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by Sandy Connolly

Are you confused by the language on the bottom of your photography estimate?  If you are working with Super 9, it’ll say something like this:

“All photographs remain the property of Super 9 Studios.  Licensing for use of these photos for self-promotional websites and printed materials is included in this estimate.”

You can read a  tremendous amount of technical jargon about licensing photography.  In fact, I have a book on my shelf that devotes 40 pages to the topic. Here’s some really technical jargon so you can really enter my world for a moment:

“Non-Exclusivity.  Definition:  A type of right granted by the copyright owner.  The licensor (and other parties offering licenses of the work) may license similar, related, or identical rights to another licensee at any time.  Additional Info:  A purchase option that must be negotiated.  Unless the right of exclusivity is expressly granted by a licensor to a licensee, any other rights granted under a license are non-exclusive by default.  Term In Use:  “A competing magazine was able to use the same image on the cover because they had only negotiated for non-exclusivity of the photo.”  from the PLUS glossary

Just shoot me now.

Just shoot me now.

You can even visit http://asmp.org/tutorials/licensing-guide.html and get information on every side of this subject, but I am here to explain the “Spirit of the Law.”  In other words, what it really means, and why it’s there in the first place.  I love to talk about the spirit of the law because it gets to the heart of the matter.

Here it is:  we photographers want to help you become successful, and then, when you do, we want to share in your success.  It is one of the ways we build our business and yours.

Piggy Bank

Industry standard says that images are the intellectual property of the creator in the same way that a book is the intellectual property of the author, a song the property of the songwriter, or software the property of the creators.  Other people can make use of these things, but licensing must be agreed upon for everyone to be happy.  Sometimes when people read about the licensing on our estimates, their response is, “You mean I’m going to pay all this money, and I’m not going to OWN those photos?”  That, my friends, is called full buyout, and you can get it if you want, but it’s very expensive.  What you’re asking us to do is write a song and let you say you wrote it.  This is frowned upon in the photography world.

Industry standard is to license photography for specific uses.  Licensing protects us photographers from other people taking our photos and changing them in a way that would hurt our brand.

There are three categories of photography use:  commercial, editorial, and retail.

Commercial Licensing

Super 9 Studios is interested in helping the businesses around us succeed.  Therefore, we include in all our estimates licensing for self-promotional purposes on your website or in any printed materials you create to promote your services or products, and you can use them in any size for as long as you want.  This includes headshots, product photography, and any photos we take of your place of business or images that show services you provide.  This is commercial usage.

Massive Productions

Editorial Licensing

In the event that a newspaper or magazine notices you (maybe even partly because of a photo we took), wants to do an article on you, and needs a photo to go along with it, then we would like to share in that attention and success.  That’s editorial usage and requires different licensing.  Let’s say you are a musician.  We take pictures of you for you to use on your website, Facebook page, and Twitter in order to promote yourself.  But if you get the attention of Rolling Stone Magazine, and they love that photo we took, then it’s only fair that we would get to share in a bit of that glory too.

Christine Ohlman


Retail Licensing

Sometimes we photograph weddings, proms, and family portraits.  The work is categorized as retail because the end use is personal.  But let’s say the company that made that prom dress thinks you look really hot and wants to show that photo on a billboard on I-95.  You might be really excited to appear on that billboard, but so would we!  And that would require a discussion about commercial licensing.


The bottom line this…

When we take a picture of you, your company, or your product, we are beginning a relationship that we would like to continue.  We hope that we will see you in the coffee shop and that you will tell us how much business you are getting because of a photo that we took.  And if Popular Science calls you because of that Pickle Power photo we took, please let us know!

Pickle Power