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No matter what type of small business you own, you will eventually need to market it in order to grow. And one of the first things you will need when creating any piece of marketing collateral is imagery. Your website, social media profiles, online ads, editorial pieces, print ads – virtually anything you do to promote your brand could benefit from imagery. But not just any imagery – bad images can often hurt your marketing efforts more than having no images at all.

In order to get appealing, engaging, flattering images of your place of business, your products, or your services, you’ll most likely need to hire a professional photographer at some point. Forming a good working relationship with a talented photographer can have a huge impact on your business’ public image. In order to start that relationship off on the right foot, and keep it from ending up on shaky ground, there are some common misconceptions to be aware of. Educate yourself by reading the myths and truths below, have clear and candid communications with your photographer, and you’ll form a lasting relationship that will benefit your business for years to come.

Myth #1: An image is only copyrighted if it has been registered with the Copyright Office and displays the copyright symbol.

Truth: While registering a work with the Copyright Office makes disputes over copyright easier to settle, the law is clear that works are the sole property of the creator unless otherwise specified in a contract.


Myth #2: I hired the photographer, so I own the rights to all the images they created during the shoot.

Truth: Your ownership is not automatic – but the photographer’s is. If you want blanket ownership protection over all the images created during an assignment, you’ll need to have the photographer sign a Work Made For Hire (W.M.F.H.) agreement. Be aware that this is a less common type of agreement, so be tactful and up-front about asking a photographer to sign it.


Myth #3: I paid the photographer to create the images, so they are not allowed to sell them to anyone else.

Truth: If you are working with a professional photographer, chances are the price you paid included a creative fee (the photographer’s time and talent) and a licensing fee (a price based on how the image will be used). Unless you expressly requested an exclusive lifetime license (and paid accordingly for the privilege) the photographer has the right to grant a license for the photos to someone else in the future. However, most well-intentioned photographers will offer you a period of exclusivity – this helps you avoid an awkward ‘who wore it better’ scenario where another business uses the same image for an ad that appears in the same issue of a magazine.


Myth #4: I am free to share images of my business with a reporter writing a story for the local newspaper, because I’ve already paid for them.

Truth: The usage of images depends entirely on the agreement that you and the photographer signed. Most often, the price that you paid for the images is based on an agreement about where the images will be used, by whom, and for how long. Depending on the licensing agreement you signed, you may be violating the photographer’s terms by sharing the images with another media entity. Unless you specified otherwise, the fee that you paid covers YOUR use of the images, and a media entity will need to obtain a license of their own in order to use them. NOTE: This does not mean that you can’t use the images in an advertisement you place in the newspaper – only that the newspaper can’t use the images for their own editorial purposes.


Myth#5: A photographer cannot take photos of my place of business without obtaining my permission.

Truth: You cannot legally stop someone from taking pictures of any part of your business that is in plain view from a public place. However, if someone is on your property, you have every right to decide whether or not they can take photos. For example, someone standing in a public space across the street is within their rights to take photos of diners eating on your restaurant’s patio. However, if they are on your patio themselves, you can tell them to stop taking photos, because they are on your private property. This issue is commonly misunderstood by both business owners and photographers alike, so it’s good to educate yourself about it.


Have you learned any other lessons from working with photographers for your small business? Share them in the comments below!

About the Author: Sarah Matista is the Content Marketing Manager at Webs, where she also manages marketing for Pagemodo – a suite of social media tools. Loves marketing, small businesses, and whales. Get more from Sarah on the Webs Blog, Twitter, and Google+.

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