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Along the path of professional photography I've found myself having to give answers to many questions I didn't have a clear reply for.


I learn a lot every day about what being a professional photographer means and how a  photographer deals with the profession and one thing is now certain, there is no right or wrong, but it's important to have clear guidelines to follow both for myself and my clients.

To start, let's talk a little bit about what hiring a photographer implies and let's clear some initial doubts on how photos produced by others should be used starting from an important point: photos and images are intellectual property. 

As such, photo ownership starts and almost always stays with the photographer.

Reportage photography for restaurant in Lisbon

Even when hiring a photographer for a dedicated photo shoot, the employment is typically a contractor relationship. 

Therefore the photographer will still be the owner of the resulting photos.

The photographer may grant you an unlimited license for these photos, but legal ownership stays with the photographer.


When the photographer licenses you a photo, or grants you permission to use the photo for commercial purposes, you do not own it.

You also do not have the right to give the photo to a third party to use. 

This is a very common misunderstanding. 

Say you’re an architect, and you paid a photographer to shoot your latest custom home, 

and you received a very open license to use those photos.

A magazine calls and asks if they can use your photos in a story they’re running about you. 

The answer is no. While you could use those photos in a print ad in said magazine (because in this case you are advertising your own business you have the licence for), the magazine becomes the user of the photo when they are using it for their own editorial. 

So they should be negotiating their own license with the photographer. 

In the same example, if the builder who constructed your beautiful custom home asks for copies of those photos for his portfolio, the answer is also no. 


The photo license is for you and you only.

credit: Brian Cash

small artisanal business reportage
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