Professional Photography: What are you purchasing?
Aug 11, 2020 | By: Karen K Photo
Did you know you’re not actually purchasing photos when you hire a professional photographer?
Let me explain…
When you hire a professional photographer, you’re buying a license to use the photographs.
Photography is a type of intellectual property—a work or invention that is the result of creativity—similar to music, literature, designs, fonts, paintings, etc. Intellectual property is protected by copyright laws. The person who created the work owns the copyright to it.
When it comes to photography, the person who pressed the camera button owns the photograph and copyright, unless they expressly transfer that copyright to another party (which almost never happens).
(An exception is if the photograph is taken in a work-for-hire situation, like an on-staff photographer working for an employer. The employer would own the copyright to those images.)
The photographer owns the photos, and usually retains that ownership.
So what are you purchasing?
The photographer grants you a license to use the photographs based on terms they set. The terms might include what ways you can use the photos and for how long.
For example, a license might include the rights to use the photos to market your business, like in proposals and brochures, websites, and social media. But if you want to publish those photos in a magazine, you may have to purchase an additional license.
Tip: Each photographer establishes their own license terms, so make sure the license you’re purchasing fits your needs.
Most licenses are not transferrable. So, for example, if a general contractor hires a photographer for final photos of their project, the license would only apply to the general contractor. If any architects or subcontractors want to use the same photos, they would have to purchase an additional license from the photographer.
Tip: Copyright applies to stock photos and photos you find online as well. Just because you found a photograph via a search engine does not mean you have license to use it!
Understanding licensing and how copyright works not only helps you work better with your professional photographer; it helps protect your company from copyright law violations. That’s what we call a win-win.
Disclaimer: The above information is a general overview based on copyright laws and how they apply to businesses in the A/E/C in. You should always consult a lawyer with questions about copyright. For more complete information on U.S. copyright laws, visit http://copyrightalliance.org/copyright-law/
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