The Watermark

April 19, 2015

Today's post is a heavy one, so let's dive right in, shall we?

Recently, I have been asked a ton about the watermark that I put on some of my Instagram images. I've been asked how I add the watermark, how I choose what images to mark, how I place the watermark without distorting or compromising the image quality and why I add it.

Why I add a watermark to any photo of my child


 The How is easy, the Why is not so much, but today I'm going to explain both.

My current policy is that I add a watermark to any Instagram, Facebook or blog photo of my son when his face is completely visible. I will also watermark photos of my child pictured with other children (and I always, always, always ask their parent's permission to post - even to the point of sharing how many followers I have, that my account is public and that it is completely understandable to say no). Until recently, I did not mark my blog photos but after some recent revelations, I will from now on.

I choose to not watermark photos where he is pictured with me or my husband/another adult because, honestly, I assume no one wants to claim a photo of me in my sweatpants as their own.
Edit: since the publication of this post and further research, I now watermark my child even if he is pictured with me in my sweatpants. Photos of mothers and their babies or baby bumps are often stolen. 

To add my watermark to my photos, I use the app Phonto. It's free and super easy to use. As a bonus, it comes with a handful of filers that I really like but nine times out of ten, I only use Phonto for watermarking.

I always place the watermark next to or near his face so that it cannot be cropped out of a shot.

Within the app, you can pre-set your watermark text (mine is the name of my blog/instagram handle), style, size and color, making it super easy and efficient to add it to your edited photo.

Once your watermark is set, adding one takes a total of 5 steps and less than 15 seconds. 


1. upload edited, final photo from camera roll 
2. Phonto has a crop option pop up first, you can just skip it because you should already have a square cropped photo (if editing for Insta)
3. tap the photo, tap your watermark in the pop up
4. place watermark where you'd like it in your photo
(edit: to curve the watermark around the baby's face, tap on the watermark, choose style, then style again at the top of the screen and then curving)
5. save photo to camera roll or directly upload to Instagram

If you start playing around in Phonto and don't care for it, then no worries, there are a ton of free watermarking apps you can use - all of them will serve your purpose. 
 That makes my Instagram process look a little something like this:

take photo on DSLR
upload to my phone via the wifi on my memory card
edit the photo for crop, color and clarity on Afterlight
add watermark in Phonto
upload to Instagram 

I get that some of you may think that process sounds tedious and annoying. But here's the deal: I'm closing in on 2k Instagram followers and I would assume that 1,900 of them are strangers. Some are spam accounts, some are other bow shops, some like the aesthetic of my feed but none of them need to be able to screen cap a photo of my baby and use it as their own. 

When I was (gigantically) pregnant with Gray, I made it my policy to attempt to protect his privacy as much as possible. I mean, I don't know from experience but I can assume that having a mom who blogs is super lame. Prior to the babe's birth, I had a conversation with my Husband and we set out to ensure that his full name, date of birth and personal milestones (such as potty training or development and behavioral milestones and/or concerns) would remain private. Most of you know that we call our son by a nickname and that is the name that I use here on the blog. I was also strategic in when I announced his birth on all of my social media platforms and will discuss his birth city but not date and time. Each blogger has a different stance on privacy and a different set of criteria and I respect each one, this is simply what works for our family. 

So why are so many people curious about the watermark all of the sudden?

I'm sure that many of you have heard of celebrities or bigger bloggers having photos of their children stolen from Instagram and re-posted with someone else claiming to be their parent. If that isn't terrifying (and weird) enough, there is a scary new trend that is utilizing stolen baby photos called role playing. If you haven't heard of the phenomenon that is Baby Role Play, then by all means, please search the hashtag babyrp or adoptionrp. I use the word phenomenon because, at this moment, the hashtag babyrp has been used on 34,000 photos.

 Essentially, role playing accounts steal photos of babies, children, pregnant women and sometimes pregnant women with their other child and post them as their own fantasy baby. When they post, they then create a story about that child - their name, parent's names, unique things about them, etc. They make families with other accounts, marry off the babies to other adopted babies and so forth. I can tell you from experience that searching through that hashtag hoping not to see a photo of your child or a child that you know is a sickening task.

Update: I stumbled across this conversation while looking through the hashtag and honestly, it brings to light an interesting (and incredibly disturbing) perspective


It seems that to those playing these games, a photo of a baby is just that - a photo of an anonymous child. But I can guarantee that the parents of those children feel a deep sense of devastation when they discover that their baby was considered "a random baby off of Google" and therefor fodder for an online game. After reading the above Google comment, I had a discussion with a girlfriend in which she told me that she has done every single thing in her power to erase her child's image from the internet yet, despite her best and extensive efforts, her toddler's image is still one that can (and will) pop up in Google images.

Based on my time spent searching such hashtags, I recently learned that I was mistaken about a few things regarding the type of photo that might be stolen of a baby. I waited to start watermarking until Gray looked like himself and was no longer a generic looking newborn. Huge mistake. From what I could tell, a newborn photo (especially one of twins) is the most commonly stolen picture. Because of that, I recently did a purge of my Instagram account and deleted close to 100 photos from my feed.

With that being said, I have absolutely zero concerns as to how a watermark affects the quality of an image on my Instagram account. I am adding the mark to protect my son's likeness and that's that. 

So, now that I have all of this crazy in mind, I have begun to look for more interesting ways to photo Gray for public viewing - maybe a shot of his shoes or his chubby fingers would be a better look for my feed, stretch my photography skills and protect his likeness. 


 And can we be real for a second? 
Most people do not want to see endless photos of my baby anyway. 
I think he is the Cutest Baby On Earth but that doesn't mean everyone else on the planet does too. Scaling back on baby face photos means that I'm diversifying my feed and keeping an eye out for details in my life that are beautiful in their own right.  


So, you asked for it and there it is - the longest ever explanation of why I watermark some of my photos.

Is it cocktail hour yet?

P.S. In case you haven't seen it yet, my best friend Meg has written a post about protecting her daughter's privacy that is most definitely worth a read.


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20 comments

  1. SO glad you shared this!! I'm purging my blog and Instagram photos tonight.. so scary!

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  2. This is so scary! This doesn't really affect me yet, but it's better to be prepared! xoxo

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  3. OMG! I am scared to search those hashtags... I think a watermark is a great idea. I hadn't thought about not sharing the day/time babies were born, but it sounds smart. These are things I'm starting to think about!

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  4. Cait was telling me about this yesterday. It was so freaky and sick. The internet can be a scary place!!
    Ally - Life as I know it

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  5. Thank you so much for sharing this! I think about the while privacy thing so often and sometimes want to just delete my blog bc of it. I'll definitely start watermarking! :)

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  6. I'm with you mama. I spent a good portion of yesterday going through all of my blog posts and making sure every picture of Sophie alone was watermarked, ones with us, I left alone, but any ones that showed her face, whether straight on her or profile a watermark was added. You're not the only blog who's brought this up as of late.

    Tawnya of at All of Life's Little Adventures wrote a post about it as well: http://www.littleadventuresblog.com/2015/04/socialmediaprivacy.html

    I found it so helpful too. I've considered removing all of the pictures of Sophie head on, but for now the watermark is left on there to at least deter people from stealing.

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  7. Gah I don't even know how I feel about past photos on the blog without a watermark! So much to think about!!!

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  8. This is so scary. And so weird. I would never in a million years think that people would do this! I'm glad there is more awareness now!

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  9. This was the most frightening and sickest thing I've ever read. The world is full of crazy people. I freaked out and just made my insta private (maybe not the best move for a new blogger), but I just can't shake the creepy feeling of someone with perversions looking at photos of my little girl. Thank you for bringing this to light, sharing ways we can be safer and providing us with information on watermarking.

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  10. Omg! How scary! My daughters are older and I share very few pictures of them because they have asked me not to. This is a bit of an issue because they are the only things going on in my life ha! I have always thought it was great the way you didn't disclose every detail about Gray. Thank you for sharing this, I had no idea it even existed! People can be so weird - I need a glass of wine to recover from the shock xx

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  11. Thank you so so so much for sharing this!!! I had no idea about this! I will definitely me watermarking all of my daughters pics in the future and be taking into consideration just how much I want to share about her. It is so sad that we have to be worried about those Creepy McCreepers out there! I will definitely be sending anybody I can over to read this post and hopefully encourage them to watermark their pictures and take any precautions they can to protect their children. This is terrifying! Thank you again to opening my eyes to this!

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  12. I so regret actually searching that hashtag. I will have nightmares. It doesn't look so much like perverts as it does really really weird sad teenagers. Permanent spine chills.

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  13. You just educated me! Gee, what we have to be concerned about. Thanks, passing on to everyone in my family that posts pictures.

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  14. The world is so scary! I have to IG feeds, one for my family/friends and one for Kids and Cabernet both are private. The one for Kids and Cabernet has barely any kid pictures and IF I do post one, it's not always of their whole face or it has me with them. It's sad that we have to be so concerned about the weirdos of the world, but it is what it is. Also on my blog I never refer to them by their names and ALWAYS watermark their pictures.
    I love this post so much, and you've gotten me to want to watermark my IG pictures of them too, thanks for the heads up on that app!

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  15. Came across your blog from Natalie's Thoughts for Thursday and now following you along on Bloglovin. It's so true and so important to protect our little one's privacy. We have always been reluctant to share pictures of our little guy and always refer to him as "little guy" since we don't feel it necessary to disclose his name. We also set up a separate instagram account for our blog Winks and Eyerolls and really only share pictures of him on our personal accounts. We will definitely be considering watermarking all of our photos.

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  16. Awesome post! So glad I stopped by after reading Nat's post today. I watermark some of my photos now just for copyright purposes, but the baby role play phenomenom!? Holy bejeezus, that is terrifying. Glad you put this information out there for all the parents!

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  17. This is so so so good. I have so much to think about when I have kids someday and what to put on my blog and not. Thank you for the widsom!!

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  18. I just found your blog from Natalie (East Coast Nat) after reading her post on this topic. It's so scary and hope it doesn't effect me, but might take the precautions anyway! Have a great weekend :)

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  19. Thanks for sharing! Unfortunately it's a scary world out there :-/
    You guys inspired me to share my tips on online safety over on my blog.. I'm pretty overly-cautious when it comes to this stuff though ;)

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