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For most of us, photos are personal things—pictures of our family vacation, our friends and family, or even things we decide to sell on ebay. But for people who make a living off their photographs, use them for business purposes, or just want to make sure other people don’t “appropriate” them for nefarious purposes, making such photographs available electronically requires taking precautions, and that means watermarking .

For the uninitiated, watermarking is the process by which you superimpose some sort of identifying mark—a copyright notice, a business logo, a signature, some text—onto each image so that it’s obvious where it came from and obvious that it belongs to you. (Most Web surfers have likely seen images watermarked with a site’s name or logo and didn't give the process a second thought.)

There are a number of ways in which an image can be watermarked. For example, one common procedure is to manually overlay the watermark in an image editing application such as Adobe Photoshop or Graphic Converter. In the case of screenshots, the venerable Snapz Pro X (   ; May 2004 ) can automatically apply watermarks when it saves screenshots to disk. But if you’ve got a bunch of existing images that need watermarking, I’ve yet to see a better solution than Script Software’s $20 iWatermark (   ; scriptsoftware.com/iwatermark/ ).

The beauty of iWatermark is its combination of ease of use and functionality. To apply watermarks to images, you simply drag a folder containing the images to be watermarked (the Input folder) and a folder where you want the newly watermarked images to be saved (the Output folder) to the corresponding panels in the iWatermark window and then click the Process button. iWatermark leaves the original files untouched and creates new images complete with the watermark of your choice. (The new files retain EXIF & IPTC tags, which is a nice touch.) The process is fairly quick—in my testing, less than a second per image.


iWatermark main screen


As simple as the procedure is, iWatermark offers extensive options for designing your watermark via the handy Preferences dialog. If you've already got an image you want to overlay, you can just drag and drop it into the Image well and you're done. But you don't have to stick with a standard image overlay; you can use text instead, or text and an image together. And you can completely customize the appearance of the watermark elements—location, justification, rotation, size, effect (emboss, outline, and engraved, to name just a few options), transparency, and text font and style. A live preview shows what the resulting watermarked images will look like. You even get to choose the output format for watermarked images: support for JPEG, TIFF, PNG, PICT, and BMP is built in, and iWatermark can use QuickTime to save images in Photoshop format.

iWatermark also provides some useful features for preparing images for a website. It can generate corresponding thumbnail images in whatever format and size you choose, and it can resize the watermarked images themselves—you just provide the appropriate dimensions. You also have the option of resampling images to a higher or lower resolution. Finally, if you frequently use different kinds or versions of watermarks, iWatermark lets you create watermark sets that you can quickly switch between.

Watermarking used to be something only professional photographers did, but nowadays it’s not a bad idea for anyone—you never know when you’re going to see your favorite product image or vacation picture on someone else’s website. If you’ve ever wanted to give watermarking a try, or if you’re already doing it and you’d welcome a way to do it quickly and easily, iWatermark is an inexpensive and impressive utility.

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