5 tips for choosing your watermarking solution

Image tracking technology

June 15, 2020

5 tips for choosing your watermarking solution


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What are the most important selection criteria for watermarking software ? In this article, you will get a list of questions to ask while assessing a digital watermarking solution, depending on your existing system and your company needs. We provide at the end a grid with selection criteria.

Why you finally broke up with legacy providers

As shown in previous article "How not to lose sight of your images ?", digital watermarking is necessary when image recognition solutions are not able to provide the following information :

  • certify that similar image found by visual recognition is not a false positive.
  • identifying different copies of a single image (i.e. though two images look identical, being able to tell which one corresponds to a certain transaction)

This technology is not new and is used in various industries (cf. our article "6 examples of uses of digital watermarking"). When they need to select a watermark software, most integrators and vendors have turned to the few early market solutions, who became monopolistic. In the end, most companies - disappointed by these poorly challenged legacy providers - gave up their solutions because they do not meet their main constraints, which are :

  • Image quality cannot be downgraded,
  • Images will inevitably be compressed,
  • Need to identify different copies of a single image (multiple marking),
  • No-brainer interoperability with existing system,
  • Scalability
  • Seamless integration of the watermarking process into an existing workflow.

If your company has the same requirements and your are in the process of choosing a watermark software, then make sure that all these features are available and test them.

Lena, the historic icon of watermarking scientists

Here are the main selection criteria for a professional-grade watermarking software :

Will the watermark still be detected after all alterations of the image on the web ?

Robustness to compression

Mainstream watermarks are easily defeated by the jpeg compression systematically used on many websites and platforms (social networks, marketplaces ...).
They use to propose a trade between perceptibility and robustness to face this problem. In fact they transfer their problem to you: it's up to you to put the cursor on the "lifetime" side or on the "quality" side. But you should not sacrifice the quality of your images (see perception paragraph below) for the sake of traceability.

Imatag's watermark is known to resist significant compression rates and image editing (resizing, filters, screenshots, print photos ...). Test its robustness by yourself with our API to be convinced. Or trust professionals photographers who did it for you : Peta Pixel, DP Review, Fotostoppers ...

Is the watermark really invisible ?

Imperceptibility vs visual alterations

After zooming, some watermarks become visible, for example in the form of a very annoying green "noise". The watermark must be respectful of your images: by design, it modifies the value of some pixels, but it  must not alter the quality of your content.

A solution to avoid color drift is to use embed the watermark in luminance pixel values, and to use human perceptual model to hide the "noise" (modified pixels) in the high contrasts areas. That is how the patented solution of Imatag works.

Imatag's watermark has been selected and is recommended by a famous smartphone manufacturer after strong quality tests on its product renders:

Imatag is a subtle yet very powerful watermarking with and an effective reverse search (traitor detection tool). The tool is very powerful and proven to be effective to trace leaking sources. Probably the best tool on the market for this matter.
Luis Q. on Capterra review

What information can I trace with the watermark ?


You have to be careful when selecting your watermark solution provider, depending on what you need to identify from it. If the solution marks all copies of an image with the same watermark, this is enough to identify a photographer, but not to differentiate two copies distributed by two agencies (as a non exclusive photo).

Select a software which is able to add a different watermark to each copy of a single image. The watermark acts as a tracker, it can link each copy to data such as the channel used for its distribution, or date and name of the DAM user who downloaded it ... Other digital watermarks will only apply the same pattern to all your images or mark each copy of an image with the same watermark.

Will watermarking or detection slow down my process ?

Performance and scalability

For some solutions, encryption can be very slow for voluminous images. Carefully evaluate the amount of images to be processed daily (watermarking but also detection) to ensure that your solution will scale.

When processed locally, the performance will be depending on your hardware (see Integration paragraph below, about options of local vs SAAS operation).

What is the effort to integrate a watermarking processes into my workflow ?


Request access to the API documentation to evaluate the complexity of the integration. A sandbox is sometimes proposed to play with the API and build a quick demo to your team before a full integration.

It should not take more than a few days of a developer to discover, test and implement the API.

Imatag proposes an alternative if the network bandwidth or large volume of the data is a concern : a local marking software allowing to gain in performance speed and avoiding potential congestion.

Learn more about IMATAG's solution to insert invisible watermarks in your visual content.

Want to "see" an Invisible Watermark?

Learn more about IMATAG's solution to insert invisible watermarks in your visual content.

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