Part 4: What is Image Licensing?
A discussion of Image Licensing - or the licensing of any intellectual property - begins with an agreement to accept the the Laws of Copyright, first enacted in the United States by Congress in May, 1790. Copyright Law says that upon creation of a work in a fixed form, that work immediately becomes the exclusive property of the author who created it. No one else can claim copyright of the work, and control of its use is a the discretion of the copyright owner. A copyright holder has the option, but not the obligation, to permit the use of one or more of his/her copyrighted works. This permission is often granted through a license agreement that stipulates the specific work being licensed, the exact use(s) being granted, and the duration or term that the license will be in effect, after which time the license expires and ownership of the work remains with the copyright holder/creator.
Under treaty of “The Berne Convention for the Protection of Literary and Artistic Works”, over 170 countries agree to mutually respect each others’ copyright laws. Copyrighted work can be literary, musical, dramatic, pantomime, choreography, pictorial, graphic, sculptural, motion picture, audiovisual, sound recording, architectural work, mask works fixed in semiconductor chip products, or a computer program.
Copyright gives its owner the exclusive right to reproduce, distribute, perform, display, or license that work, and to produce or license derivatives of his or her work. Works are covered whether or not a copyright notice is attached and whether or not the work is registered. Copyright ownership occurs automatically at the moment of creation, and no one but the author can claim copyright to the work, unless the author grants rights to others in a written agreement. This is a very important aspect to know about photography. If a photographer photographs a project for you and doesn’t include in the contract a written licensing agreement, you have nothing. Per the US Copyright Laws, unless some form of usage licensing has been transferred to you in writing, you have no legal right to use the images. If you have a photographer shoot a project for you and just hand you a thumb drive with the images, you paid for nothing. Get the transfer of the copyright licensing in writing!
How does this apply to photography?
Photographs have a shelf life. Clothing and furniture styles change, old products are updated and new ones introduced, employees come and go, companies move and add locations and facilities. Commercial photographs need to change along with all of those business variables, and so a photograph that works today may or may not be the right image in 2 or 3 years. It sounds obvious, but before a photograph is created by a photographer, the photograph doesn't exist. It is the action of the photographer that creates an image. And it’s his control of an image’s use through licensing that is the foundation of the business model for professional photography. The license not only grants use rights to licensors, but provides a mechanism to prevent or prosecute the theft and un-authorized exploitation of an image by non-licensed parties, like a client’s competitors.
There are two fundamental advantages in the image license model to the consumer. First, since each different type of use is factored into the license cost, clients can purchase only the uses they need, instead of purchasing an expensive “all-use for all-time” license which would be prohibitively expensive. The second advantage is that if the image proves successful for the client, the license can be renewed at the end of its term, usually for a fee substantially less than the cost of a new photo shoot.
There is a third advantage, often overlooked by clients, is the very real incentive to the photographer to work even harder to create exceptional images. If the goal from the beginning is to create images that exceed the client’s expectations, and if there is a reward for that effort in the form of future licensing revenues from images that continue to offer value to our clients, the result is a win-win situation, with the client saving money on future shoots and the photographer being compensated for outstanding and timeless work.
Often clients don’t want to have to decide how their images will be used up front. Although that sounds reasonable, with a little investigation of advertising and publishing history, a fairly accurate expectation of uses can be identified. This is invaluable to both the client and the photographer so that, in the estimating process, the professional photographer can address requirements for resolution, size, media and methods for display and publication, and ensure that the images produced will meet the technical requirements for use.
This discussion won’t be complete without a mention of the wildly popular concept of “Work For Hire”. Irrelevant, yet often proffered in client-supplied contracts, “Work For Hire” is an attempt by corporations to gain the immediate copyright ownership for work done by employee photographers, without actually employing those workers. “Work For Hire” clauses typically assume that the company, not the photographer, will get immediate ownership of each image copyright upon creation (just as would happen in the case of works created by a company employee), but are accompanied by an “Independent Contractor” clause that states that the photographer IS NOT an employee, must work as a completely independent entity (providing his/her own equipment, transportation, insurance coverages, liability indemnification, tax responsibilities) and relinquishing any and all rights to use of the images they make, and standard employee benefits like guaranteed contracted employment, health care coverage, participation in pension and retirement plans, company-provided tools and equipment, coverage under blanket company insurance for liability, errors and commissions protections, and workman compensation in the event of an accident. Often presented at the last minute as a requirement for awarding a project that has already been negotiated, this is a one-sided, rights-grabbing tactic that inexperienced photographers often agree to without understanding its impact, but which experienced professionals recognize as an untenable demand and almost categorically strike from the contract.
If a client truly feels that they need the unrestricted use of an image, with unlimited rights in perpetuity (and on planets yet to be discovered in galaxies as yet unseen), a license can be created to give them those rights. It will, however, be expensive. Some might say ‘out of this world.
The new year holds promises of a clean slate, revitalization, a new outlook. In line with that, we decided to do a little renovation at the studio to freshen it up. Our space lends itself to an urban-industrial feel, so we said, "Hey, why fight it?"
As you enter the studio, you are welcomed by our new chalkboard wall and collection of nicknacks. The chalk art here, and throughout the studio, was commissioned by the talented Lauren Hunt. You could stand here for an hour taking in all of the pieces David has collected over the years. There are antique cameras, eyeglasses he made out of camera lenses and family heirlooms, like the bench under the chalkboard. It was built in 1905 and was an original fixture in his grandfather's barber shop.
We did a little redecorating in the kitchen, too. Some new wallpaper and decor give it a fresh look and feel. All of the light fixtures received a facelift as well with new Edison bulbs.
We're really happy with how things turned out. So, stop by and take a peek! We'd love to give you the tour in person and celebrate the year ahead.
Cheers to a great start to 2015!
Our new chalkboard welcomes clients and gives Art Directors here for photo shoots a place to doodle.
We finally found a place to highlight the bench that was in David's grandfather's barber shop. The bench was built in 1905.
Sandblasted and casters added, these flat file cabinets are a great place for our photo collection!
A few more pieces from our collection.
Edison bulbs brighten the new light fixtures above the chalkboard.
Come on by! The chalk and eraser await your next visit.
The coffee table is an old train luggage cart accented with an antique book press.
Client area reading material.
Hand-painted antique safe.
Do you have the time?
Edison bulbs and a coat of paint revitalized the existing light fixtures over the bar.
More chalkboard art commissioned by Lauren Hunt.
The new look in action!
We were recently tasked with shooting a sunflower seed for an ad agency that specializes in agriculture. Their client needed the image for a billboard and print ad campaign. For comparison, sunflower seeds are about 3/8 inches tall by 1/4 inches wide. Billboards, on average, are 14 feet tall by 48 feet wide. So...in order to get images of the teeny, tiny seed as large as possible, we needed specialized equipment. We rented a Canon MP-E 65mm Macro Lens that is capable of 5x magnification and a focusing rail.
Because of the extreme magnification, we had very little depth of field – say, about the thickness of a sheet of paper. Therefore, we ended up employing a process called "focus stacking." We shot in increments of 1/4 centimeter to capture 15 images of the seed at various focal depths. While none of these 15 images had the seed entirely in focus, collectively, they contained the data needed to generate one focused image of a sunflower seed.
We used Photoshop to blend the 15 shots together and generate the final seed image. Photoshop masks out the unfocused areas and keeps the areas of the image that are in focus. The end result is a crystal clear image in focus from top to bottom. Stand-alone programs such as HeliconSoft and Zerene Stacker also offer this feature. If you plan to do a good deal of macro focus stacking, I'd suggest investing in a stand alone program.
Photography is about problem-solving and visually communicating what your client wants to say. This project employed one of the smallest subjects we've ever photographed, and we had a blast figuring out how to show every detail of a sunflower seed!
Wide view of our teeny, tiny set.
Closer view of the set and seed being photographed.
We shot the seed on its side as it was easier to light it horizontally. It was rotated vertically in post-production.
Focusing rail we rented, which allowed us to seamlessly move the camera 1/4 centimeter at a time.
David concentrating on focusing and shooting every 1/4 centimeter.
The final image with the "stacked" sunflower seed for the billboard campaign.
David's stylized version, with a more dramatic sky.
We had some fun recently shooting for the Turkey division of a long time client. As always, behind the scenes and out of sight of the camera, everything tends to look a little different.
An interesting challenge with this project was we needed to find a way to photograph four farmers once and have the ability at a later date to change out the food they were holding. We decided the best solution was to choose one plate and one platter that we would use over and over again. We made a support device that would hold the empty plate and platter in a fixed position that allowed the models to hold them differently expressions and body positions.
Whenever there's a chance we will shoot additional images that require the same look and feel (lighting, spacial relations, perspective, etc.), we craft drawings and take measurements of everything on set. This allows us to recreate the exact set-up and shoot more food that can be photoshopped onto the plate and platter we originally shot with the farmers. And an added bonus – by keeping the plate/platter supporting device thin, we have minimal retouching!
Model and food set all in one.
Our hero turkey shot that will be placed on an empty platter our farmer is holding.
Stylist Sarah Thompson Lift getting our GQ farmer ready for his close-up.
Always fun to photobomb the food stylist.
It never looks the same from the back of the set.
I always have to have my hands involved in something, to the chagrin of the stylist.
How about a little left? No right. No left! It looks perfect just where you had it. (:-)
Putting the final paint stripper touches on the bird.
Any time there is a chance we will be shooting additional shots that need to have the same look and feel,
our assistant takes tons of measurements and photos so we can recreate the same look again. Thanks Ben!
This is a short but important post. Part of a photographer's "behind the scenes job" is to back-up, archive and catalog every image he shoots for his clients.
This is a great article (and video) describing how one photographer handles backing up his work. This process may seem a bit excessive, but it's a good, safe approach. At our shop, we charge between $75 – $350 per job.
Remember, none of your equipment, software or time is free, so charge for it!