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The Legal Paige Blog - Why You Can (And Should) Require Vendors To Pay for Your Photos

Why You Can (And Should) Require Vendors to Pay for Your Photos

We know photographers work so hard to get the perfect shot and create the perfect images for your client. We also know the frustration when someone uses your work without consent for their own advertising.

Although many wedding vendors often work together, that does not mean you have to give your copyrighted work(s) to vendors for free, and it also does not mean that these vendors automatically get to use your photos (even IF they try to say they do in their own contract with the client).

We want to help you retain ownership of your copyrighted work(s) but also help you make some additional income by licensing your images to other vendors.


First and Foremost, Do Photographers Have Sole Copyright Ownership Over Their Images?

Yes! Under U.S. law, specifically, The Copyright Act of 1976 and Title U.S.C. 17, original works of authorship are protected. This, of course, includes visual works such as photography.

Copyright protection exists the moment your work is created and fixed in a tangible form that can be seen either directly (in a physical form) or with the aid of a machine or device, such as a digital/film camera and computer. This means you have copyright ownership over your photographs the moment your clients say “CHEESE” and your button is clicked. If you want to know more about copyrights and how to protect them please see our blog Photography copyrights: What you should know!

With all this in mind vendors should NOT be using your photos without your permission. This is considered copyright infringement and it is against the law. To help protect yourself from infringement we recommend you make it known to every vendor that they can only use your photos if they license them from you first.


Should I License My Images To Vendors? And Should I Do It For Free or For A Fee?

Absolutely, but usually with a fee! Those photographs are your hard-earned work product and like most businesses you want to have multiple streams of income coming from that work product. Also, there are more complicated legal issues that can pop-up if you constantly give away your photographs complementary to be used by vendors. TLP’s take on this is that every vendor who wants your photos should be paying a fee along with signing a licensing agreement before they can use your photos.

As the photographer, we recommend you to get a list of all the vendors involved with the wedding or event from your client at the time of retention. Once you have that information you can then contact the vendors, introduce yourself, talk about prep for the event, and use the opportunity to let them know that they may be able to license photos from you after the event for a fee. Explain your fees upfront and if they seem interested and you trust the vendor you can send them a contract to review. If this is a new vendor you are working with, we recommend you hold off on sending them a contract until you have worked with them, have seen them in action, and also trust them. You are not obligated to license your photos to every vendor you work with. We recommend licensing to vendors you respect that do a good job! You want your photos to be associated with highly respected businesses you have enjoyed working with. When you have mutual respect for one another you will not only receive monetary gain but more referrals and long-lasting relationships with other vendors.

For some reason in the wedding world, in particular, vendors seem to think they have access to your photographs automatically and can use them for free without permission.

Think about this: a venue would NEVER let you use its premises without permission and a fee, a florist would charge you at least wholesale pricing to create florals for a styled shoot, and a DJ just isn’t going to give you their equipment to use for our own event. They shouldn’t expect the opposite from you.

Offering vendors the opportunity to license your photos from you does not mean you give up your copyright rights, instead, you are protecting your work product from unlawful infringement by giving vendors the opportunity to license your photos right off the bat. You are setting the expectation of the value of your work product.


The Legal Agreements You Need To Make It Happen!

There are two kinds of licensing agreements you can have vendors sign when allowing them to use your photos:

A Non-Exclusive Licensing Agreement allows you to give a limited license to a vendor to use your photos for commercial purposes. A Non-Exclusive Licensing Agreement does not give that vendor sole use of the photos, but rather it gives you the freedom to sell your photos to multiple vendors for multiple reasons. That way, you can determine how many photos you want to allow each vendor to use for commercial purposes and how they are allowed to publish them (via only website and social media or, say, charging a larger fee for billboard use.) Now, if a venue wants exclusive use of the photos with their venue in it there is a way to do that through an Exclusive Licensing Agreement.

An Exclusive Licensing Agreement should always have a larger fee attached because you are giving that vendor sole use of your photos and no other vendors (oftentimes including you) can use them. Whatever licensing agreement you choose to bind your vendors to, we always recommend attaching a licensing fee! KNOW YOUR WORTH!

One other tip from TLP: Make sure your clients have signed a model release so that you can license the photos to “third parties”... aka vendors…. You can find a model release form HERE if you don’t already have a clause in your existing contract.


TLP’s Take

You have worked so hard on your business and your photographs are LITERALLY YOUR BREAD AND BUTTER, so do not give away your hard-earned photos for free!

You own the copyrights on your photos, and when vendors ask for photos, you need to present them with a licensing agreement. You can easily use our Non-Exclusive Licensing Agreement and Exclusive Licensing Agreement. Protect yourself from infringement and sticky legal situations with vendors today!

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