Shutterstock Finds Way To Better Protect Its Watermarks

Posted on 8/30/2017 by Jim Pickerell | Printable Version | Comments (0)

A couple weeks ago we reported that Google researchers had found a way to remove the watermarks used by most stock photographer and stock photography sites.

Just changing the position or opacity of a watermark does not impact the ability of Google’s algorithm to remove the watermark from images.

However, according to Google team, “randomization” has a better chance of keeping images from being stolen. Thankfully, the Google team provided information as to how to defeat their algorithms by designing more secure watermarks which are much more difficult to remove.

According to the The Next Web Shutterstock engineers have designed a “watermark randomizer” that adds subtle inconsistencies to its marks, ensuring each one is a little different.

By adding these small changes to the watermarks across the millions of images it offers, Shutterstock has been able to prevent the Google algorithm from identifying repeating patterns that would enable it to remove its watermarks.

“The shapes vary per image and include contributor names,” Shutterstock CTO Martin Brodbeck told TNW. “By creating a completely different watermark for each image, it makes it hard to truly identify the shape.”

Brodbeck added that “changing the opacity and location of a watermark does not make it more secure; but changing the geometry does.”

Other stock sites should follow Shutterstock’s example, though it’s likely to be only a matter of time before a programmer creates another watermark-destroying algorithm that can deal with Shutterstock’s solution. And of course, those determined to remove a watermark can still do it manually on a PC, though it can be time consuming and result in a less-than-perfect image.

The battle to effectively protect images displayed online is likely to continue for some time.

Copyright © 20817 Jim Pickerell. The above article may not be copied, reproduced, excerpted or distributed in any manner without written permission from the author. All requests should be submitted to Selling Stock at 10319 Westlake Drive, Suite 162, Bethesda, MD 20817, phone 301-461-7627, e-mail: wvz@fpcubgbf.pbz

Jim Pickerell is founder of, an online newsletter that publishes daily. He is also available for personal telephone consultations on pricing and other matters related to stock photography. He occasionally acts as an expert witness on matters related to stock photography. For his current curriculum vitae go to:  


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