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Auctioneers take lots of photographs. Auctioneers use lots of photographs in marketing property for auction, and otherwise. Today, we explore if it is prudent to “watermark” those photos, and in particular similar to how we’ve exhibited here. We conclude that it is not.

Here is a beautiful photograph of a cottage along a lake with good lighting, reflection, shadowing and depth of field. Click on it for an enlarged view:cabin

Here is a beautiful photograph of a cottage along a lake with good lighting, reflection, shadowing and depth of field with my name across the middle of it. Click on it for an enlarged view:cabin

The second photograph with my name on it is essentially watermarked. This type of watermarking (copyrighting) is intended to put the public on notice who the photograph belongs to and discourage use of the photograph otherwise — or maybe merely an awful way of so-called marketing.

I have these thoughts about this type of watermarking. As an auctioneer:

    1. Which picture do I think markets my client’s property better? One that focuses on the property, or one that suggests my name should be the focus? Wouldn’t I have my contact information and details near the photograph on my website and otherwise? Quite frankly, if I was the owner of this cottage property, I would have some serious questions about the watermarked photograph.
    2. Why do I care if anyone knows who the photograph belongs to, or if someone wants to use it otherwise? It would seem unlikely that anyone would use this photograph inappropriately and my marketing wouldn’t necessarily be damaged by others using of the photograph — in fact, it might help that the photograph is shared?
    3. If I want this photograph shared, having my name across it will likely result in little or no sharing. If I want the photograph shared, it would be better to leave my name off of it (or make it less prominent) and why do I care if it’s shared? Maybe someone will research and find the photograph came from my marketing?
    4. Do I think by putting my name across the front of this photograph that nobody will be able to use the photograph for other purposes? Any six-year-old can use software readily available to remove my watermarking (name) if desired. It’s almost as easy to remove this type of watermark as add it.
    5. Wouldn’t it be better to put my name — and/or my website — in the lower right-hand (or left-hand) corner, out of the way of the main view of the lake? Where do most artists sign their work? Or, if I’m worried about the photograph being used without my authority, there are ways to digitally identify the photograph without obscuring the view — but again, why do I care?
    6. Just how proud am I of my photography? If someone is searching for a photograph of a cottage near a lake or pond, is this the only photograph that will do? I searched and found 100’s of examples which a “picture-thief” might use for a notorious project. Photographs like this are easily found, but I need to watermark my seller’s version?

It would seem to us that auction marketing should advertise and promote the property selling, without obscuring the property itself with the auctioneer’s information. The two should complement each other, rather than compete for the same space.

Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, CAI, AARE has been an auctioneer and certified appraiser for over 30 years. His company’s auctions are located at: Mike Brandly, Auctioneer, Keller Williams Auctions and Goodwill Columbus Car Auction. He serves as Adjunct Faculty at Hondros College of Business, Executive Director of The Ohio Auction School and Faculty at the Certified Auctioneers Institute held at Indiana University.