A subject not well understood by the majority of people, but very important.
To begin with, it is important to understand that the photos produced by a photographer belong to them. Just because you pay this photographer does not mean that the photos taken belong to you: you pay for their time, expertise, experience, equipment, etc. But the photos remain their intellectual property. This is where the license comes in.
The license allows you to use photos in a certain context. It's like your "permission" from the author to use that material, but it sometimes comes with restrictions. So it's important to discuss exactly what you need with your photographer before a session. Your license rights and restrictions are in your contract and often in some explanation before you even book a session or purchase an image (pricing page, terms and conditions, confirmation email, discussion with the photographer, invoice, etc.).
Why is this important?
If you don't know your restrictions and you use the photographs in a context for which the license does not allow you to, you are using them illegally. Not only do you risk certain penalties, but you are stealing your artist's hard work. It's the same principle as if you steal something from a store.
Personal license vs. commercial license
The 2 main licenses we will see are the personal license and the commercial license.
Personal license: the use is allowed only in a personal context, as the name suggests. You can use the photographs on social networks and you can print them, as long as the images are not used to promote a business or to make money in any way. This is the least expensive license.
Commercial license: This one can be more complicated, and it's the most expensive (a single image can be worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars). A commercial license gives a company the right to use photos in a commercial context, i.e. on their website, social networks, marketing campaigns, magazine, in their offices, etc. However, there may be some restrictions on use (e.g. an online-only license does not allow the photos to be printed, use can only be made on a website and social networks). Furthermore, a commercial license prohibits the company purchasing the photos from reselling them or transferring them to a third party company. So, even if you are part of a team, sub-company or other, only you have the right to use these images. If someone contacts you for the right to use the images, it's not up to you to answer: you must redirect them to your photographer.
Non-exclusive license: applied by default, unless otherwise stated. This means that your photographer can sell a license on the same images to other people, or use them for their own business. So you are not the only person who can use the images.
Taking pictures from a website, Google, or anywhere else to use for commercial or personal purposes is also prohibited. Regardless of the use, you must only use royalty-free photos or pay for the use of an image.
If you don't have the possibility or the budget to do a photo shoot or to buy the license from a photographer, sites like Unsplash, Getty Images, iStock and many others are a good solution.
Finally, I'd like to bring your attention to the concept of "giving credit" to someone. You may think that using a photo is okay if you mention the artist's name and company, to give them exposure... But no. As artists, it's not easy to make a living. And contrary to popular belief, giving credit to an artist is not a form of payment, and is not beneficial. Why is this? Because exposure doesn't pay the rent. It's as simple as that. Of course, if you want to give credit on a photo that you are using legally, that's up to you, but don't think that the use is legal and correct just because you mention the artist's name and company on it.
If you still have trouble understanding this concept, don't hesitate to ask your photographer for more details. Also, LP Photo is at your disposal if you want to know more about licensing. Contact me here
Cytonn Photography - Unsplash