Images and Copyrights

Models need to understand that in almost all situations, the photographer or his client fully own the copyrights, negatives, digital images or other media of a photo session. If you are being paid cash for your work, do not expect to be given any prints, image files, or negatives, nor should you have copies made of any photos you receive unless you have the photographer's written permission to do so.

Images and prints (and the right to use those photos) are the "product" that photographer's sell. Most photographers will not give away their digital images or negatives (be wary of those that do -- they may be more interested in "dating" than "photographing" the model). However, most professional photographers also recognize the need for models to send out there photos to agencies and new clients. That is why many will give a model a copyright release statement which allows the model to make copies of the print for non-sale, self-promotional purposes only. This release allows the models to have the original photographic print they purchased to be "laser copied" or reprinted on headsheets or composite cards.

If you receive such a release, be sure to follow the terms of the agreement. Many photographers will allow you to have prints reproduced inexpensively, but there may be issues which they feel strongly about.

For instance, many photographers will require that you only get photographic copies of the prints from their original digital files to ensure that all images are of the highest quality and include the photographer's copyright notice or image watermark (a bad looking reproduction of a print makes the photographer look bad). These photographers will charge you only for their actual lab costs for having multiple extra copies made (at the same time you order the main print).

Another demand many photographers make is that if the work is reproduced that a photo credit appear on ALL pieces in a legible type size and style. This is only fair, since otherwise you would be required to pay full retail prices to the photographer for the prints you would otherwise be mailing out.

Yet another demand many photographers have is that you don't charge any fee to people seeing your image (for instance if you have your own website -- the site must be completely free to access). This stands to reason, because if the only reason people are paying to access your site is to see the photographs, then this is not a self-promotional activity -- you are actually "selling" the images.

Self-Promotional Copyright Release

Since most professional photographers will give a model a copyright release to use the images for self-promotion, models should always send out copies of the images rather than the originals. It's much easier and cheaper to send out a copy. If you send out the original and it gets damaged or lost, it will be worthless. However, it doesn't matter if copies are damaged or lost -- since you can always make more.

Similarly, you should always keep your portfolio with you. If an agency needs your portfolio, then give them a portfolio filled with copies of the prints from your actual portfolio. Again, it's all too easy for a portfolio to get lost at an agency (and since you are paying for the prints, you should hang onto the originals).

When you have copies made, make sure to place the photographer's copyright notice on the print (or on the back). Without the notice, someone finding your photo may think it's "public domain" (why they would use that excuse is beyond me, but it's saved many "butts" of pilferers of photographer). That means that they might scan in and post the image. If they have your copy of the image without the notice, then you might be held responsible for "distributing" the image in violation of copyright laws.

Some photographers will provide you with digital image files which contain the studio's watermark or copyright notice.  Never remove this from the image or otherwise crop the image without the permission of the photographer.  If you want the image re-cropped, ask the photographer -- who will most often be happy to send you a new file which will maintain quality and studio-identity standards.