Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Why it's Important to Watermark your Vacation Rental Photos

The following is a guest post from Vacation.Rentals - a premiere website designed for homeowners and property managers to list their homes for nightly rent. 

Scammers are having a field day – with your home!


One of the most successful, replicated, and continuing scams going around right now is vacation rental fraud. The process is simple enough – scammers locate a home on a listing website like Zillow, open an account on Craigslist, copy the images, write some text, and upload a bogus contact.

To unsuspecting travelers looking to cash in on a too good to be true deal, they unwittingly send cashiers checks, wire transfers, perform a PayPal transaction and in some cases even personal checks.

Once the scammer has the funds, they disappear like a Nigerian bank account of a long lost relative.

Craigslist is a great tool – for products


If you go to Google and type in “Vacation Rental Scams” you will receive somewhere in the neighborhood of 3 million plus results. The scammers are relentless and will stalk every single nook and cranny available to them to list “their” vacation property. Craigslist is the perfect venue for such a thing. No cost, no identification, no problem. Used by literally millions upon millions of people each day – Craigslist provides the perfect venue for scammers.

To be fair, Craigslist does have legitimate listings as well and it is because of this that Craigslist is reluctant to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Taking reasonable steps by watermarking your property photos is one method that can thwart and frustrate scammers out of targeting your vacation home.

What is a watermark?


Watermarks are digital imprints overlaid on existing images. Generally, a watermark is unobtrusive and normally transparent (to not obstruct from the overall image)

Here is an example of a plain image with no watermark.



Here is the same image with a watermark and no transparency.



And this is a watermark with 20% transparency.



As you can see from the 3 images above, the last 2 have an indelible mark on them that is easily identified and virtually impossible to correct. In other words, you have now made it very clear to anyone who sees this image that you are the owner and can easily identify and flag content that is yours.

Always watermark


When we set out to create our website, the absolute first thing that we implemented was automatic watermarks. We handled this through coding on the site and would guarantee that the photos that were uploaded to our server were digitally stamped with our branded logo and provide some authenticity to the images displayed on our site.

Craigslist doesn’t have this feature and the scammers know and love this. If they can get their listings past the flagged bots, they are half way through their mission. Now all that is left is to convince an unsuspecting Joe Traveler that this is the deal they cannot miss out on.

When you watermark your vacation home for rent images you provide a sense of “ownership” to them and give credibility to yourself and to your clients.

Work smarter – not harder


There are numerous methods to watermarking an image. If you are handy with Photoshop, you can even go so far as to write a script to automate the process a bit. For us, the easiest method by far that we found was Watermarquee.com.

Rather than go through all of the headache of setting up watermark scripts, placement, sizing etc. Water Marquee made the process fluid and professional all in one session. The best part of the process is their batch execution handles everything regardless of the image size you upload. Simply point the logo (Ours is in PNG format) to the section of the photo you want, resize, set the transparency you want and press save. 15 photos take roughly 2 minutes to do. Upon completion, Water Marquee will even combine everything into a zip file for you for easy transport on your hard drive.

Ruin a scammers day


Scammers look for easy pickings. For what amounts to 10 minutes of time effort on your part, you can thwart and prevent a scammer from an easy target. Because Watermarquee is so affordable and easy to use, you owe it to yourself to try them out and take preventative steps to protect your vacation rental photos.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Adding Your Phone Number to Your Watermark

If you run a photography business, it may be important to add your phone number to your watermarked photos so that potential customers know how to reach you.  Here's a quick guide about how to get that done.

Upload your Photos to Water Marquee


Head over to Water Marquee and click on the "Select photos to Watermark".  A File Dialog window will open up and you can select one, or more, photos to upload.


Add Your Watermark


If you have an existing watermark, you can go ahead and add it now. If you use a logo for your watermark, click on the "Add Logo" button and select your logo.  If you use text as your watermark instead, click on the "Add Text" button and type in your watermark.


Add Your Phone Number


You can add multiple watermarks to a photo. Just click on the "Add Text" button and type in your contact information.  You can modify the font, opacity, and color to best match your image.


When you've got your photos watermarked with your phone number, click on the "Save" button to save the new images to your computer.


Monday, June 5, 2017

First Watermarking Video Tutorial

For a quick overview about how to add a watermark to your photos using Water Marquee, check out the video we just posted.


We'll be uploading videos covering other features such as using and creating templates, using your company's logo as a watermark, and more in the near future.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Watermarking for Real Estate Agents

The weather is heating up, and so is the real estate market. As real estate agents, there is nothing more thrilling than a surge in the for-sale market, timed so well with an abundance of customers who are looking to buy. It’s the real estate equivalent of the perfect storm.
You’ve worked so hard throughout your career as a real estate agent. You’ve done more than connect buyers with sellers and sellers with buyers. You’ve poured your heart and soul into helping families find the perfect home, helping retirees downsize, and helping couples get started on the right foot. Sometimes the transactions are fast and furious, sometimes the clients are with you so long they almost become part of the family!
If you’ve been in this industry for a while, you know how this goes – the market heats up, then suddenly (and not surprisingly) the number of agents out there trying to represent real estate buyers and sellers starts to skyrocket. Competition gets fierce. Every opportunist out there thinks this is their chance to make it big in real estate! We veteran agents have weathered many storms, and persevered. But that doesn’t mean we don’t need to be vigilant.


Now, more than ever, we need to keep an eye out for those opportunists. In this business, your greatest asset is your sales record. Let me reiterate, your greatest asset is your own individual, unique sales record! You know your neighborhoods, you know your demographics, and you know your trade. You also know that in today’s market, especially with younger customers, online communication is paramount. Today’s clients don’t want to take phone calls, they want to email or text. Today’s clients don’t want to wait for new market listings on Fridays, they want to peruse online listings in real time. But even before that, they want to check out online profiles of real estate agents, before selecting someone to represent themselves in one of the biggest decisions they’ll make in their entire lives!
I know you’ll be sure to put your best foot forward online, but If there is one piece of advice I can give at this point, it’s this – do not, I repeat, DO NOT let anyone commandeer your sales track record. In this day and age, most agents will boast their biggest sales online with photos and bragging rights, hoping to build on that success by attracting new customers. But remember those opportunists we mentioned earlier? They don’t have the sales history that gives customers peace of mind that they’ve put their trust in the right hands.


So let me say this – post your successes online! A picture speaks a thousand words! Post photos on your website and on social media, celebrating your successes and showcasing the beautiful properties you have had the privilege to represent. Just make sure you protect those photos and all of your hard work from being stolen by someone else. It’s just too easy for those opportunists to grab photos online, claim to have made the sale, and win future business that they haven’t earned! To protect your photos online, you need to make them your own. There’s no better way to do that than to insert your own unique watermark into your online photos, to prevent anyone else from claiming ownership. And it doesn’t have to be a huge business expense – extremely inexpensive and easy-to-use online watermarking services allow you to place logos, text, your contact information, and/or all of the above onto your photos, to render them unusable for any unauthorized commercial purposes. Your sales are yours, and yours only! Advertise them proudly without fear!

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Photo Watermarking for Direct Sales

So many people today are earning a living in non-traditional ways, and proving to everyone that a standard 5-days-a-week-from-9-to-5 job isn’t the only way to do it!  With busy lives and multiple priorities, today’s career-seekers are looking for more flexibility, and a better balance for themselves and their families.  Nowhere has that been more evident than in the recent boom in direct sales companies, who can offer their sales representatives the opportunity be creative, set their own hours, and work at their own pace.  Companies like LuLaRoe, Stella & Dot, and Young Living have not only changed the way we shop, they’ve changed the way we work!
Although a healthy work-life balance may be the thing that first attracts people to direct sales companies, often the creative outlet they provide is what helps their sales reps truly thrive!  Often sales representatives choose a product or company that speaks to their own personal passions and supports their own personal goals.  While it helps to have a great product line or a unique product offering, we all know these products don’t sell themselves.  The key to successful sales lies purely within the sales rep!
If you’re a sales representative for a company like LuLaRoe or Young Living, you know that your unique personality, your unique style, and your unique marketing strategy are the true discriminators when it comes to making big bucks in this industry.  Your own marketing materials and communication style are what speak to your customers and capture their imaginations.  The relationships you build with your customers are what keeps them happy and coming back for more.
Although some companies and their reps still rely heavily on the old paradigm of “get your friends to host a party, and they’ll invite their friends, you’ll make some sales and find more people to host more parties and they’ll invite their friends” and so on (you remember Tupperware, right?), today’s savvy rep harnesses the power of social networking sites and electronic communications to reach their customers.  And sending around a link to a product catalog or company website just won’t do!  Your competitors are doing way more than that (and making more money too!).  Remember earlier when we mentioned that it’s the uniqueness of YOU that makes the difference?  
To draw customers in online, you’re going to need a strong online presence at sites where you know your potential customer base already frequents.  Of course sites like Facebook and Instagram will be crucial to initially connecting with your customers, and frequent activity on these sites will keep your products in front of buyers.  
But, we also need to remember that, just as we’re careful on social media with what information we post on social media sites, we need to be careful with our marketing.  Because it is our uniqueness and style that compels our customers to make that purchase, we simply cannot allow our competitors to make sales by poaching our marketing materials!  It is SO easy for others online to “borrow” our photos and “borrow” our advertisements, and make big money without the effort.  This is why you MUST protect your online photos and ads.  The best way to do this is to insert un-removable watermarks on every photo you post online.  These watermarks identify your online marketing materials as belonging to you and you only, in such a way that others can’t use them.

Online watermarking sites like Water Marquee offer the ability to watermark as many photos as you like without having to install any software on your device.  If you have a logo you like to use in your marketing, you can place it wherever you like on your photos, in a conspicuous enough place that your photos can’t be re-used by someone else, but that doesn’t detract from the focus on your product.  Even better, insert your contact information as a watermark, so your customers always know how to buy, and the sale proceeds end up in YOUR pocket!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A New Version of Water Marquee is Coming

On April 1st we'll be releasing a new version of Water Marquee, both for free and Pro users.  If you'd like to take it for a test spin, we'd really appreciate your feedback!  The new version can be found at:

https://wm4.herokuapp.com

In addition to being more reliable and faster, the new version adds the ability to "unlink" watermarks - so you can adjust each watermark individually, if you wish, without altering the watermarks on other images.

Unfortunately, any watermark templates you've created (assuming you're a Pro user) will be lost when we transition to the new version.  The existing templates are not compatible with the new template format and there is no automated way to convert them. We apologize for the inconvenience.

If you do have feedback, you can let us know by emailing us at support@watermarquee.com.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Watermarks for Models

Modeling is a tough business to crack into - comp cards, portfolios, casting calls - and all that may even be before you land your first paying job.  The topic we're focused on today is crucial to getting your modeling career off the ground - managing you portfolio.  It's great if you have an agent who will do this for you, but if you haven't signed on with one yet, a great portfolio could help you get there.



You probably already have a collection of your favorite shots - the ones where you look your best, the ones that highlight your unique features, the ones that are sure to stand out in a crowd.  But those photos won't help you at all, unless you circulate them to the right people in the industry.  That's the hard part - just about everything is done online these days, so how do you really know who you're sending your photos to, and what are they doing with them? Beware - scammers want to use  your photos for their own profit, and to impersonate you online, or worse.

If you want to have full control over defining your persona and building your brand, you need to have control over where and when your photos are used.  Your photos displayed on the wrong sites by the wrong people could sink your career and reputation.  You've got to protect yourself and your photos!  It can be as simple as adding a watermark to each of your photos, to prevent them from being used commercially without your permission.  Photographers do it, and you should too.

There are several approaches to watermarking your photos, but the main point is to place your watermark in such an obvious place that it would render the photo useless for commercial purposes, but still allows the beauty of the subject to shine through.  You should always include your name and contact info in your watermark, so that, wherever your photos end up, you can be contacted by an interested party.

Another good idea is to occasionally use Google Reverse Image Search to find out if your pictures are in fact being used anywhere on the web.  You can drag and drop your images onto the Google search page, and Google will search for any similar instances online.  While this can help you find out if your photos are being used without your permission, it's a better idea to watermark your photos so that this doesn't happen in the first place.