Have you ever tried searching for stock photos for a certain project, but all of the good photos you could find have watermarks? There is always an option to pay for the image, but you choose to spend some time trying to remove the watermark using the powers of Photoshop.
Well, now Google engineers have found a better way to do so. The team made use of a software algorithm to remove the watermarks automatically and seamlessly. Image-hosting services like Shutterstock use the same watermark on every single image, and the algorithm was made to recognize the watermarks. By combining thousands of images together, the algorithm is able to easily figure out what part of the image is the watermark, and what part is the real image. The algorithm then removes the watermark parts, and leaving the rest of the image.
Source: Google Blog via Google
This could be good news for people who want to get high-quality images for free, but it isn’t so good for photographers and image hosting companies who want to be compensated for their photos. Google’s method requires a large database of images to be able to do this “magic”, so we can say that individual photographers who watermark their own images are probably fine. Unfortunately, larger companies will have a problem.
Source: YouTube, Google
Google proposes a solution for them as well. They suggest that they slightly alter the watermark for each image so as to fool the algorithm. Just a few pixel difference between the watermarks in each image will be enough to throw off the algorithm.
There are many image hosting companies that are already adapting to this. “Our engineering team developed a watermark randomizer so that no two watermarks are the same,” says Shutterstock CTO Martin Brodbeck. “The shapes vary per image and include contributor names. By creating a completely different watermark for each image, it makes it hard to truly identify the shape.”