Stock Photography

Stock images break down into two main types, royalty-free and rights-managed.

For royalty-free images, you get nearly unlimited use. You can use the image in virtually any application, for as long as you like, in as many different projects as you like, as long as you comply with the terms of the license agreement. The image is available to use from when you purchase a license. Following payment of the license fee, no additional royalty payments are owed.

With rights-managed images, your right to use the image is typically restricted, with limitations placed on things such as duration of use, geographic region, industry, etc., as established by your license agreement.


Royalty-free means that once a license fee is paid, the images may be used many times without paying additional fees, but the initial license is necessary to protect yourself and your clients. When you license a royalty-free image, you can use it in nearly any application, for as long as you like, according to your license agreement (although some kinds of uses do require an extended license). The cost is often based on file size, the number of permitted users as well as other factors.


• Goods in trust
• Public liability
• Indemnity

Goods in trust insurance
‘A room set photographer working with a stylist in a hire studio, completes a shoot and the set is broken up. The stylist returns some of the good personally, leaving the rest of the goods in the loading bay of the hire studio awaiting pick up. A number of items go missing’

Who is responsible? Stylist oversees safety of goods and returns them. Studio hire provides storage space and is responsibly for
insurance. The delivery company collected after stylist left. Client now wants to know why there is an extra £500 on invoice. Each supplier should have ‘goods in trust insurance’

Public liability
Public Liability insurance covers any awards of damages given to a member of the public because of an injury or damage to their property caused by you or your business. It also covers any related legal fees, costs and expenses as well as costs of hospital treatment (including ambulance costs) that the NHS may claim from you. Generally speaking, PL insurance is not compulsory; however I would strongly recommend that if you re working with models, memebers of the public and move around on location you look into this insurance.

Indemnity Insurance
Advisable if you are in the business of selling your knowledge or skills, public liability insurance protects your business against claims for loss or damage by a client or a third party if you have made mistakes or are found to have been negligent in some or all of the services that you provide for them. Public Iiability insurance will also cover legal costs. An indemnity clause in a contract ensures that the client is not responsible for any problems which arise from the use of anyone, or anything within the image. Indemnity insurance will cover any such problems.

Late Payment

You can charge interest when invoices go over 30 days. (Late payment of Commercial Debts (interest) Act 1988). Right for every business regardless of size. Suppliers can also charge you if you pay late, the law is optional you do not have to enforce it.

‘Contracts and licensing, combine the most important aspects of copyright law’


Property Release Form

In the event that a house or other property is photographed, you need to obtain a release from the owner of the property to
photograph the property. A property release is a legal release signed by the owner of property used in a photograph or video granting permission to use or publish the photograph or video in one form or another.

When is a property release needed?
If you are including the depiction of a recognisable private property in photograph, authors do not need one for public property,
such as government buildings (although you may run into problems just from photographing/videoing them, for security
reasons). Most animals in zoos are the property of the zoo and usually cannot be used for commercial purposes without the consent of zoo.

Contracts and Legislations

Contracts are entered into everyday by people in any different situations, the purchase or lease of an item becomes contractual, for example; purchasing a train or bus ticket. Most everyday contract are oral and all business contract should be in writing.

What one person’s understanding of something can be interpreted as something totally different by another person. Always write things down & make a contractual agreement, use post, email or fax. Confusion can be frustrating so if you have written everything down, nothing can be misunderstood.

Contacts are a legally binding agreement enforced by the court of law, contracts can be made between two or more people, they must be a common meeting of minds. Contracts don’t have to be in written form, but this is strongly advised. A contract is not legal if it involved an illegal act.

‘A photographer agrees a daily rate based on the client stating that the usage was to be a small run of leaflets; the work was actually to be used on a poster, therefore the contract was fraudulently induced.’

Terms & Conditions

You must state your own terms & conditions within your contract, it must accompany all paper work (on reverse) and serve to protect both parties, this includes any third parties. AOP terms & conditions protect the photographer, these are registered with the Office of Fair Trading.

Estimates (to be stated before the job commences)
Estimates are based on initial instruction from client, which can become the job offer, they can form the basis of confirmation of a general enquiry (should always include Terms & Conditions). If accepted confirmation will be made by phone, letter, email or
through an agent, if made by phone you must confirm in written form.

Licenses will be given by the copyright owner, usually from the photographer to the client, they should always be in writing, this forms part of the Contract’s terms & conditions. Licenses should be included with the estimate. Licenses must be agreed before the job commences.

Licenses include:
• Contact details
• Usage
• Territory
• Time period
• Right to credit
• Exclusivity clause
• Terms & conditions (on back)

Important points to look for and to include in contracts and terms and condition are, the copyright assignment, media usage, the duration of license, the territory of use, a clients confidentially, the indemnity clause, the right to credit (attribution right) and the syndication for editorial work (usage across all companies)

If an order received from a client includes an assignment of copyright clause and you have not agreed to this, it is imperative that you point this out. Don’t ignore it, by working on it you are accepting the terms and conditions of the contract.

Third parties to the contract and licenses are;
• Model/ models
• Set builder
• Model maker
• Background/ scenic artist.
• Stylist
• Hair & make up artist
• Home economist
• Location finder
• Laborites
• Agent
• Hire studio
• Assistant
• Suppliers
• Art director

A photographic shoot can include many third parties, the photographer has a subcontract with each third party and they will usually be responsible for their payment.

Professional Models license the use of their image (or their agent does). They are paid for media, territory and usage.


Major exposure of a model’s face can deplete their earning potential, agencies are careful when considering payment. When booking be sure you are clear on the terms & conditions that you are booking under. Agencies rely on the photographer to discover previous campaigns/products model has been involved with.

Example 1:
‘The model has been paid for editorial use and the client uses the shot for advertising. The model has a right to further payment; the photographer could be liable if they booked the model and the order included an indemnity clause.’

Example 2:
‘The model has been paid for the excusive rights to advertise a shampoo product for two years, Herbal Essence for example. A photographer then uses the same model to advertise Pantene within that two year time scale.’



Copyright is protected in the UK under the Copyright Design & Patents Act 1988 (as amended). This law came into effect on 1st August 1989. The 1956 or 1911 Act will still apply to some older works. Since the 1988 Act, it has been changed a number of times. The most important amendment that has taken place, has affected the duration of copyright for photographers’.

Photographs are protected for 70 years after the death of the photographer. However if they are subject to Crown copyright then it applies for a maximum of 125 years; if subject to Parliamentary copyright it applies for 50 years from the taking of the photograph. Copyright in a photograph lasts for the life of the photographer plus 70 years. The law protects photographs as artistic works, so what is meant by a photograph?

The definition in the 1988 Act reads as follows:

“‘Photograph’ means a recording of light or other radiation on any medium on which an image is produced or from which an image may by any means be produced, and which is not part of a film’.”


Authorship & Ownership
The creator of protected work is it’s ‘author’. This term applies to creator of any protected work and has a legal meaning of it’s own. In photography the author is the person who creates it, the photographer, not the assistant (who might load the film/compact flash card, or even press the button), the art director (who came up with the concept), the stylist but the photographer. Photographers have not always owned copyright & these old rules still cause a great deal of confusion. Under 1911 & 1956 Copyright Acts, The commissioner (company or person) owned copyright. ‘The author’ was the person who owned the film. Thankfully this is no longer the case, however some clients still think this old rule applies.


Who owns the copyright on photographs?

Under law, it is the photographer who will own copyright on any photos he/she has taken, with the following exceptions:

If the photographer is an employee of the company the photos are taken for, or is an employee of a company instructed to take the photos, the photographer will be acting on behalf of his/her employer, and the company the photographer works for will own the copyright, and if there is an agreement that assigns copyright to another party.

In all other cases, the photographer will retain the copyright, if the photographer has been paid for his work, the payment will be for the photographer’s time and typically an allocated number of prints. The copyright to the photos will remain with the photographer, and therefore any reproduction without permission would be an infringement of copyright.


• If Bill Smith asks Peter Jones the photographer to photograph his wedding. Peter Jones will normally provide a single copy of the prints as part of the fee, but any additional prints Bill or his family and friend want must be ordered via Peter as he is the copyright owner and controls who can copy his work.

• If Bill Smith engages the services of XYZ-Photos for the same job, and Peter is an employee of XYZ-Photo who instruct Peter to take the photos, XYZ-Photos will be the copyright owner and control how they are used.


Copyright registration
Why register?

The purpose of registration is to ensure that you have proper, independently verifiable, evidence of the date and content your work. This ensures that if another party steals your photos you have solid evidence to prove your claim, without registration it can be very difficult, and often impossible, to prove your ownership if another person claims the photo belong to them. Copyright protects whole collections for a single fee and it is possible to submit many photos within a single registration, and only pay a single registration fee.

As with all copyright work, you should first obtain permission from the copyright owner before you use someone else’s work. You should also be prepared to pay a fee, as many photographers will charge you for using their work. Only the copyright owner, (or his/her authorised representative), can give permission, so you should contact the photographer, or his/her company, directly for consent. For images published on the Internet, it is typical to contact the webmaster of the site in the first instance, unless the site provides contact details for the owner of the images. The copyright owner has no obligation to allow you to use their work, and can refuse permission for any reason.


Marking your work

The two primary reasons for marking your work are to ensure that those accessing your images are clear that copyright exists and that they know who to contact to obtain permission.


Contact information

People often receive enquiries from individuals and organisations wishing to use specific photos, but who are unable to trace the owner. It seems that many images are marked as ‘copyright image do not reproduce without permission’, but that the photographer omitted to include their contact details. This is frustrating to the person wishing to use the image and also means that the photographer may miss out on reproduction fees and exposure.


Copyright notices

People do recommended that you mark your work with a copyright notice, as this makes it clear that copyright exists, and helps to deter infringement. Please see our fact sheet P-03: Using copyright notices for information on wording you notices. For traditional prints, it is customary to use a stamp to mark the copyright notice and the copyright owners contact details on the back of the print. If you display your photos online, you may choose to use photo editing software to place a simple copyright notice across the image, (typically this will appear in the bottom corner). Ideally it should include the address of the web site so that it is clear where to go to find contact details. For electronic images, it is also possible to include the copyright/contact details in the file properties. Under Windows for example, right clicking on a image will allow you to bring up the properties dialogue where you may enter details about the file, (though this will only work with certain file types). More typically, your image software will provide a way to insert comments into the file; this is preferred as these are harder to remove. Watermarking may be worth considering if you have a lot of valuable images on your site.


Model release forms

An individual has certain rights to control the use of their image. The specific details will vary from one country to another depending on national legislation, although the general rule seems to be to protect a person against defamatory or offensive use of their image. If you intend to sell or distribute images that include people, then it is worth getting your subjects to sign a model release form as this will protect you against any comeback. Model release form for children under 18 need parents/guardians to sign.


Employed photographers

Do not hold the copyright of any work produced in the course of their employment. The copyright is owned by the employer. An employee in the UK: is someone who works under a contract of employment, whose tax & National Insurance are deducted before receipt of payment. Be careful when working as an employed photographer, as using equipment and/or darkrooms of your employers outside office hours, the copyright could still lay with the employer.


Dealing with Copyright, transferring ownership


A person occupies the whole of their house, they rent or lease the whole of their house, that person rents out a room or a flat and the owner can sell the freehold to their house.


The photographer holds copyright and noone else is granted the right to use the photograph, the photographer licenses someone to reproduce their work in any media, in any territory or for any period of time. The photographer grants a publisher the right to publish in a single edition of a consumer magazine within the EU, or the photographer licenses an advertising agency to run a 48 sheet poster campaign on 90 sites in the UK and Australia over a two year period. The photographer assigns the copyright in their work.

The ownership of artists work is quite separate to the ownership of materials. If a photographer sells a photograph for a sum of money, the buyer does not own the copyright, with the right tohang the work. The copyright remains with the photographer.


Copyright Infringement

Commissioners and clients who use the photographs but don’t pay or comply with contractual terms, also commissioners and clients who use the photographs outside the terms of the original license. Other users who copy photographs without clearing rights:

i. either by making an exact copy of original
ii. or by getting another photographer to re-take the photograph or imitate it too closely.


Reproducing/copying takes place without the photographer’s permission, and  when a photograph is used without permission and put onto a t-shirt, or another unlicensed photograph is made into an ‘art’ poster.


Other aspects of trade in the pirated or infringing goods, where the infringing t-shirt and ‘art’ posters are sold from a market stall, even if the market trade did not make them their self.