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The Difference Between Copyright & Usage Rights (AND when should you credit your photographer?)

Oh you guys.  Can’t you just tell that this is going to be the most fun ever?!!

Not a fun topic to write about but the more brand photography I do, the more questions I get asked about this topic!

VERY Important Disclaimer: I am definitely not an attorney and I do not speak for all photographers.  If you’re ever in doubt about what you can and cannot do with your images, read your contract carefully and reach out to your photographer for clarification!

I get the same question in different forms all the time:

“Do I get the copyright to these photos?”

“Can I use these on my website?”

“Do I have to give you credit every time I use one of your images?”

First, let’s discuss the difference between image rights and copyright:

Copyright is automatically owned by the artist (in this case, me).  It is an actual legal thing that is complicated to just give away or include.  Typically the copyright of an image is very expensive to purchase.  Copyright is my ownership of my own work.  I can edit my work however I want, sell it on street corners, or incorporate it into a larger work.  I do not sell the copyright of my images.

Image rights are the rights most commonly included in your photography contract and in the vast majority of use cases, this is all you need!  In my contract, you are given the right to use the high resolution digital images or video I deliver to you in your marketing efforts whether it is on your website, your podcast cover, your printed marketing materials, your product materials (online classes, webinars, etc), or in your social media profiles and posts, etc.

Image rights do not give you the right to re-edit my photos, incorporate them into an art piece, or sell them on street corners or in a shop on your website.  Even if there is high demand on the black market for living room wall sized portraits of your face. 😉

Now let’s talk about credit etiquette, which can be a bit more of a grey area. 

These things might not be specifically discussed in your contract but there are some unspoken “guidelines”.  I’ve included a few scenarios below. (Again, I can only guarantee that these apply to my business and my contract) :

Images on your own website or blogNo credit necessary or expected
Social media profile photosNo credit necessary or expected
Images on your printed marketing materialsNo credit necessary or expected
Images posted on  Instagram/FB etcNo credit necessary or expected but always appreciated!
Images of you on your own video productions or livestreamsNo credit necessary or expected
Image I took of you being used in someone else’s publication about you (eg magazine article, blog post, news article, etc)Credit required!
Image I took of you being used in a television broadcast or similarCredit required!

Here are a few visual examples of how my work has been incorporated into my clients’ marketing:

Design Credit counterclockwise starting from top left: Behind the Design Podcast , Kate the Socialite’s The Kate Show , and Ashley Quinto Powell (Design and Photos by Amy Lynn Creative)

I hope this is helpful but ultimately, when in doubt, ask your photographer!

<3 Amy

Branding Photography, For Small Businesses

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8/24/2020

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The Difference Between Copyright & Usage Rights (AND when should you credit your photographer?)