely will be), my credit stays with my images. Watermarks don't have to be big or obnoxious. Any photographer can easily provide a very small, reduced opacity credit in the corner.

    I'd like to add two more blogs that allow watermarks to your master list. They are both very supportive of photographers.

    Maharani Weddings

    South Asian Bride Magazine



  35. It's your work and you have the right to watermark them. It takes nothing from the beautiful work that you do. I have a blog and have asked permission to use images an most photogs didn't watermark them but if they did it didn't bother me. I should have thought about that before posting all of my personal pictures. I vow to watermark from now on.

  36. Right on Anne! The digital revolution is over, and now it is time for photographers to rebuild what was lost over the last decade. All creative professionals have seen the value of their work depreciate with the false notion of "free" content on the internet. False in that someone does work to create the content, and that work has value that is not receiving fair compensation, whether financial or equal value promotional trade. And yes, it is indeed more work for us these days in that all publishers want editorial quality images (more details) from real weddings, and not really the primary focus of photojournalism images that couples are paying us for. It has increased the workload for any photographers that intend to publish real weddings as part of their business.
    It is great that there are some publishers that you've pointed out that are being fair, but far too many that are not, and it is not just bloggers. No magazines or blogs would get nearly as much traffic (and subsequently ad revenue) without filling their pages with high quality photography. With so much of content consumption now primarily online, photography has become even more important as viewers are more engaged visually with web content than text. It is time for photographers to stop enabling the culture of entitled attitudes at the cost of our valuable time/expense to the detriment of our own businesses, and quite frankly, our dignity as professionals. With 50-75% of publications' content covered with images, many publishers have had it pretty sweet with so many photographers willing to supply so much content for free. More of us need to stand up for the value of what we do, and receive either fair usage fees or decent photo credits for our work. In *some* magazines, when 90% of a wedding editorial spread is covered with a photographer's images, and the short paragraph of text credits all of the other wedding vendors except photographer, and then there is just a microscopic photo credit in the gutter, that is pretty infuriating. If bloggers don't want to see watermarks, then pay for usage fees. That is how it works with print publishing industry, (well for the most part, weddings is not the only area where this is a problem), and you still get a prominent credit for paid editorial work! Quite frankly too many publishers have taken advantage of wedding photographers not being as aware of how things work as do news/editorial/commercial photographers. I'm sure no writers or editors would be happy if their hours of work went unpaid, without credit, got "stolen" by another blog/publisher without source citation, or whatever value they receive for the hours of work they do. Photographers have to lead the way on regaining leverage though. If that doesn't happen things will never change.

  37. Thank you for writing this! I personally refuse to freely give my images to any commercial site or blogger that doesn't at least allow me to watermark my images. Yes, that has meant I have had a few people turn down my images, but what is the point if I am not given proper credit anyway?! It astounds me when people do not return the favor of allowing them to use my images to sell themselves, with without even my simple logo attached(and no, I don't watermark across the center of the image or have an annoyingly ugly logo, just something small & in the corner is all I ask for). If they don't want my name on the image then they can PAY me for usage. And I'm so glad you started a list of blogs that do give photographers proper credit, I will start submitting to them today! Thank you!!!!!


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