Licensing Rights and Your Photography Business


As a photographer, your pictures are your life. That’s why you started the business, after all. To protect your photos and to keep your business sustainable, you need to be aware of licensing rights and take steps to protect the use of your product.

What Is A License? Why Are They Important?

A license is a contract in which the owner of an image (you, the photographer) grants special rights to a client who wants to use it. There are three basic types:

  • Commercial: Photography used to promote or sell a product or service (e.g. a picture of pie in a cookbook)
  • Editorial: Photography used for journalistic or educational purposes
  • Retail: Photography commissioned for personal use (e.g. wedding photography)


What to Include

The client’s use is limited to the scope of the license, so it’s vital to include very specific provisions that delineate how and when a client can use the image.

  • Payment: This should be the first provision outlined in your contracts. In clear, detailed language, itemize the services and products you will provide and their costs. This reduces confusion and preempts potential disagreements. If full payment is broken up into multiple installments, include due dates for each (Tip: It’s helpful if you send reminders to your client when their payments are coming up).
  • Permission: This outlines the limits of the client’s use. You should be clear about what permissions you are granting. How are they using the image? Are they putting it in a magazine or online? Can they download and store the image on their digital device? Also stipulate how long the client has permission and who else can access and use the image. Address how many images the client can use. This is important- what if you send the client ten images to review, but they are only allowed to use two? What stops them from saving the rest and using them down the road?
  • Requirements for use: This provision requires the client to give credit to you should they post an image online, including social media. In the digital age, this is more important than ever.


For more information, check out our full article on client contracts.


Wedding Photography Contracts

Wedding photographers have special considerations to keep in mind. Here are a few provisions to include in the contracts with your wedding clients:

  • Time: Specify how much time your base charge permits and different time frames you offer. For example, if your package comes with six hours of coverage, state in the contract that you will be present from 12:00 until 6:00, or from 2:00 until 8:00. If the clients hire you for additional time, include the amount of additional time and the rate you will charge.
  • Clients: This may seem obvious, but include who your clients are (usually the happy couple). Family members, the wedding party, and even the wedding planner may try to insert themselves in the process and dictate what you, the photographer, should do. Establish that your only clients are the people who are getting married, and you only take direction from them.
  • Failure to Perform: Include language stating that, if you cannot perform your contractual duties (whether due to illness, casualty, Act of God, etc.), then it is your duty to find an adequate replacement. Hopefully you’ll never have to implement this clause, but include it to be safe. Your clients will sleep easier knowing there is a plan in case of an emergency.
  • Breakup Clause: Breakups happen, and as a wedding photographer, you need to protect yourself should the couple break up before the wedding. If you are able to book that date with another couple, then the language can state that the original clients will be refunded what they’ve already paid. If you are unable to find another client, then you are entitled to keep the funds paid to date.
  • Creativity of the Photographer: The clients are hiring you for a reason, probably because they saw your work and they liked it! Recognize this in the contract. State that you have the creative freedom regarding who and what is photographed, and how. Include that you will take suggestions from the couple, of course, but make it clear if there is something you will not photograph. You should also discuss your vision and style with the clients before the event, to ensure everyone is on the same page and to avoid hiccups on the day of the event.


G & G Law can help! Contact us to find out how.