I'm designing some websites for extending my portfolio only.
And I want to put some stock image in the design, so it looks real. e.g. putting professional look image in a consultancy company website.
Yet, I dont want to buy the stock photo just for my portfolio use.

Is it OK if I keep the watermarked photo in my project?

  • 2
    Why are you not using free stock alternatives?
    – Summer
    Jan 24, 2018 at 12:49
  • Is your portfolio not worth the $30-$40 for non-watermarked photos to you? You'd rather steal the images and use them without permission letting everyone know you're okay ignoring intellectual property rights?
    – Scott
    Jan 24, 2018 at 18:10

4 Answers 4


If you use a watermarked photo, you use that photo and if the photo is not free, you should pay the price. Watermarked version isn't free, the watermark is a more polite alternative for "PAY!". It's possible that the copyright owner doesn't know, but it's different story.

More: The watcher can decide that you do not respect the law, you have a tendency to slip to the wider side. What else there may be as hidden?

Watermarked photos render your work half-ready. This is the place you should show your best, not something unfinished. Don't do it! If your work needs that photo, purchase it or redesign using free images. There should be anyway a note about the origin of the images to show that you understand that side, too.

  • To add to using free images: there are many great, free stock photography websites out there. pexels.com gratisography.com So I agree: either buy the stock images or use free ones. I think that using watermarked photos also looks unprofessional if they aren't your photos.
    – SSDesigns
    Jan 24, 2018 at 10:45

Using watermarked photos, in my opinion, is only ok when you show "the road". So for example part of your portfolio is step by step brief - research - sketch - concept - finish product. Then yes, by all means, until the point of final design use and show watermark materials (getty and istock watermark looks really professional).

Using many photos in "the road" stage (so until final design you change the watermarked photo) show that you are flexible, able to change and don't stick to one solution.
And as a designer don't be afraid to use your powers in your favour. So use photos with warm colors showing smiling, friendly people. The ones who will look at your designs will associate you with this "nice feeling".

In any other case buy the material, and don't be afraid in investing your money.
A) you will have some stock to use for your own use (freelance)
B) you will have nice photos to use in future mockup designs (many times I've had to put photo without watermark in Lorem ipsum stage)
C) it shows that you are willing to take one step more and showing initiative (you bought the photo and not the company you've work for)

  • This has remarkable thoughts beyond my answer. +1.
    – user82991
    Jan 24, 2018 at 11:36

The use of watermarked images for creating a rough layout is exactly why many stock photo sites provide watermarked copies for download. Check the site you got them from to see if there are any restrictions. This can't really be answered here as each company might have different policies/rules with regard to the use of such images. If you can't find the information, contact them and ask.

However, the problem is that watermarked copies are generally low res, plus there's a often big watermark across the images, with the result that these don't look great. In my opinion, I'd say these aren't suitable for a portfolio in which you want to show off your work. I think it would be better to buy the images. Some sites offer fairly reasonably priced stock photos, but others are monstrously expensive. Shop around!


I would not recommend you to use watermarkes pictures, and there are simple reasons for it, so first of all the watermark destroys the picture and changes the view of your whole design so it reduces the value of your product. Second of all, watermarkes pictures are often just a low resolution preview of a picture you could buy in high resulution, so your quality is not the best and you should always focus on quality before quantity. There are several other reasons for you to not use watermarkes pictures, but I guess you get the point :)

edit: you can use free stock pictures instead, check out unsplash.com - it's a open source community where everyone can upload pictures and all of them are actually great quality and free.

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