As a Chicago Corporate Photographer, I get to work on some interesting assignments.  Awhile back, I had the chance to shoot for an aviation company that was looking rebrand their website and marketing collateral.  We spent the day in their warehouse facility in Chicago photographing their product line as well as several scenarios that illustrated their the efficiency of their maintenance and customer response capabilities.  Both the Creative and Marketing Directors were super excited with the images we produced and I began to incorporate some of the shots into my marketing materials, including postcards and e-mail blasts.

Soon after, I received an e-mail from the Marketing Director who had received one of these postcards saying that I was not authorized to use the images in any of my collateral as they owned the copyright.  Of course, I immediately pulled up our agreement to review the terms and finding that this was not the case, decided I needed to do a little bit of educating on photography copyright and usage terms.

It really comes down to this…..when you hire a photographer, you are not buying the images they produce rather you are renting them.

Chicago Commercial Photographer

As copyright continues to be a hot and very misunderstood topic, with the internet making it easier to infringe, here are a few things to keep in mind when hiring a commercial photographer. (Source PPA).

  • Copyright is a property right.
  • Just because you buy a print does not mean you have purchased the copyright.
  • Professional photographers are the smallest of small copyright holders.
  • Under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, photographs are protected by copyright from the moment of creation.
  • Photographers have the exclusive right to reproduce their photographs (right to control the making of copies).
  • Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute (no scanning and sending them to others), publicly display (no putting them online), or create derivative works from photographs.
  • A photographer can easily create over 20,000 separate pieces of intellectual property annually.
  • Professional photographers are dependent on their ability to control the reproduction of the photographs they create.
  • It affects their income and the livelihood of their families.
  • Even small levels of infringement—copying a photo without permission—can have a devastating impact on a photographer’s ability to make a living.
  • Copyright infringements—reproducing photos without permission—can result in civil and criminal penalties.

When I am gathering information from potential clients for estimating, one of the essential questions I consistently ask is “How will the photos be used?”  For my editorial and magazine assignments, the usage is typically one-time print publication with concurrent web usage.  However, in the case of corporate photography assignments, the terms of use vary greatly.  With that in mind, one of the best usage explanations I have come across was written by the former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal.  The article is extensive and includes a glossary of terminology that is useful when deciding on the budget range you have to work with as well as how to negotiate where and for how long the images you produce can be used for.