Category Archives: image licensing

Professional Photography Standard for Copyright & Image Licensing

After another run in with a client last week regarding the all mighty copyright beast, the not so fun side of being a professional photographer has once again come out. This time in the form of a work made for hire situation, which many of you already know is a deal breaker for me. I have decided to create a FAQ page on my blog and this post is pretty much a mirror of that from following statements and questions below that were taken directly off the ASMP website and are meant to help educate potential clients and emerging photographers on the industry standard in which professional photographers work.

Most, if not all potential clients have heard of copyright. How much they know about copyright law and how they feel about it will vary dramatically. Some are strong supporters of artists’ rights. Others believe that copyright law has gone too far and feel the use of creative works should be more open and democratic. Still others will be focused on, and bothered by, the idea that you can re-license images originally created for them. Finally, another fraction will simply be unfamiliar with the business of licensing photography altogether.

Below are typical questions that commercial photographers get when approached by new clients:

Q – Client: “Why isn’t your price simply time and materials?”
“What is your day rate?”

A – Commercial Photographers: I do not charge on a day rate or hourly basis. Each project is unique, and time is only one factor I consider when determining my price for a specific assignment. Photography is a creative process and production time is rarely an indicator of value.

Q – Client: “Why do you need to know how I am going to use the photographs?”

A – Professional Photographers: Photographs are intellectual property, and licensing their use is how I generate income. The fees for a specific project are based on the use of the photographs because the more the images are used, the greater value they have. Since they’re worth more, they cost more.

Q – Client: “You cost more per hour than my attorney, why should I pay that?”

A – Commercial Photographers: I do not charge by the hour, so dividing the total cost for this project by the hours estimated for me to be on site photographing does not give you a clear explanation of my fees. My fees are based on the creative and production needs of the job, the expenses, and the license terms we agree upon for use of the images. Factors other than time are frequently more influential in determining my price for a job.

Q – Client: “You mean I pay you to take the pictures and I don’t own them?”

A – Professional Photographers: Photographs are the intellectual property of the creator. Much like software or a book, you can purchase the use, but the creator still owns the material. I own the rights to my photographs, but I can write a license that will let you do whatever you need to do. My price will reflect the value of that license.

Q – Client: “I do not want to come back to you each time I need to use these pictures.”

A – Commercial Photographers: I am more than happy to license a package of rights for these photographs, but you may be paying for uses you do not really need. I am service oriented and accessible if additional uses arise. My goal is, of course, to build a long-term business relationship, so tell me what your plans are and we can work out an equitable license.

Q – Client: “I do not want someone else using my images.”

A – Professional Photographers: I am happy to provide you a price for exclusive use of these images, but because this type of license prohibits me from generating any additional income, it will significantly increase the cost of the project. I suggest we compromise and extend you a limited exclusivity — say, six months. This gives you premiere use of the images, but it doesn’t restrict my ability to earn additional income forever.

*ASMP is a great resource for professional photographers to gain and share knowledge on the business of photography.