Image Licensing

Before an explanation about licensing I want to start with a short sentence or two about Copyright and Intellectual Property (IP). They set the context for what follows and go a long way to explaining why licensing exists.

Below are three quotes from the UK Intellectual Property office:

  • The creator of the image is automatically the holder of the copyright in that image.
  • Copyright applies to any medium. This means that you must not reproduce copyright protected work in another medium without permission. This includes, publishing photographs on the internet, making a sound recording of a book, a painting of a photograph and so on.
  • Copyright does not protect ideas for a work.  It is only when the work itself is fixed, for example in writing, that copyright automatically protects it. This means that you do not have to apply for copyright.

One of the reasons given for this automatic protection is that content creators (i.e. a photographer) can:

  • control the use of your IP, and use it to gain reward. This encourages further innovation and creativity.

I hope that sets some context as to why photographers, musicians, broadcasters, software designers, manufacturers et al retain their right to Intellectual Property and Copyright.

Prior to the nitty gritty can I just make clear three concepts I believe are at the heart of licensing images. They are:

Licensing images:

  • gives a customer versatility
  • is cost effective
  • is uniquely tailored to the needs of the customer

Perhaps summed up even more concisely:

Licensing an image means you only pay for what you need.

May I point out that a photographers fee is usually for their time, their professional experience, their knowledge, their equipment, their overheads and all the necessary insurances.
The license covers what, where and how the image will be used.

In photography, it can be argued that there are two dominant models of image licensing.
1. Royalty free and 2. Rights managed.

Onto an analogy.

You are traveling to an important meeting. You don’t want to drive and are presented with two options as to how you might arrive at said meeting; 1. A bus or 2. A chauffeur driven limo.
Option number one, the bus, is cheaper……. perhaps much cheaper. This is attractive initially yet it has many drawbacks. It isn’t personal, you don’t know who you’ll be sharing it with, it may not give off the right image when you arrive at your destination and, of course, it might not take you to your exact destination. In short it isn’t tailor made for you.

All of the above points could be leveled at the Royalty Free model also mentioned above. It is cheap (Unsustainably cheap as the Microstock/Royalty Free industry have recently admitted) But, like the bus, you don’t know who you’ll be sharing the image with – your upmarket boutique might be sharing an image with a shady debt collection agency – hardly the image you are trying to portray.
In short the public transport/royalty free model isn’t made specifically for you. Neither will it provide you with a unique opportunity to strengthen your reputation through strong, distinctive, tailor made marketing/images/advertising.

Option two is the chauffeur driven limo. This, obviously, initially seems more expensive. However, it provides you with a much better service. You can request a door to door pick up and drop off at a time convenient to you. You have the car all to yourself. You arrive relaxed, stress free and promoting a more professional image. The whole experience is tailor made for you.

The same can be said when commissioning a photographer to make and license an image. You get a tailor made image, unique to you and your business and you only pay for what you need.

Let me illustrate; If you won’t be using the images on billboards in the USA then why pay for that cost? Only pay for what you need. Tailor make the license to cover ONLY the usage you need.

You can also be safe in the knowledge that for the period of the license (a week? a month? a year? longer?) no-one else will be using the image(s). Exclusivity is a very important consideration – remember the example given above about the boutique sharing with the debt collectors?

For example:
If you click here you’ll be taken to one of my images that has been set up using the industry standard pricing system. Click on ‘Add to Cart’ and then input some parameters to see how much it may cost to use that image. You can soon see why licensing an image makes for a much more cost effective option. Buying an image outright would be prohibitively expensive. The buyout cost has to cover all possible uses of that image, across the world, for it’s entire useful life. So, instead of buying an image outright for tens of thousands of pounds/dollars/etc you can tailor the usage to fit your market reach and your locality.

In any business climate, perhaps more so in this current one, I believe that stand out, distinctive images are what will elevate you above your competitors.

Settling for less than excellence is, in my opinion, a false economy.

Book a photographer who knows what they are doing, produces excellent images and knows how to price their work appropriately and professionally.

And finally, don’t forget: Licensing an image means you only pay for what you need.

Want to know more? Here are some USEFUL LINKS

UK IP office:

The law of copyright and its related rights in the UK can be found in the the copyright sections of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988 (as amended) (1.35Mb)

Association of Photographers information on copyright:

Photo attorney: