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Photo Use. Who Has The Rights To An Image?


The conversation about copyright and who is able to use an image has been a topic that often comes up between clients and photographers. This post will clarify the topic and explain how we do things at Greg West Photography

Photographer's Images...Who Can Use Them?

“How can I use the photos from our photo shoot with you?” New clients have been asking this question a lot lately. Frankly, I’m surprised by this question and when I inquire why they are asking, it invariably comes back to another photographer(s) with whom they have spoken or worked. From what I gather some photographers are telling their clients the photos may only be used for their website, and they require an additional fee to use the images for advertising as an example.  

Before I tell you how Greg West Photography answers that question, it's important to understand a bit about copyright law which factors into this discussion.

Q:       What is photo copyright?

A:        It means the photographer owns the image they create. The law even states that copyright applies to

an image as soon as the shutter is released.


Q:       What does copyright law cover as it pertains to photography?

A:        It covers four distinct areas:

        • Reproducing a photograph
        • Distributing copies of an image to the public: sales, rental, lease, lending or giving away
        • Publicly displaying an image
        • Derivative works:

“Derivative work" ........ A work consisting of editorial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications which, as a whole, represent an original work of authorship, is a "derivative work."


Q:       Are actions by the photographer needed for the copyright to apply?

A:       No. Copyright law automatically grants photographers ownership of their own work and no special         

           paperwork needs to be filed. Even applying the copyright symbol © is not required for copyright law to



Q:        How may I use the images you’ve created from our photo shoot?

A:        Each photographer can decide how they wish to answer this question. The contract between

           the client and the photographer will clearly state what uses of the images are permitted. Each project

           will require a clear understanding of what uses are permitted.


          At Greg West Photography (GWP) we're about long-term client relationships and prefer to remain

          flexible so our answer to this question of how copyrighted photos are used is:


           "Use it any way you need to for your direct business marketing."   


          Can I use it for advertising?      GWP: YES!

          Can I use it for my website?      GWP: YES!

                      Can I use it for social media?    GWP: YES!      

Q:       Some clients would like to give the photos from our photoshoot to a project partner, an example being

           a custom cabinet maker with whom they work regularly.        

A:       Our answer is: Yes...if. The "if" in our response means that the third party (cabinet maker) needs to

           purchase the images from GWP. The contract with our client outlines that the images may only be       

           used only for our client's business. Also, as the owner of the images and someone who would like to

           continue to run a successful business, we do charge for third-party use of the images. One caveat. We

           reduce our fee if multiple parties "participate" before the photo shoot, saving money for everyone



I hope this was helpful. You’ll have a wonderful relationship with your photographer if you understand and respect the ownership of the images they create for your use. 

Did you miss June's Blog? Read how to navigate your marketing during our current economic "riptide" Check it out. 

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