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An Online Business Owner’s Guide to Understanding Brand Photography Usage Rights

An Online Business Owner’s Guide to Understanding Brand Photography Usage Rights

As an online business owner, you invest a lot of time and money into shaping your brand. From your logo, brand colors, website, and more, your visual identity is a key part into making sure that you become recognizable to your audience. 

One of the major things that shapes your visual identity is of course your brand photos! Investing in brand photography gives you the ability to use aesthetic, branded photos across all of your platforms instead of forcing you to use stock imagery. 📸

This is typically a really fun activity as a business owner because you get to plan your cute outfits, pick out fun props, choose a venue that matches your vibe, and work with a photographer that makes your vision come to life. 


Although this is an exciting part of business, it’s important to remember that photos aren’t *just* photos. Like anything in the digital space, there’s some legal considerations that you have to take into account when using the brand photography that you invest in. 

And the tricky part is that not all brand photography is created equal. Depending on the photographer that you work with, they may have some specific rules that you’re required to follow when it comes to how you use your photos. 

It’s for that reason in this blog post, I’m breaking down a few essential tips for understanding and reviewing these rights to ensure that you’re fully protected and get the most out of your investment. 💸

Understanding Usage Rights For Brand Photography

When it comes to understanding usage rights for brand photography, it’s important to first understand what usage rights even are. 

Simply put, usage rights refer to the permissions granted by the photographer to the client (that’s you!) dictating how and where the photographs can be used. These rights are crucial because they define the scope of your ability to utilize the images in your marketing and branding.

It’s easy to assume that because you’re paying for the photography service then that automatically grants you the right to use them in any capacity that you wish, but that’s not always the case and this is often a shock to many!

The types of usage rights can vary based on the photographer and it should always be outlined in their contract so that you know exactly what you can and can’t do with the photos that you pay for. 

Speaking of contracts, there are a few key things to look for and understand before signing on the dotted line when working with a photographer for brand photos.

6 Key Elements To Look For In Brand Photography Contracts

1. Clear Definition of Usage Rights

First and foremost, knowing and understanding the general usage rights for your brand photos is crucial. A photographer’s contract should always include a clear definition of usage rights that specifies exactly what you as the client is allowed to do with the photos.

This includes outlining whether or not you have the right to reproduce, distribute, and display the images. It should also state the contexts in which these actions are permitted, such as commercial advertising, personal use, or editorial purposes.

The overall goal is to eliminate any ambiguity and ensure both parties have a mutual understanding of how the photos can be used.

2. Scope of Use

In addition to usage rights, a photographer’s contract should also outline the scope of use, which details the specific ways and platforms where the photographs can be utilized.

This includes specifying if the photos can be used on a website, in print materials like brochures and business cards, on social media platforms, in email marketing campaigns, and more. 

Defining the scope of use helps prevent any misuse or unintended usage of the images, ensuring they are only used in agreed-upon ways.

3. Duration and Renewal Terms

The duration clause in a photographer’s contract outlines how long the client has the right to use the photos. This could be a fixed period, such as one year, or it could be perpetual, allowing indefinite use.

Renewal terms are equally important, as they provide details on how the agreement can be extended once the initial term expires. This section should clearly state the process for renewal, any associated costs, and whether the same terms will apply upon renewal.

4. Exclusivity Clauses

Exclusivity clauses determine whether you have exclusive rights to the photos or if the photographer can license the same images to other clients.

Exclusive rights means the client is the sole entity allowed to use the images, which can be crucial for maintaining a unique brand image. Non-exclusive rights, on the other hand, allow the photographer to sell or license the photos to others.

Understanding exclusivity is vital to avoid conflicts and ensure the images serve their intended purpose effectively.

5. Territory

The territory clause in a brand photographers contract specifies the geographic regions where the photos can be used. This can range from local (limited to a specific city or state) to national (entire country) or even international use.

Defining the territory is essential for businesses that operate in multiple regions or plan to expand. It ensures that the usage rights are aligned with the business's operational and marketing strategies, preventing unauthorized use in regions outside the agreed scope.

6. Media and Formats

Lastly, the media and formats clause in a photography contract specifies the different types of media and formats in which the photographs can be used. This section is crucial because it outlines the exact ways you can incorporate the images into your branding and marketing materials.

Media refers to the various platforms where the photos can be displayed, such as:

  • Print media, like magazines, newspapers, brochures, business cards, etc.
  • Digital media, like Websites, social media platforms, email newsletters, digital ads, and blogs.
  • Broadcast media, like television, video commercials, and other broadcast channels.

Formats include the specific file types and resolutions the photos can be delivered in or used as, such as JPEG or PNG (your most common file formats for digital use), high-resolution images, web-optimized images, and video formats.

When a contract clearly defines the media and formats, it ensures that you can effectively use the photographs in all intended ways without any restrictions. This prevents future disputes about whether certain uses are permitted and ensures that the images meet the technical requirements for different media channels.

Overall, as a business owner, it’s important that you take the time to ACTUALLY read the contracts that you’re signing so that you always know what you’re getting into. 

When it comes to investing in brand photography specifically, understand that there may be some limitations to how you’re allowed to use your photos. At the end of the day, they aren’t just brand photos. They’re an art form created by your photographer, which means that they hold the right to set rules and restrictions as they wish!

The best way to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding is to read your photographer's contract and ask them questions for anything you don’t understand.

And if their contract happens to include something that you aren’t comfortable with? Well, it’s best to seek someone else that best fits your needs so that you don’t run into any legal trouble down the road.

Like anything in business, always make sure that you’re working with people that you’re fully aligned with, even especially when it comes to the legal stuff so that the experience is a 10/10 for everyone involved. ⭐️

The Go-To Gal For Photography Contracts

Oh and if you’re a photographer in need of photography contracts for your business? I highly recommend The Artists Lawyer!

Her shop features dozens of contract templates for creatives of all kinds. CLICK HERE to browse the photography industry.


If we haven’t had the chance to *virtually* meet yet, hey I’m Amber – not a regular lawyer, but a cool lawyer that helps online business owners sell without getting sued. 

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