The “mine” mentality in the photography world sometimes gets taken way too literally. While, yes, as photographers we “own” all of our images – the images given to a client are “theirs” to use in ANY manner that their license agreement states – period.
All too often, I see photographers with such loose agreements – that a client can all but resell their images and not be out of the scope of the agreement.
There are many posts online of photographers complaining about how a client is misusing their images. If you don’t like what a client is doing with your images, then tighten up your License Agreement.
The first thing I ask a client while I am discussing with them the costs and project details is: How are you going to use the images?
This is the FOUNDATION of your estimate/quote. Once I get that answer, I can now properly quote the project and build the licensing agreement specifically to their needs. Too simple!
If they say “Oh, I’m just going to use them on my site” and that always do. That means that your license agreement should clearly state that – and if your images show up on another site like Craig’s List or a “competitors” site – then and only then do you have something to complain about as they are in violation of the agreement – period! If they do something that you don’t like, well, make sure “that” is on the next agreement.
Now that doesn’t mean that you should be a jerk and not coach them a bit. The idea is to build a business friendship with them, not make them feel like your Hitter. I’ll take that “just on my site” answer and then ask a few additional questions. For Product Photography, I’ll ask if they will be using it on other websites that are selling their products (like Amazon), or what about ads in magazines. For Real Estate I’ll ask, What about the MLS, or Craig’s List – may be Zillow? I’ll follow that with, are you going to use them in printed flyers, on billboards, the sides of semi-truck trailers (common here in lieu of billboards), or what about business cards, etc.
I’ll also ask them; how LONG they intend to use them? I explain to them that most all my agreements are for 12 months only – because most images become dated or irrelevant after that. But if they need them for a longer period we can certainly extend the agreement duration. I justify this with the fact that it’s “less expensive” for them if we set a duration length. In turn, this generally gets me back out to their place of business for another shoot to bring their images current! Again – too easy!
If it’s a Commercial Shoot – say with models, and they’re going to use the images on products – say T-Shirts, or maybe a printed Poster, then my license will have provisions for that with distribution quantities, specific regions, and whether they can alter the image or not.
I work out all these details upfront in my head. I make sure to ask the right questions giving the client the options to make themselves, and then all this is printed on the quote for them to sign so that I can begin the work. Including the client in these decision making choices makes them feel included and part of the process – it empowers them – and if they do violate the agreement, they only have themselves to blame. When I am done, this SAME information is on the Invoice Statement.
Here is an “example” of the terms I use on my Real Estate quotes:
(feel free to use at YOUR own risk) <- See what I did – I set how you can use this info!
Subject to the terms and conditions below, Widow Creek Photography the licensor (“Licensor”) of the work (“Work”) referenced in this document (number 1151) hereby grants to John Doe Real Estate Company defined herein (“Licensee”) a Non-Exclusive license to use the CLIENT SELECTS ONLY as chosen by the Licensee or representative of the Licensee.
This license shall be valid in the following geographic region(s) only: The United States.
This license shall be valid for 12 months from the date of the invoice and shall cover the publication of the Work in the following media only:
Advertising All Print Publications,
Advertising Direct Mail
Advertising Print Magazine
Advertising Print Newspaper
All Digital Commercial and Corporate In House Promotion
Internet Web Banner Advertising
Internet Web 3rd Party Real Estate Marketing Sites
The number of reproductions of the Work authorized by this license is limited to 50 digital copies and 5,000 printed copies of each.
No credit or attribution is required.
License usage rights are transferred upon full payment of invoice. Failure to make payments voids any license granted and constitutes copyright infringement.
All rights not specifically granted in writing, including copyright, remain the exclusive property of Widow Creek Photography.
So what does this agreement say:
- Non-Exclusive, meaning that they are NOT the only one who can use them. Anyone with a proper license agreement can. (Like Stock Photography, My own website, etc.)
- They only get to use the images they select (not all of them). A typical shoot will include a specific number of images. I typically give them ALL the images to proof, and then they will select the images that they want. I do this so that if down the road they use an image form the proof set – I can go back to them and ask for payment.
- The image can only be used in the US – so I don’t want to see them show up in the UK!
- The images can only be used for 12 months. After that, they need to either hire me to do another shoot or pay an additional fee to extend the agreement.
- I limit which medium the images can be used. In this specific agreement, they CANNOT use the images on the sides of trailers, billboards or in TV commercials – that will require a separate agreement. And I do that because typically they only want 1 or 2 images for that use and it’s “less expensive” for them to relicense 1 or 2 than the whole lot.
Secrete Tip: The more you say “this is to save you money” the more a physiological implant is set in their brain and they know that you are out for their best interest – Again friendship building = client retention. This is especially helpful in making you stand out if your quote is competing with others.
- I limit the number of reproductions so that they are good stewards of my images and keep track of where the images are being posted.
- I do not care about credit in this case – this is work for hire.
- Simply put – you don’t pay you can’t use the images. Where this has helped me out is when a client drags their feet getting me paid. I’ll typically ask a new agent for 25% deposit as a good-faith gesture – but there have been a few times where a client didn’t want to pay, but already used them in their site – a letter asking to pay or pull them off has always worked.
- And lastly, a blanket statement that says anything not covered is a violation and I can pretty do whatever I want with any of the images as I am the actual “owner”. Some clients think just because they hired you that they are actually the owner – this clears that up.