The subject of photo usage rights is one that often frustrates our clients. They are either unhappy about paying photo usage fees at all, or they opt not to use photos at all for fear they are violating unspoken usage rules. But truthfully negotiating photo usage rights simply requires an understanding of the options available to you, the terms governing usage, and most importantly – negotiation up front to avoid costly mistakes.
First things first – it is not unreasonable for photographers to charge for photo usage rights. Photographs are their livelihood – and the photos they take are their intellectual property and are therefore protected under US copyright laws. The angle, composition, lighting, and other components of the photo together comprise the photographer’s personal creation. Like a painting, their photography is their art, and they are the owner. They charge for their images because it is the way they earn money.
With that said, knowing what you can negotiate up front with a photographer will help you get exactly what you need, at a fair price, for use where you need it. We recommend that our clients negotiate all rights at the start of a photo shoot to enable them to have the freedom to use the images for all of their promotional needs. This can be costly – but will allow you to post your images everywhere – on marketing materials, in print advertising, and on your website – without fear of breaking your contract.
If you choose not to negotiate all rights, you will need to clearly delineate how you plan to use your photos and ensure they are used only in that way. It is important to do so prior to the shoot – because adding additional rights after the shoot can prove to be very costly. Here is some simple terminology you should understand to navigate the baffling world of photo rights:
Denise Grothouse is the Founder and President of Perfect Six, a Marketing and Brand Management Firm.