A photo licensing agreement grants specific usage rights of your photography to a person or company. Under this agreement, you, as the photographer, get to retain copyright ownership of your images and earn revenue from other people using your photos.
What Is a Photo Licensing Agreement?
A photo licensing agreement is a legal contract where the owner of a photo licenses the use of the image to a person or company. The original owner gets to keep the image’s copyright.
The contract stipulates the terms on how, when, and where the licensee can use a particular photograph. In the photo licensing agreement, the licensor is the person who owns the copyrights or has licensing rights to use the image. The licensee is the person gaining the right to use the image.
A licensee may also be granted the right to sub-license the image. In that case, the licensee in one contract can be a licensor in a sub-license agreement.
In a photo licensing agreement, the copyright is not being sold. The licensee is essentially obtaining the right to use it, not own it. If you’re an independent photographer, the copyright for an image belongs to you as soon as you take the picture. However, if a photographer works through a company in a work-for-hire arrangement, the copyright may belong to the company.
When Do You Need a Photo Licensing Agreement?
A photo licensing agreement protects the copyright holder and the person who wishes to publish or use the image. This contract stipulates what the image is, how it can be used, and whether the licensee can manipulate the image.
Some benefits a photographer can experience from implementing a photo licensing agreement include:
- Greater control over when, where, and how your work appears on various platforms
- More revenue opportunities
- More secure copyright protection over your work
The photographer isn’t the only party who benefits from a photo licensing agreement. This document can provide the following benefits to a licensee:
- Peace of mind when using copyright-protected images
- Protection of their interests
- Access to images that won’t appear in competitors’ advertisements (if the photo licensing agreement is exclusive)
Common Uses of a Photo Licensing Agreement
A photo licensing agreement is generally used when a photographer wants to license their work for use without selling the copyright to the image. In this way, the photographer still gets credit for the image, and they will receive payment for its use.
There are different types of licensing agreements. Here are a few common terms:
- Retail: A photo licensing agreement states that a licensee can use an image for retail purposes. For example, a photographer can use this agreement if an image was printed and framed for commercial sale or if the licensee wants to put an image on coffee mugs and other products.
- Commercial: A photographer may license their images for use in advertising campaigns so a licensee can promote their products or services.
- Editorial: A photographer may license their images for use in publications that aren’t meant to sell a product or service (like a newspaper).
What to Include in a Photo Licensing Agreement
Here are some of the specific terms and descriptions to include in your photo licensing agreement:
Define the relevant parties, which should be the licensee and the licensor. List their identifying information. Use the individuals’ legal names or the legal names of the companies, if applicable.
The contract needs to include the total price of the photo usage license. Specify any late fees, if applicable.
This section tells you where and when the licensee is allowed to use the image. It explains whether they can use this image on their web properties, in print, etc. It also lists any limitations on geographic regions where the license can use or publish the image.
If you want to specify a timeframe for the photo license, you should include it in the agreement. This clarifies that the licensee only has rights to the image for a set time unless the license is renewed.
In some scenarios, you could set limitations so that the image can only be used for certain things or in specific ways. For instance, you might license the image for use in one edition of a book or one magazine article. You can also offer unlimited use, meaning the licensee can use the image across all media.
Decide on the requirements for a photographer attribution each time the licensee uses the photo.
Rights to Edit
Clarify if the licensee is allowed to edit or manipulate the photo in any way. Some photographers grant ample freedom to licensees to edit their photos, while others prefer them to only be published in their original form.
Specify if the licensee is allowed to sublicense the photo. Outline any restrictions, if applicable.
Photo Licensing Agreement Sample
Download our photo licensing agreement template, which is available as a PDF or Word file:
Frequently Asked Questions
What’s the difference between an exclusive and a non-exclusive license?
An exclusive license doesn’t allow the photographer to license the images to other third parties during the duration of the photo licensing agreement. It typically comes with paying a higher price for the images.
A non-exclusive license isn’t limited to one party. The photographer can license the same images to other parties under separate photo licensing agreements.
When do I need a photo release form instead of a photo licensing agreement?
You need a photo release form when you take an image of another individual and want to use the image for commercial purposes.
How can a photo licensing agreement expire?
A photo licensing agreement expires on the expiration date outlined in the contract. At this point, the photographer and the licensee can discuss creating another contract to renew the licensing rights.
This agreement may also terminate early if a client violates one of the terms outlined in the agreement.