We all love sharing photos online, and it’s usually no different when you hire someone to take some nice photos for you. People especially like sharing their family portraits and wedding photos, and if you’re hiring someone for a headshot, you’re almost definitely planning to post them online somewhere. Depending on who you hire, this could get sticky.

When a photographer creates an image for you, save for an outright purchase of the intellectual property, they retain the ownership of the images. When they are giving you a copy of those images, whether in print or a digital format, you’re licensing them for use in a certain manner. In most cases, for personal use. Just like purchasing a song on iTunes does not authorize you to play that song over a sound system for 5,000 people, the license you get from your photographer does not necessarily give you blanket authorization to showcase the images however and wherever you want. This might seem strange, but if you’d like highly skilled photographers to be able to continue capturing amazing images for you, you’ll have to respect your photographer’s control of their intellectual property.

Photographers differ on where you’re permitted to display the images they create. Virtually any family or event photographer who gives you high resolution digital files is doing so for the purpose of putting images up in your home. Posting images to your social network gets into a grey area. Some photographers do not allow images to be shared online at all, though a policy like this is rare. More commonly, your photographer will require you to include a watermark wherever the image is shared online, or some may permit you to post the images unwatermarked as long as you tag them.

If you hire a real professional, any mistaken unauthorized usage of the images will result in a polite request from your photographer to correct the usage. However, there are a lot of people asking for your money who are less than professional, and in that case you might find yourself brushing up against an unwelcome conflict. Or, if the photographer is a semi-pro you’re friends with, it might lead to some real awkwardness in the friendship.

So, how do you sort it all out? Follow this advice, and you won’t go wrong.

First, Just Ask

If it hasn’t come up between you and your photographer, and you’re thinking about sharing the images, stop and ask how they’d like you to do that. You can clear up a lot by just asking. They might tell you they don’t care one way or another. Or they might ask you to post images with a watermark, or might give you a page on social media to tag, or a link to include. If you’re photographer has been shooting for a while, they’ll probably have an answer that will clarify what to do right away.

Read your contract, read your license

If you signed a contract, it should say something about how and where you can share the images. You might still have to go right to your photographer and ask, but if that makes you uncomfortable, this is the kind of thing a contract exists for. You signed it, so read it.

Follow their instructions, or Follow their example

If you’ve discussed how your photographer would like you to share the images, don’t second guess it, just do it. If you have questions about why they want to do it the way they do, go ahead and ask. But keep in mind, that if you’ve hired an amateur or a semi-pro, they might not have figured out how to communicate the answer to this question. They might be simply trying to follow the advice of a coach, and getting asked might touch a nerve and create the kind of discomfort you’re trying to avoid. A good rule of thumb if your photographer doesn’t know what to tell you, or doesn’t know how to answer the question, is to follow their example on social media. For example, if they share their images with a watermark, then share with a watermark.

Always tag them, if the platform allows for it

You can maintain a positive relationship with your photographer, or your friend who’s a photographer, by making a point to always tag their social media accounts when sharing images they’ve taken for you, whether they’ve mentioned it or not. Social clout is an important part of most photographer’s livelihood and they will appreciate the time you take to give them credit for their hard work. The only exception here is if they’ve specifically asked you not to tag them. This is rare, but it happens in situations where a photographer may have taken some photographs for you that they do not want others calling on them for. For example, a landscape photographer who agrees to shoot your wedding as a favor likely does not want to be known as a “wedding photographer”.

Always give them credit

Unless you’ve gotten a royalty-free usage license, you should always give your photographer credit when the images are shared. As before, tagging a social media page is a big deal. But, if they don’t have a social media page, or don’t want you to tag that page, or aren’t sharing the images online, it’s still appropriate to give them credit by name. For example, if you’re working on a brochure for a public library, the images used in that brochure should have a line below the images saying something like “Photo by So-And-So 2017”. If you’ve been given a royalty free license, then you’re under no-obligation to do this. However, if you have a specific interest in maintaining an exceptional relationship with your photographer, giving them credit in spite of the license can go a long way.

What’s our policy?

At Petruzzo Photography, we’ve been at this for a long time, and our policy is simple. 1.) You’re free to use the images we create for you for personal use as much as you like. So print as much as you want for your home, office, relatives, friends and family. 2.) You’re also allowed to share on any social network you like, provided you use either the watermarked files. Or, 3.) if you don’t want to use a watermark, that’s fine as long as you tag one of our social media profiles, or provide a link back to our website. We also aim to be as flexible as possible in special and unusual circumstances, so when you’re working with one of Petruzzo Photography’s members, you should always speak up and ask when you have questions!

If you’d like to talk to someone about setting up a portrait session, a headshot, or your upcoming wedding, get in touch with us today! We’re ready to help!