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Commercial Photo Contract vs Licensing Agreement (royalty fees)

How to Choose Between a Commercial & Brand Photography Contract and Licensing Agreements

Picture this: You've just landed an amazing photography gig with a renowned brand. They want you to hire you to capture their latest product line. You're excited about the opportunity, but there's one problem: you're not sure whether you need a brand and commercial contract, a licensing agreement, or perhaps both. Don't worry, after reading this post, you'll know exactly which contract to present to your client.

Brand & Commercial Photography Contract

A Brand & Commercial Photography Contract is designed for photographers who are hired by companies to shoot branding photos, product photos, and more. This contract is directly between you and the client, the company. Similar to other contracts you'd present to different clients, a brand & commercial photography contract involves receiving a retainer and having cancellation and rescheduling clauses. However, this type of contract also includes some distinctive clauses, such as model releases, reproduction clauses, and a commercial license for the company to use the photographs.

The most crucial element of these clauses is the commercial license. Unlike default copyright clauses in portrait or wedding photography contracts, commercial licenses are different because you're being hired by the company to allow them to use your photos for commercial purposes. There are two main options photographers usually offer in their commercial license. The first option is giving up your copyright entirely. While standard in this industry, you may want to charge a higher fee if you can't use any of the photos for your own advertising due to the loss of copyright rights. The second option is granting the company a limited commercial license to use the photos, which allows you to retain the copyright rights to your photos and use them for your own advertising as well, while still giving the company the ability to use the final photos for their own usage.


Licensing Agreements

Licensing agreements differ from client-to-business brand and commercial photography contracts. Licensing agreements allow third parties to use your images for specific purposes while you retain ownership and control. Typically, you'd use licensing agreements if a third party, like a magazine, third-party vendor (such as a venue or florist), or another company, wants to use the photos you already took for you or your client for commercial purposes (think here an epic picture of a couple on top of a mountain that you have on your website that now a company wants to purchase from you for their own magazine ad).




Licensing agreements can be structured as Non-Exclusive or Exclusive. Non-exclusive agreements usually cost more for the party wanting to use the photo(s) because it restricts the photographer and others from using the photos in some way. Sometimes the exclusivity is extreme and sometimes it's just that they want to be the only one to use the photo(s) for a period of time. However, non-exclusive agreements are far more common as they offer the photographer greater flexibility and more opportunities to make money from the photos. Most licensing agreements come with some form of royalty or flat-rate compensation. Royalties are the most common type of compensation for licensing agreements and involve recurring payments in exchange for the right to use the property. These royalty fees are often based on the time period the licensing agreement is in place or a portion of the sales generated by your property for someone else.


Always Consider Usage When Determining What Contract to Use

When deciding between a Brand Commercial Photography Contract and a Licensing Agreement, consider the nature of the project and your long-term goals. A Brand Commercial Photography Contract is ideal for one-time assignments with companies that hire you outright for their branding photos, while Licensing Agreements offer opportunities for recurring revenue and broader exposure for photographs that are likely already in your portfolio.

Armed with this knowledge, you can confidently navigate the world of photography contracts and licensing agreements like a seasoned pro. Embrace the additional monetary opportunities that come your way and keep capturing those magical moments that tell unforgettable stories through your lens because you never know what other brands may want to use them!



THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.

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