Copyright vs Usage License

Education is important. No matter what the subject is, sometimes we need to delve a bit deeper into the topic.

Photography is a service. And with this service comes contracts, usage agreements (licensing, if you will) and copyright. Let’s talk about this a bit.

We are all familiar with copyrights. Books have them. TV shows and movies have them. Photography is also subject to copyright ownership. As photographers, the moment will click the shutter button, the image is owned by us. In some occasions, copyright may be sold to another party, but that is rare and in most cases, expensive too. As long as I own the copyright, I can use the photos within reason however I’d like. The minute I sell it, the photo is no longer mine.

Usage agreements (or usage license) refers to how the client (you) may use the photograph and it should be spelled out in the contract. Commercial sessions (i.e. for businesses, companies, schools, nonprofit organizations, etc) have a different licensing agreement than a personal session. Unless otherwise stated, commercial usage licensing allows businesses to use the photographs for advertisement, marketing, etc, which means they are in a sense profiting off the work done by the photographer.

Personal usage allows the client to print (in some cases), post on social media and share the gallery and images. It does not allow the client to use the photographs for advertising and marketing in any case, be it personal and allowing another company/organization to use it. It also does not give permission to the client to use the photos in magazine or periodical print form.

For example, I recently did a session in studio for an author. Her contract and usage agreement were adjusted to allow her to use the images in her book cover. Had the agreement not been altered and the images were used in the book cover, it would have been a violation of the agreement.

If you ever have any questions on how you should use your photographs, it’s always safest to ask. Your photographer won’t steer you wrong. Ask questions to gain clarity.

Using Format