Google Algorithm Removes Watermarks

Watermarks, some photographers love them because they protect their images. Some hate them because they are an eyesore and can be removed by anyone skilled in Photoshop. In August 2017, researchers from Google created an algorithm that can remove watermarks from images within seconds. What does this mean for for photographers and stock photo companies? Let’s find out.

What Are Watermarks?

Simply stated, it is a logo or name that’s overlaid onto an image. Below, I’ve included an example using one of my images.

Assateague Sunrise by SharaLee Art with watermarks
Assateague Sunrise by SharaLee Art – Image with watermarks.

The purpose of a watermark is to prevent online image theft and to show ownership or copyright. Although not foolproof, it does discourage some people from taking images, removing the watermark, and claiming them as their own. They also serve as a form of online advertising. For example, if someone notices one of your images on a photo sharing site they will know who created the image if they wish to purchase it or view your other images.

How Google Removes Watermarks

Because a watermark is applied in a very consistent manner to each image, the Google researchers were able to write an algorithm to detect their placement. Next, they automated the removal process.

The video below explains the process and shows the speed at which the computer algorithm can remove the watermarks.

How Will This Impact Photographers & Stock Companies?

Fortunately for photographers and stock agencies, Google also discovered how to make a watermark more difficult to remove. By adding just a slight, random warping to each watermark, the algorithm can no longer completely remove it. As seen in the above video, one would still have to edit each image by hand to completely remove each watermark.

To see the algorithm in action and read more in-depth about the process, you can view Google’s original article here.

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3 thoughts on “Google Algorithm Removes Watermarks”

  1. Wow great articles, I had no idea. I usually don’t use “watermarks” other than a signature. Most of the images I post on line are low quality, low resolution.

    1. Thank you, Bill! I used to place watermarks on my images, but I found out that they didn’t deter the “image thieves.” It’s just too easy to remove them if you have the right software. I also only put low res images online. If someone downloads the image, they won’t be able to print a very good photo.

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