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How to Set Up Photography Licensing for Your Business

by Brenda Barron on Sep 3, 2018

As a professional photographer, all you want to do is sell your images and make a name for yourself as a creative genius in your space. While selling pictures online may not seem complicated at first, there’s a lot more to it than you might think. Thanks to the growth of the digital world, selling photos isn’t as simple as just handing a stack of images over to your clients anymore.

Today, if you want to run a successful online photography business, you need an eCommerce website, a great gallery, and you need to know how to set up photography licensing rights. Your photography licensing dictates how your customers can use the digital files you send them in the future.

So, how do you set up photography licensing for your business?

In today’s article, we’ll look at:

  • How to set up photography licensing standards
  • What licenses and usage rights are
  • Why licensing is essential to your business
  • The types of license you can choose

An image of a camera stitched into blue fabric

What is Photography Licensing?

Before you can set up photography licensing for your business, you need a basic understanding of what usage rights are. A license is an agreement between you and your client that dictates how they can use the images that they buy from you. When you take a picture and sell it to someone on WordPress, you’re giving them the rights to use that image to a certain extent.

The photography licensing strategy you set up dictates how much control your client gets over the images they buy. For instance, it might indicate whether they can use it to advertise their business, or whether it’s just for private use.

Without photography licensing, your clients are free to use the images however they want, which can lead to some serious problems.

A businessman signing a document

Types of Photography Licensing for your Business

Any photographer who wants to start selling their photos online and make some money will need to figure out which licenses are right for them. There are many options out there; the one you choose will depend on the kind of photography services and products you offer. For instance:

  • Commercial licensing rights: Designed for when you’re taking photos for a business. You might be using brand photography to help a company advertise themselves online. This means that the business you work with will need the rights to use their images however they like in their marketing materials.
  • Copyright release: A copyright release is a piece of paper that essentially removes the ownership of your photographs from you and gives it to your client instead. If you offer your clients a copyright release, they’ll be free to use the image however they like. This includes the ability to edit the image and to claim it as their own. Most photographers won’t go as far as to provide copyright releases in their licensing agreements.
  • Print release: A print release simply gives your client access to the photos for their own personal use. This might mean that your wedding photography client uses the pictures you give them on their social pages and on the walls of their home. However, with a print release, you maintain ownership of the photos.
  • One-Time use rights: Sometimes, photography licensing rules will only apply for a very short period. For instance, you might give someone one-time use rights to a set of photos for use in one specific project. A brand might buy a one-time use right to put an image on a blog post, but they wouldn’t be able to use that picture anywhere else.

An ink pen set on a document

How to Set up Photography Licensing

To set up photography licensing standards for your work, you’ll need to figure out what kind of rights you need over the images you take, and the type of rights that you want to offer to your clients. Some customers, such as celebrities, may demand a higher license, so keep that in mind when setting up your business.

When you’ve chosen the licensing strategy that’s right for you, you can work with a legal professional to draft up a contract for your service that outlines the nature of your license to customers. Alternatively, you can use one of the free wedding photography contract templates we have here.

With your photography licensing in place, make sure to watermark any images you show on your website so that no one can take them without permission.

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There you have it, everything you need to know about how to set up photography licensing. For more tips and photography advice, follow us on Facebook or Twitter!

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