Are you thinking about signing a contract with a photographer? At Alyssa Joy and Co., we work hard to ensure that our clients know what to expect with image rights on the front end. We try our best to ensure that the deliverables and contracts fit the client’s needs as best as possible. Pull up a chair as we go over commercial photography copyright laws and bring all the licensing options to the table!
What is Commercial Photography?
Commercial photography is any image taken for a company or business to use in transactional ways. Some of these uses include:
- Social media
- Website use
- Printed sales brochures
- Blog content
- Secondary sales platforms
Commercial photographers provide an asset and a set of image rights that are typically licensed for a company to use.
What Kinds of Photography are Under Copyright?
All images produced by a person are immediately protected under copyright law, unless they are contracted by a company as their employee, and that art form is part of their work.
Who Owns the Copyright of a Photograph or Image Rights?
Various rules, regulations, and exceptions exist when it comes to copyright for created works. We love this comprehensive list of all forms of copyright, kinds of licensing, fair use, and using images on social media. The topic is relatively broad, but for our purposes, we’re focusing on what copyright law means for the photographer/client relationship.
When a photographer shoots an image, he or she utilizes his creative eye, taking the time to craft the perfect setting, lighting, etc. The image is supposed to communicate a message to the potential buyer and help usher in a call to action. Photographers are artists — which makes the photograph copyrighted by the creator!
There are two ways for a photographer to give access to images — through licensing or through a transfer of copyright ownership. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of these situations.
Commercial Photography Licensing
Licensing is the traditional route that most photographers take. It provides many benefits for both the photographer and the company buying usage rights. Under this situation, a photographer retains ownership of the image taken. This means the photographer can utilize the photo for their gallery, social media, resale in some situations, etc. The client can use the image for a set amount of time in vatious venues including blog posts, social media, advertising, etc.
Within the photographer/client contract, the two parties can set the:
- General purposes
- Length of time to be used
- Qualifications for royalties if desired
- And more
Every company should be looking for commercial, digital, and social (for use on social media) use clauses. While this may seem more complicated than a straight buying of right to the image, we’ll discuss how that isn’t the case in a minute.
Transferred Image Rights or Exclusive, Unrestricted Use
While buying the copyright may seem like a better option for some companies, it can be less than helpful.
In a transfer of copyright scenario, the photographer loses all access to the image. They should price the images for potential future sales value for the company — which could be a pretty high number. So here are the biggest reasons why most companies don’t choose exclusive, unrestrictive use:
- Most often, the specific image taken will not be used indefinitely. With changing styles through the years and rotating products, it may be a waste of money to purchase the full copyright on the image.
- Don’t pay for more than you need. If you’re looking for full access for any use across 1-2 years, you can get what you need without overpaying. Under exclusive but unrestricted use, the photographer can still use the image in self-promotion. But in this scenario, the photographer should protect his interests by charging a royalty situation based on projected sales!
- You need fresh content. When you work with a photographer long-term, the photographer will continue to learn your brand aesthetic and produce fresh quality images throughout your work relationship!
- Mutually beneficial relationship building. Your photographer can cross-promote your images and potentially reach a new audience for you as they share your content across platforms.
We always suggest a fair commercial licensing situation that gives the best of both worlds to the photographer as well as the client.
How to Discuss Image Rights with Your Photographer
In the contract negotiations phase, the photographer will propose a pricing guide for the various elements that give your company fair options for all the uses you may need from the images. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and check into all the avenues of usage you would like for the images. Even if you discover new needs after your initial agreement, you can always come back to negotiate!
I hope this information on image rights and working with your photographer helps you! As you look for and hire the right photographer, asthetics are a part of the equation. Getting into a great contract will help you for the months and years to come. Customized commercial photography can take your marketing game to the next level. And, once you find the right fit for your company, it’s magic.
We love working with creative brands and are here to answer any questions you may have on our work and image rights!