Dynamic watermarking combines a familiar method of protecting images with the principle of image streaming. Here’s what you need to know.

Images published online have traditionally been protected with watermarks. Its success and popularity can be explained by its ease and the fact that no specialist software is required, making it accessible enough to everyone.

Watermarking images usually involves the photographer or image owner embedding a small, translucent graphic or line of text into the image, one that they have either created themselves or obtained through a browser-based service. The idea is that this serves as a deterrent against image theft and unauthorized use.

Image watermarks are still widely used today, although poor design choices and inappropriate application have given them a bad name. Many can, however, be removed by those with only a modicum of post-processing skills – and with AI-based tools proving themselves to be remarkably adept at removing even more complicated watermark designs, their overall effectiveness has been brought into question.

Dynamic watermarking represents a significant step forward. While the concept of adding a watermark to an image is the same as with conventional watermarking, the specific way in which the watermark is applied results in a far more robust and future-proof solution. Combined with SmartFrame’s image-streaming principle and the specific controls on offer for all SmartFrame users as standard, dynamic watermarking is unquestionably the most flexible and effective way to watermarking images online.

Here’s everything you need to know about dynamic watermarking.


What is dynamic watermarking?

Dynamic watermarking is a method of watermarking images that gives the user complete control of the watermark long after an image has been published online.

This is an evolution of the conventional watermark, which is embedded in the image itself and is more limited by comparison.


Is dynamic watermarking better than conventional watermarking?

While conventional watermarks are a logical and longstanding deterrent against image theft, they have barely changed since the internet’s early days. This has meant that, as time has passed and technology has progressed, certain weaknesses have grown apparent.

Related: How secure is watermarking?

Dynamic watermarking not only addresses these issues, but is able to offer a raft of additional functionalities on top of this to help enhance presentation, protection and control.

There are four main advantages of dynamic watermarking over conventional watermarking.


1. You can add watermarks to all your images at once

Whereas conventional watermarks are a fixed part of an image, a dynamic watermark can be applied to several images that have already been published online.

This means that not only is it possible to add the same watermark to older images, but that you can also ensure watermark style, placement and size is consistent across all images.


2. You can edit dynamic watermarks without removing them or having to re-upload images

Sometimes it may be necessary to change a watermark – and you can adjust the appearance of a dynamic watermark at any time, regardless of where your images are found online.

You can, for example, quickly change the style, positioning, opacity and size of a dynamic watermark. You can even add a completely new logo or design to bring it in line with new branding, and if your web address changes, you can easily update this too.


3. You can’t clone over or crop out dynamic watermarks as with conventional watermarks

A conventional watermark can be removed from an image if the image itself may be downloaded. The vast majority of images uploaded online are not protected against being downloaded, so even if they have been watermarked this will only provide so much protection.

For some images, removing a conventional watermark may be a relatively straightforward task that simply involves cloning a different part of the image over the part that bears the watermark, or cropping the image to remove the section with the watermark.

As dynamic watermarks are applied to images that are streamed, the image itself is protected against being downloaded, such as through right-click or drag-and-drop actions. This in turn means that it’s not possible to use conventional methods of removing watermarks on images that bear dynamic watermarks.


4. Dynamic watermarks can be responsive

Conventional watermarks are always displayed at the same proportion to the rest of the image, wherever they are viewed. This means that they may not be seen as easily on mobile devices, which compromises their ability to deter thieves.

Depending on your settings, image-based dynamic watermarks may be responsive, which means that they can adjust themselves according to how the image is being viewed.


Do dynamic watermarks prevent theft?

Our research shows that conventional watermarks do discourage image theft, without quite stopping it completely.

The thief may attempt to remove the watermark embedded within an image, or even use it with authorization with the watermark intact (it’s rare, but it does happen).

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Security over images that bear dynamic watermarks is twofold; not only is the image being streamed rather than permanently embedded on a web page, but the photographer is free to amend the watermark at any time if they feel the need to do so.


Should I use a logo or text for my watermark?

There’s no right or wrong here – it’s really a matter of personal opinion.

Some photographers, image libraries and other content distributors use a logo on their image, and this can look very professional. Others choose to simply have their name, or perhaps their name and website.

Related: What makes a good watermark?

The beauty of dynamic watermarking is that you can change your mind at any time. If you already have text watermarks and you decide to design a graphic watermark, you can simply swap one for the other without having to re-upload your images.

Is it possible to tell if a watermark is dynamic or not?

Normally, you won’t be able to tell whether a watermark is dynamic or not – both simply appear as watermarks. But there are ways to spot the difference.

First, if a dynamic watermark is responsive, it will appear differently on a mobile or tablet, for example, to a desktop computer (although you would need to view it on different devices to appreciate this). Depending on the exact dimensions of the SmartFrame and the watermark settings, the watermark may even appear differently across different devices within the same family (different desktop computers, for example).

Another situation in which you may spot a difference is if the image itself can be interacted with in some way. A SmartFrame that has the Hyper Zoom feature enabled will have the watermark stay in the same position in the frame as you zoom in and out, something that won’t happen with conventional watermark.

To see what this looks like in practice, click on the two SmartFrames below and pay attention to the watermark.


Conventional watermark


Dynamic watermark


Should I add a copyright symbol to my dynamic watermark?

Adding a copyright symbol to a watermark is something that many photographers do. This makes it obvious that the image is subject to copyright protection, and that it cannot be used freely. This may prove to be more of a deterrent to would-be thieves.

An alternative to this is to use the word ‘copyright’ as part of a text caption, such as Copyright [photographer’s name].   

Incidentally, whether you use one of these or not, this doesn’t change anything about the copyright of the image itself. If you own the copyright to the image, you own it regardless of what watermark you use.


How to use dynamic watermarks with SmartFrame

Dynamic watermarks are available to all SmartFrame users as standard, free of charge. Here’s what you need to know.

How do I apply dynamic watermarks to my images?

Once you log in to your account, click on Themes and select the Theme you are using for your images. You can do this by either clicking on the pencil that appears next to the Theme name as you mouse over it, or on the three dots in the bottom-right-hand corner of the Theme. The Watermark option is available in the left-hand-side menu, and the full set of options become available once you select the slider next to Enable watermark.

Once enabled, you can choose whether to upload your own watermark or create a text-based watermark using SmartFrame’s tools, and style it with respect to font, font size and so on. Whichever watermark you use, you can adjust the placement of the watermark and change its opacity.

Do I need to create my watermark in Photoshop or a specific watermark creator?

You are free to create a watermark in Photoshop or another image-editing program before uploading it to your SmartFrame panel. You just need to make sure it’s saved in a format accepted by SmartFrame. Alternatively, you can use the tools in the SmartFrame Admin Panel to create a text watermark.

Should I save my watermark as a PNG?

You can save your watermark as either a PNG or a JPEG file before uploading it to the Admin Panel.

What are the chances of someone removing a dynamic watermark from a SmartFrame?

Dynamic watermarks can only be edited or disabled by the content owner through the SmartFrame panel. Whereas conventional images can be downloaded and have their watermarks edited or removed, SmartFrames are protected from being downloaded and the watermark stays part of the SmartFrame at all times.


How quickly does a dynamic watermark update once I have adjusted it?

Changes to a dynamic watermark are made instantly, although if you have already looked at a SmartFrame on a web page prior to making any adjustments, you may need to clear your cache before these appear.

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The images above are streamed by SmartFrame.



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