Photographer’s Property

Photographers that deal with the public, that is, being paid to shoot photographs for a client for compensation, you will, at some point, run into “ownership” issues.

The issues involved can be a real roller coaster because there are a myriad of different scenarios that can encircle any job.  For instance, if it’s a print job, the fee can depend on what type of circulation the image will get (number of printed issues), the size of the image on the page, the placement of the image on the page, etc.  There are different factors depending on different jobs.

Aside from all of these issues, there are a couple of facts that photographers need to understand, REGUARDLESS of the job.

The main “law” is that, as the photographer, YOU are the OWNER of ALL photographs that you take.  PERIOD!!!   Let me stress that one again.  YOU are the OWNER of EVERY photograph that you take!  The only exception to this is that you are working for a company as an employee and have signed an agreement that everything that you shoot while working for said company is theirs.

That image that you envisioned and shot is YOURS!!!  Whether or not you use it in any way is beside the point.  It is yours, PERIOD.  If you are working for a client and you take a photograph for them. for any reason…it is still YOURS!  If they pay you for the photography shoot…they pay you for the “USAGE RIGHTS” of that photograph or photographs.  THEY DON”T BUY THE PHOTOGRAPH’S.  They still remain yours with ALL of the rights.  If they want to buy the “exclusive rights” to that photograph, that is a different story and the fee for such photograph(s) goes beyond the initial fee of the photo shoot.

Specific terms of the exclusivity of the photograph determines the total fee for photograph(s) like, depending on the length of exclusivity(how many years), etc.

I always snicker when I see an add for photographers and the people placing the add say, “and we will even give you the rights to the photos”.  What a laugh-er…the photos are YOURS to begin with and if they want them, they will have to compensate YOU for them.  If they don’t meet your expectations, you have the right not to sell them the usage rights and walk off with the pictures you have taken.  Not the other way around.

People will try and take advantage of photographers any time they can…but, they can’t if you don’t let them.  The photographer need not to be in such a hurry to make a buck to explain the rules BEFORE they shoot for their clients.  That way, you weed out the clients that will give you problems down the road.  You will respect yourself in the morning and your clients will realize that you mean business and they will feel better dealing with you because of that. Typically, most, if not all clients do not understand the rules and by sharing the rules with them, they feel more comfortable as well.

There are some really good books on Photography Law. as well as books on photography pricing, marketing, legal forms, etc.  Start buying them and reading them.  In the long run it can make your photography business stronger.