While I’ve only been in business officially for a few short months, I’ve been asked this question several times already by clients and potential clients. In fact, I have already lost a client because I wouldn’t strike the clause in my portrait photography contract requiring the client to provide me with photo credit for any digital images that they share on social media. Honestly, before I became a photographer, I never really thought much about ownership of images and the art that is photography, so hopefully by writing this I will provide some insight and clarity!
In this age, photographers are being asked more and more to provide the client with digital image files as part of their sessions, rather than prints, photo albums, and other mediums that used to be popular and the norm in the days of film. That’s because images are needed for everything online…from internet dating sites, social media profiles, etc. Most of us are connected to our friends and family via social media websites like Facebook and Instagram, sharing our lives with them and the world beyond, so when we have photographs of ourselves that we love, we want to share them! Come on, you know you’ve taken a selfie or two that you’ve worked hard to get right, and once you do, you put it online for all your friends and family to see!
Back to the subject of photo credit. First of all, who owns a photograph after it has been captured either on film or digitally? When we pay a photographer to take photos of us or our families and we are given a finished product either in print or in image files, it might seem like we should own the final product, right? However, here in the US, ownership of photographs is governed by the Federal Copyright act of 1976. Photographs are actually protected at the moment they are created, and the owner of the image and the copyright is generally the person who snapped the photo, unless there is a special circumstance in which the copyright is transferred to a different person or entity through a specific legal agreement, which is described in detail by the US Copyright Office. But wait, I’m in the image, I paid for it, and someone else owns it? Yes, this is why photographers have contracts that identify how you can use their images specifically, including providing credit to the photographer when you share images online. Keep in mind that it can be possible to purchase copyrights from the owner, but this usually comes at a hefty fee, as the owner is giving up all rights to the photographic art that they have created!
Ok, so what can you do with the photographs from your portrait session? First of all, make sure you read your contract carefully! For a personal portrait session with me, my contracts state that the images are reserved for personal use. That means you can have them printed and frame them in your home or place in an album. But as I said above, this is the digital age, and most people want digital image files as part of their portrait photography package. As these digital images are copyrighted, the following simple rules apply:
- Do not alter the photos in any way, including but not limited to cropping, adding filters, or Photoshopping on your own. The photographer didn’t just snap a photo of you…they most likely spent a lot of time on the creative process, either during the shoot or in post processing. The photo that you are provided with is a piece of art, and it is representative of the photographer’s work and brand. Altering the photo from the artist’s original intent would misrepresent their work, and this could potentially be detrimental.
- When you do share your photos on social media, make sure to credit the photographer!
- Do not give copies of the digital image files to anyone else. They were sold to you and you alone for your personal use.
Ok, well, now I’ve made having professional portraits sound scary! It’s actually a lot of fun and with the right photographer, you can get amazing photographs that you will absolutely want to share! And as a photographer, I want you to share your beautiful photos with the world!! Sharing the photos with your social network can help me and my business grow! Word of mouth referrals are the best marketing tools.
So, how do I give proper photo credit? A simple way of providing photo credit is simply stating “Photo courtesy of Michelle Kenyon Photography” in the caption of your social media post. But an even better way to provide photo credit is to tag my social media handle in the caption instead of the simple text of Michelle Kenyon Photography, because the social media tag can be clicked by viewers of the post and then they can either see more examples of my work or inquire with me directly!
Personally, my preferred photo credit on social media is tagging my social media handles associated with my business:
Facebook: Michelle Kenyon Photography
Hopefully this article provides a little clarity to the copyright and photo credit issues, whether you use me or another professional photographer! In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me with any questions at firstname.lastname@example.org!