Your company needs a photograph of your town for a brochure you’re going to use to promote your business. You contact a photographer who supplies you with the perfect photo. When you get the brochure printed up, the photograph looks so good you decide to put it on your website.
A week later you receive a bill from the photographer for several hundred, or thousand, dollars for the right to use it on the website. But wait, you paid the photographer to use the photo; you should be able to use it any way you want, right? Wrong. It all depends on what rights you purchased. It can be an expensive lesson for you and your business.
The first thing you need to realize is that when you pay a photographer to use one of their photographs, you are leasing it, not buying it. And you don’t own the copyright, they do. You can only use the photograph according to the contract you signed. It’s the same as if you rented a moving van for the weekend. If you decide you really like it, you can’t keep using it for the next five years, or even one more day, unless you pay for that additional usage.
When leasing a photograph, or hiring a photographer, you need a contract. In that contract it’s essential that you spell out exactly what rights you need and how the photograph(s) will be used. This prevents confusion on both sides, and keeps you from getting a surprise bill, or lawsuit.
Don’t only think about how you want to use the photograph today, but how you will want to use it in a month, or a year.
You want to have a very clear picture in your head of what you need, what you need it for and for how long. Know that the more you want, the more it costs, so don’t ask for rights that you aren’t going to use. You can always lease the photograph at a later date for any new project you may have.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- Where will it be used? In a brochure, flier, magazine article (local, national, international), advertisement, billboard, newspaper, website, trade show, etc.
- How long will you need it? Is this something you want for a one-time ad in a local newspaper, or will it be on your website for years?
- How large will it be? Do you need a 1″ x 1″ image, or something big enough for a billboard?
- How many people will see it? A photograph used in a small community newspaper will cost less than that same image in a major national newspaper.
- How exclusive do you want the photo to be? You can get exclusive use, so no one else can use it while you are. Or you can get it exclusively for your industry. If you lease a photograph to promote your bakery for a month, no other bakery can use it for that month, but a butcher shop could use it because they are in a different industry.
This will give you a good head start on what you need in a contract. Right and usage can get pretty detailed, but if you know what you want you’ll be miles ahead of most businesses.