Who owns professional photos of your landscape work? Email
Camera lensYou want to put your best work on display—on your website, on social media, and in awards nominations. You hire a professional photographer to take the photos for you. You paid the photographer. Don’t you own the photos and have the right to use them any way you like?

Actually, you don’t.

Copyright law confirms that whoever pushes the button to take the photo is the owner of the images and retains the rights to distribution of those photos. When you pay a photographer, you are paying them for their services and for copies of the photos they create. Any use beyond the agreed-upon purpose (your website, a printed brochure, etc.) must be approved by the photographer. The photographer may simply require a photo credit—or they may request a fee for the additional use.

Unless you have a signed contract that clearly states that the job is a “work for hire,” rights to the images and distribution of the images are held by the photographer. Therefore, it is important to have an agreement in place before the work begins. Be sure that you have discussed how you plan to use the photographs. If you submit photographs with an award application or press release, be sure you have the proper permissions to distribute the photos in the media.

And since landscape project photos usually involve private property, it’s also important to talk with your clients about how you plan to use the photos that you take. Be sure that the homeowners or the company that owns the property is comfortable with publishing photos that include their home, company logo, or other identifying features.

Want the gritty, legal details? Read about copyright law at https://www.copyright.gov/title17/.

This article is not intended as legal advice. It is recommended that you get the advice of an attorney before entering any agreement with a photographer or other independent contractor.

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