What Am I Allowed To Do With Photos Taken By A Professional?

Copyright Protection — In this digital age where everything seems free for the taking on the worldwide web, many forget or have obviously never heard of Copyright Law which can be read about in depth here. There are many areas where this law provides protection but I am going to bring it into practical terms while discussing portraits.

Family portraits, senior portraits, baby pictures, school pictures….Any kind of portrait you paid a professional to create for you —these are all protected by Copyright Law. So, here are some questions you may ask yourself while looking at these pictures of yourself on the photographers website/facebook, or while posting them to your own social media profiles:

1. What about the pictures I purchased?  Can I take pictures of those to post online? No. That’s copying.
2. I don’t want to buy more pictures. Can I screenshot extras to post online? No. That’s actually stealing.
3. I think this image will look better cropped closer…Can I do that? No, that’s altering.
4. I like the image better without seeing the photographer’s logo…Can I remove it?  No, that’s altering.
5. There is an amazing new Instagram filter I want to use….Can I do that? No, that’s altering.
6. OOOH, I bet this would look good in black and white…Can I do that?  No, that’s altering.

copyright protection
Why not? Professional photographers spend a lot of money and time perfecting their craft.  Any changes you make to an image whether it be the color of it, the way it’s cropped–anything can misrepresent the work we want to be known for. Please don’t make changes to the images we create for you.  It hurts our souls to see this.  Take a look at the image above…(original on the left and an edited version on the right) Its been cropped, edited with a trendy filter, and my logo has been removed.  You may, or may not, be able to see how drastically this changes the visual experience I want people to have when they look at my photos.  The image I created (on the left) screams summer-time and a carefree spirit of a gorgeous young woman in a quaint little neighborhood.  The image on the right looks almost cartoonish, is missing that sunshine feel, half of the car and her feet are cropped out.  I’m almost thrilled that they cropped out my logo because I would never want a potential client to think I created this hot mess.

I get it. Filters are FUN but please save those features and experimenting with editing apps for pictures you have taken yourself, either with your phone or your camera. We will love you for it! Copyright Law gives the creator the power to decide how you use their work.  This could be where and how you print it, where you post it, if you can make copies, etc. There are many different uses for photographs so be sure when choosing a photographer that you talk about these up front.  Each photographer will have their own way of selling their work so do not assume that just because the last photographer you hired gave you permission to do whatever you wanted with their images that all photographers will do that. Most professionals will have limited use policies.copyright protectionSome may not understand how photographers must run their businesses because there are so many out there running around with a camera just doing it for fun and giving everything away for $50-100.  This hurts the industry. It gives people the wrong idea that photography is easy. It’s just pushing a button and digital equals FREE product. NOT TRUE. Photography is a great hobby. I did it for years but……. I didn’t charge anything. It really was just a hobby. It’s a very different ballgame for those that invest many thousands of dollars to make a career in this field. We do it because we love it, we are good at it and want to pay our bills with it. Who wouldn’t want to have a job they love doing?!

The last thing I will address is the question we get a lot:  Why do you put your logo on my picture when posting online?  I’ll answer for myself only because I don’t want to speak for everyone.  I feel a small sense of security for my images when I post them online with my name on them.  You’d be surprised to know how many crazies are out there scouring the internet for beautiful pictures to use to create a fake website in order to get money from unknowing people who just want to get a portrait made. They only find out hundreds of dollars later that the portfolio they were shown was stolen.  Take one look at PhotoStealers website to see how often this happens. Your mind will be blown.

Another reason why I keep my logo on my images is so that when you share them online, people who love them automatically know who made them.  Its good advertising for photographers!  Our marketing budgets aren’t ones that allow us to have billboards and commercials so we rely on word of mouth referrals (YOU) and our images to speak for us! I might also add that our hearts get so full when our clients actually tag us in their posts so keep doing that!

Long story short. Be kind to the professional you hired to do a great job for you. Respect their policies. Don’t copy their work in any manner. Just like you wouldn’t walk into a big department store and take more items than you paid for, don’t do it to a small business owner either.

If you’d like to read more on the Copyright Laws, here are a couple of links you may be interested in:

Copyright Basics

Professional Photographers of America

and this cute video I saw on YouTube is helpful:

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