Who Owns The Copyright Of The Photographs From My Shoot?Some of the most common questions I’m asked by prospective clients are “can I keep all the images?”, and “do you give me the copyright?”
I can completely understand why these questions get asked – photography copyright can seem complicated, and it does seem counter-intuitive that anyone else should own the copyright of photographs of your family that you have paid for.
So how does photography copyright work, and what does it mean for you and your family? In this article I’ll explain:
- How photography copyright works in the UK
- What an image licence or print release is
- How photographers can use photographs from your shoot
- The questions you should ask about copyright when hiring a photographer
- How I manage copyright in my business
In writing this article I’ve used the following sources: Copyright Notice: digital images, photographs and the internet from The Intellectual Property Office and British Institute of Professional Photography guide to copyright
How Photography Copyright Works in the UK
At the time of me writing this (July 2018), photographs are protected as artistic works in the same way that a painting or an illustration is.
Generally speaking, the copyright belongs to the person who created the image – in the case of a photograph the person who took it (i.e. the photographer.) There are some exceptions to this – for example if the photographer is an employee (for example in a large studio) the copyright belongs to their employer. So if you are hiring a photographer to take photographs the copyright will usually belong to the individual photographer, or their employer.
Very simply put, this means that you need the photographer’s permission before printing the photographs yourself, sharing digital copies with others or sharing them on social media platforms. It also means that you can’t profit from sales of the photographs, enter them into competitions, submit them to publications or alter the photographs in any way (for example add filters or re-edit them) without the photographer’s permission.
How Do I Get Permission To Print And Share The Photos?
When you purchase digital images from a photographer, they will usually give you permission to print and share the photographs in one of two ways:
Either by documenting what permissions you have to print and share the photographs in a contract.
Or by issuing you with a licence – sometimes called a usage rights agreement, usage licence, or print release which also documents how you can print and share the photographs.
Most of the time these permissions will give you everything you need – the ability to print your photographs as many times as you like, send them to friends and family, and share them on the internet.
Can The Photographer Use Photographs Of Me To Advertise Their Business?
Although the photographer does own the copyright for the photographs, they cannot use the photographs publicly without your permission if the photographs have been commissioned for private or domestic purposes (such as a family photo shoot or a wedding.)
Most family photographers include a clause in their contract which allows them to use the photographs for advertising purposes, or to display the quality of their work – for example in their portfolio or on social media. This is generally how photographers gain permission to use photographs in this way.
Can I Ask The Photographer Not to Use Photographs From My Shoot?
If you don’t want a photographer to use your photographs in their portfolio or for advertising purposes you always have the option to ask them not to. However you should do this before you enter into a contract with the photographer. Whilst I’m sure that most photographers will be very open to adapting the contract for you, it’s better to find out exactly where you stand before the photographs are taken.
Can I Ask The Photographer To Give Copyright To Me?
It is possible to agree with a photographer that they assign the copyright to you. This would usually be in the form of a written contract.
However, in doing this the photographer would also be giving you permission to profit from the photographs, and alter them. Just as a painter would be unlikely to give you permission to sell their paintings without paying them, or to allow you to alter the painting, most photographers would be cautious about assigning copyright to you. Or, they may be willing to do so for an additional fee.
Related article: How much does family photography cost?
Related article: How much does newborn photography cost?
Questions To Ask Photographers About Copyright
Now that we’ve looked at how photography copyright works, what questions should you ask a photographer about copyright before you hire them?
Every family will have their own preferences about how the photographs from their shoot are used. Some will want to keep them completely private, others enjoy seeing the public reaction when a photographer shares a photograph from their shoot on social media.
Most of the time, these two questions will tell you what you need to know about how a photographer works, so that you can make an informed decision about who you work with:
- If I purchase digital images from you, what uses will you give me permission for?
- How will you use the photographs from our shoot?
If you’re not comfortable with the photographer using photographs from your shoot in certain ways, you should also ask whether they will be willing to amend the contract accordingly.
Finally, if you have specific uses in mind that are not covered in the usage license or contract, you should discuss these with the photographer before entering into a booking with them.
Related article: How to choose a family photographer
My Approach To Photography Copyright
When you purchase digital images from me, I will give you a print release which gives you the permission to print the photographs as many times as you wish, and to share them for personal use.
In deciding on my approach as to how I will use photographs, I wanted to achieve a balance between two things.
It would be very difficult to demonstrate the consistency and quality of my photography to prospective clients (and hence run a sustainable business), if I never used photographs from client shoots to promote the quality of my work – for example in my portfolios, blogs, or on social media. However, I also understand that there may be reasons why a family doesn’t want me to use the photographs from their shoot in this way.
With this in mind I will ask you about this when you book your session, and if you don’t want me to share the pictures from your session you can tell me then. I take your privacy very seriously, and will only publish your pictures in my online portfolios with your permission. If you do give permission the pictures are always shared anonymously (I would never share your or your children’s names.)
Over To You
I hope that this guide has helped to explain how photography copyright works and how it could apply to you. What other questions do you have about having your family or baby photographed? Send me an e-mail or let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear from you.