Licensing: Avoid getting in trouble for photo usage


Being in the age of the Internet, we all have access to billions of images, be it photos, art work or illustrations. One thing that "most" of us are guilty of is grabbing images off Google, thinking we can use it for whatever we want. Now artists/creatives are starting to step up and people are getting busted (huge law suits) for "stealing". I have been guilty of that too, but that changed when I took up Photography as my full time career and today I want to help you avoid getting into trouble for "unintentional" illegal photo usage.

A few people have asked me about this licensing thing as it's non existent when amateur-pro photographers are hired, so I thought I'd explain it here. The issue is people have not grasped or understand the concept of copyright and licensing. It's so common to hear people say "I've paid for the photo so it's now mine" and almost bazar to hear an artist/creative say "x picture can be used for x years for x $". Almost as if to say, (as an example) you paid an architect to design this house so now the design is yours to replicate and reuse if wanted.

So here is how licensing works: Say you hire a photographer (let's call her Mary) to create you this BEAUTIFUL photo campaign. Mary says the campaign will be $xxxxx and you agree to it.

What the cost entitles you to is (a real professional should be breaking this down for you like so): Cost of the service which includes time, knowledge, creativity, editing etc... Cost of additional which includes equipment flat fee, rental equipments, models, assistants etc... Licensing which includes usage rights and all the other T&Cs

With the licensing, Mary shot a house for an interior designer, the images are only valid for x months usage or until x is sold (whichever comes first) and if there's a need to transfer the images to someone else for use of marketing, there will be a transfer or usage fee after.

Under that "lite-license" it also means that we as photographers can sell those images to others as well (photos are still under our ownership). Sure you can buy unlimited usage and full copyright ownership but that would come at a cost of usually in the high thousands. Also the reason why brands like Levi's pay $10000/pair of jeans photo, because they become the ownership of the photo and can do as they wish with it.

I know not everyone has $10000+ to throw at one photo and ownership pricing really depends on various factors. Now the good news is that there is an exclusivity license where you pay a bit more and the image usage remains only between you and the photographer. Ongoing licensing fees still stay in play but unless you have the huge cash to own the image, this is an easier alternative to swallow.

Hey I've given countless photos away when I first started and I still do when it is purely for the fun and experimenting, but if it's for advertising and marketing, the license rules come to play.

Well I hope this educational piece was enlightening! Or at least gives a better understanding about ownership of images.