Thursday, December 11, 2008

Does the Photographer own the rights to my photos?

Have you ever seen your photo on a website, or photographer's website and you didn't like it? Have you ever felt ripped off by how a photographer treated your photos, or have you ever been confused over who has the rights to the photos you took with the photographer this post is for you.

The Photographer and You - who owns the photo?

My advice so you don't run into a photo issue with the photographer you have chosen to work with is basically four words: Get It In Writing.

A professional photographer will give you all the images and even touch up a couple for you and you should leave the day or your shoot or very close to after, with a CD or images in one format or another in your hand. It should not be a struggle to get your work period!

You want to own the photos or at least own them "enough" to where you get to use them and you don't have to fight to get what you shot.

I have had some bad experiences in the past and the photographer's will not be named, but I have worked with some photographer who have NOT given me what was assumed, and I wish I had it in writing.

What if you paid the photographer and you have not gotten what you paid for?

Before you pay, set up a shoot, or even meet the photographer, ask questions. Over the phone or in emails, THAT is number one.

Ask: Do I get rights to all the photos?
Ask: Do I have to also pay for touch up, if so how much?

An aspiring model told me that she did a shoot with a photographer, paid him, and he only gave her a selection of the photos, and if she wants more, she has to pay to have them touched up because he doesn't want his image out there without being touched up. What! Yes, this is true. Sounds pretty shaddy huh? Well it happens all the time. And it is terrible.

With respect to photography a photographer has the right to want to clean up the images, but the model shouldn't have to go through such a struggle to update her portfolio and she should be able to get ALL the images taken. She is paying for each shot of the camera, and this is also why FILM, is actually better when it comes to photographer, because you get a certain amount of shots, and those are yours, and when the film is done, the shoot is done, and you know what you should be getting, two rolls of film, vs. whatever-shots-the photographer-wants to give you from the photo disk.

I would talk about your shoot ahead of time, talk about the shots you are expecting and even say a number, "I would like to shoot 100 shots and see what we get and pick my favorite 20 to use for my portfolio and compcard."

Photographers can be your friend, sure, thats fine, but still if you have never worked with the photographer before GET IT IN Writing!

Even if you think the photographer is your friend and can be trusted, photography is a business, and many photographer are not jerks but they do sell their images and they do have the rights to the photos and models can sometimes be left in the dark with 5 images and a big debt and unable to get the images they need.

You want to make sure when you are shooting headshots, or any portfolio images that you have an agreement, in writing, that the images, whether film or digital, are in your right. To use them, print them, and perhaps even submit them to magazines, and use them for your own promotion.

You are paying for them right. So treat your photos like a business too and make sure they are yours. Keep track of names, numbers, dates, and agreements in writing. Write your own agreement don't just sign the photographer's, have them sign your's.

I love photography, and I work with great photographers, but I also think a lot of models get ripped off so becareful.


New Media Photographer said...

You make some excellent points. Get it in writing. Yes, there are a number of photographers with poor business skills.

But, You have to understand. When photographers say they own the rights to the images, they are not being jerks, it’s the law -

Don't shoot the messenger here... But, when you hire a photographer you are commissioning the photographer to create the images for your use, not to own.

What use? That depends on the clients needs. It depends on the ultimate value of the images. A model would charge more for a national ad campaign than for a local show. Correct? Same with the photographer, the usage is more valuable.

Usage plays big part of how a professional photographer sets their rates. If the client is granted all the rights, the photographer loses all control of how their work is used and the opportunity to for additional income.

We like to say if a photographers copyrights are not valuable, than why is everyone working so hard to get them. Unless you plan on reselling the images, there is no reason to pay the extra fee for the copyrights.

A true professional will charge you a lot more money to buy the copyrights to the images, if at all. Every photographer works differently. A true professional will be up-front and follow through with their promises.

Back to your good points. Decide ahead of time what your expectations are and ask the photographer if they will meet them and get it in writing.

All the best,


isobella jade said...

Thanks for your comments and I respect your point. It inspired more thoughts: If a model pays a photographer a certain amount of money she should have in writing how many photos she is expecting and also if touchup is included. Many girls pay photographers for headshots and commercial shots thinking they have paid a set rate, but I have heard from a girl who paid a photographer who was given only a certain amount of images after the shoot and she was shocked. Then she had to pay again any time she wanted to use another photo for her compcard or portfolio, and she had to pay for touch up because the photographer did not want the photos seen without being touched up. It was a bad situation for her. She should have discussed all of this with the photographer beforehand. You make a good point about usage. A photographer and model, client, should discuss usage as well. I have even gotten some shots certain photographer's have taken of me over the years published in magazines, but I have also always given them photo credit and let them aware of where the shot would be published beforehand and discussed it with them. No payment was involved. Overall a model should be prepared not just to sign the photographer's contract, but to have her own, and to get it in writing what is expected. Don't trust that the photographer "will understand," or even "give you what you expect from your emails or conversation." Get it in writing. Also for aspiring models, if you happen to shoot a nude photo of yourself, get it in writing that the photographer can or can not distribute it over the internet and publish it. If a photographer asks for your ID, takes a scan of it, photo of it copy of it. Ask why? Because this is usually done if the photographer might want to sell the image or publish it, and make sure you are ok with that. Over the years I have worked with amazing photographers, but before a few became my dear friends, it was business.
Again thanks for your comment Rosh!

sxyphatt said...

What if i took pictures with a photographer and he given me a cd... the picture wore to go on exitibition and up for sale.. as well as use the for personal use but i taken them with an ex of mine... we to make a long story short i put the pictures on my facebook and my ex wonts them down... and so does the photographer... nothing is in writing at all... who is write.. do i have to take them down