Photography Copyright vs. Licensing

Blog" Copyright vs User License for Brand Photographers

As a creative I don’t spend a lot of time on the technical babble of my niche, but it is important to understand Commercial User Licences and how they differ from Copyright. 

Let’s use an analogy we can relate to. 

Copyright is like being the owner of a Vacation Home

The home is all yours! You decide everything about it – who stays there, how it’s decorated, and when you use it. This is similar to having copyright. When you own the copyright to an image, it’s like having the keys to that vacation home. You’re in control. It’s your property, and others need permission to use it, just like guests needing permission to stay in your vacation home.

User License: Renting the Vacation Home

Now, think of a user license as renting that vacation home. You’re not the owner, but you have permission to use it for a specific purpose and duration. The owner (photographer) still has control but has given you the right to use the property under certain conditions. 

Exclusive License: Having the Vacation Home All to Yourself

An exclusive license is like having exclusive access to a vacation home. Only you can use it during the agreed-upon period. It’s your private getaway – no sharing with others. 

Non-Exclusive License: Sharing the Vacation Home

A non-exclusive license is like sharing a vacation home. You and others have permission to use it simultaneously, as long as everyone follows the rules laid out in the agreement. It’s a bit like renting a popular vacation spot – multiple people can enjoy it at the same time, each with their own agreement. You have access, but so do others, and the owner (photographer) retains the right to grant this access to different parties.

In essence, understanding copyright and user licenses is like grasping the dynamics of owning or renting a vacation property. It’s all about who holds the keys, who gets to enjoy it, and under what conditions. 🏡📸

How do these different levels affect pricing? 

💰 Copyright Buyout – $$$ Own It All!

You’re going big with a one-time fee to snag the full rights to the image. This means the copyright is all yours, and the photographer steps back. No more using, displaying, or selling that image for them. If they want to show it off, they need a nod from you first – you’re the boss of that image now! With copyright (and only copyright) you can even resell the image for your own profit

💵 Exclusive Use – $$ Your Personal Spotlight

Exclusive use is like having the VIP section all to yourself. You’re the main star – no sharing! You buy the right to be the only one using those images. The nitty-gritty details? They’re all in the contract. The photographer takes a step back, limiting their use to a portfolio and basic marketing stuff. You get the spotlight, and no one else can steal it!

💲 Non-Exclusive –  $ Share the Love, Keep the Rights

It’s like a friendly sharing deal. You get to use the image, but the photographer still holds the keys to relicensing it to others. Common when lots of folks are part of the creative mix. It’s all about sharing the love! 💑📸

Why is this so important to understand? Unlike a family or wedding photographer, whose fees are based on displaying memories, brand or commercial photography carries an investment for your business. 

For Your Brand:

  1. Flexible Choices: You’re not locked into one source of brilliance. Non-exclusive licences give you the freedom to explore various visual styles. Mix and match our work with other creators without being tied down to a single source.
  2. Adaptable Branding: Need to tweak your visuals over time? With (non) exclusive licensing, you can adapt and evolve your brand visuals without the hassle of renegotiating contracts or facing restrictions. It’s a practical approach to staying relevant.
  3. Diverse Content Mix: Curate a diverse content mix for your brand by seamlessly integrating our visuals with content from other creators. Ensure a well-rounded and engaging representation of your business across different platforms.
  4. Reduced Legal Hassles: Opting for a non-exclusive licence simplifies legal matters. No complex exclusivity agreements – just a smoother process and a hassle-free usage experience.
  5. Scalability for Growth: As your business grows, so do your visual needs. Non-exclusive licensing provides scalability, allowing you to expand your usage of our images without the complications of renegotiating contracts.

As a photographer, offering non-exclusive licences provide flexibility and cost-effectiveness, building client retention and loyalty.

Ready to embark on this visual journey together? Let’s make your brand shine! 📸✨ Start here


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Allison Smith


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