Digital Focus: Digital Zoom's Ugly Little Secret

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Dave's Favorites: Protect Your Pictures With IWatermark

How paranoid are you? Some people don't mind lending money to that second cousin from out of town who is only seen at family gatherings in the company of a parole officer. I'm not quite that easygoing; I get nervous when someone at the next table in a restaurant asks to borrow my bottle of ketchup. What then of my digital pictures, which can end up anywhere on the Internet after I've posted them to a Web site or sent them to a friend?

How can you protect your pictures? Script Software has an inexpensive ($20) and simple solution: IWatermark.

IWatermark isn't an industrial-strength watermarking program; it probably won't protect you from a determined and clever thief. But the program is good enough for routine security, which should satisfy most folks who don't depend on digital photography for their livelihood.

It's a breeze to use. Just drag a single picture or a folder full of pictures to the IWatermark screen to tell it what images to watermark, then specify the watermark text, like "© 2004 Dave Johnson." Here's where the program really gets good: You can specify a watermark image instead of text. That means you can put a small picture of yourself in the corner of the image if you like. Then set a watermark location--such as a corner or the center of the frame--and let it rip.

I say that IWatermark isn't going to stop a determined thief because unlike some comparable programs, this one doesn't hide any identifying data in the substrata of the image. It's all right on top, where you can see it, erase it with a clone brush, or even crop it away. You can minimize the risk by making the watermark large or even repeating it throughout the image--but those tactics obliterate the aesthetics of your picture.

The good news is that IWatermark painlessly lets you inscribe your pictures with identifying data, and it has enough options to make almost anyone happy with the results. It also features a few other cool tools, like the ability to resize images and create small thumbnail images, all at the same time that it prints the watermark.

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