Understanding copyrights when you hire a photographer

I often get questions regarding the copyright laws from clients who’ve hired me for a photo shoot. I thought it would be a good time to clear up some myths and truths about copyright laws as it pertains to photographers. They can seem a bit intimidating at first but here’s a simple way of navigating the “who-owns-what” part of photo shoots.  Before I dive into the details let’s bust a myth; While each photographer is different in how protective they are about their images, photographers build their business’s on their work and integrity.  It’s normal and usual for a photographer to use images they’ve taken in their own portfolios, possibly in print or social media to promote their work but we don’t exploit our clients images and sell them to advertisers.  That’s just bad business.

What is the copyright law as it pertains to photographers?

In simple terms, copyright for photographers means owning property. As soon as a photographer presses that shutter button they have created and own that image. With ownership, they get certain exclusive rights to that property. For photographic copyrights, the ownership rights include:

(1) To reproduce the photograph.

(2) To prepare derivative works based upon the photograph.

(3) To distribute copies of the photograph to the public by sale or other transfer of ownership, or by rental, lease, or lending.

(4) To display the photograph publicly.

 

When I’m working with individuals or companies, each shoot is different:

Whether I shoot with an individual, a couple or a corporation who hires me to create work for them, I still retain full copyright of those images. However, I do grant them *license to use those photos to promote their brand or their company, to promote themselves or to share their photos with family and friends in print or electronic media. In fact, it’s my sincere hope they are able to use those images as much as they can. That was whole reason for the shoot. So from my perspective and for the sake of promoting my business, use those photos!

What you CAN NOT do is transfer those images to a third party for use to promote their business (with the exception of instances of promoting yourself within that business). The same rule applies to wedding clients. While it may be tempting to give a photo from your wedding to, lets say, the catering company or florist so they can use those photos as an example of their work to promote themselves, it’s not ok to do so without the permission of the photographer. In many cases a photographer will give permission so long as a photo credit and link back to their website is included. But it’s right and proper to seek that photographer’s consent in writing – even via email.

Why do photographers retain the copyrights even if you hire them?:  Professional photographers are dependent on their ability to control the distribution and reproduction of the photographs they create for several reasons. For example, copying a photo without permission, editing their work (with that cool new filter on Instagram), or not attributing a photographer (not making a clear and correct assertion as to who took the photo in the absence of a watermark) can negatively impact a photographer’s professional reputation, the ability to market and advertise their photography products/services their ability to generate an income from the works they create.

Using images you see online: a photographer created every image you find on the Internet and that photographer holds the copyright to that image. Regardless of whether or not you found that image in the public domain, you are not entitled to alter or use that image for your own purposes, with the exception of using an image or images to highlight or promote the work of that photographer (with their permission).  While in some cases your theft of that image will go unnoticed, you are in violation of U.S. copyright laws and are subject to a lawsuit by the copyright holder.   Just don’t do it.

 

Addendum’s or considerations:  Regardless of whether or not you paid for a photo session, you do not have the right to sell, license, transfer ownership of your images.  However, there are a few addendum’s or considerations that can be added to a contract.

Licensing: * this is different that ‘copyright’. While a photographer will always retain exclusive copyrights to their work, I will often license an image (usually for a fee or in some cases a very specific photo credit) to that company or individual. A license fee is based on the ‘usage’ of that photo.  In the case of a stock photo shoot with a company, the license agreement usually contains a clause that allows the photographer to use the photos in their portfolio to promote their work but not to sell those photographs to other companies.

Privacy exceptions: If I have been commissioned to shoot a more artistic or intimate shoot with an individual we start with a conversation. I get a sense of what they’re comfortable with when it comes to the types of photos I will use in my portfolio. I often enter an agreement with that individual (for privacy reasons) as to the type of images that I will release into the public domain via electronic media and that agreement is put into writing.

Work for hire copyright: This can be a very misleading term but basically, work for hire means that the photographer is a full time employee of a company and creating images for that company.   Work for hire does NOT include working as a contractor for individuals, weddings, events, stock photos etc.; unless there is an express contract written at the time of the photo shoot, which assigns exclusive copyrights to the person who hired the photographer.

While copyright laws can seem intimidating, they do exist to protect a photographer’s work from being stolen and used without their permission. Most photographers like myself, would not be in business if we didn’t understand that each photo shoot and each client is unique.  I understand that if you paid me for a photoshoot, while I may hold the copyrights to those photos and may used them to promote my own work, you’re not going to see them in an advertisement on the side of a bus.   Photographers like myself, build our businesses on referrals and the satisfaction of our clients. It’s important to understand copyright laws, but personally, I want every client to LOVE their photos, to trust that their images wont be exploited and most of all to enjoy working with me.

 

Here is a link to the US copyright laws:

https://www.copyright.gov/title17/92chap1.html#106

My First solo photography show this Friday

This Friday is the opening reception of my very first solo photography exhibit.
While I’ve had pieces in other shows, it’s my very first show on my own. It’s been a goal of mine for the past few years and a long time coming.

If you live in San Francisco, please stop in and say hello! There will be wine and cheese and good people.

Here’s a link to the show information 

 

Inspiration: Photographer Grey Villet

Long before Facebook, Twitter and viral videos, magazines like National Geographic, LIFE and TIME were bringing powerful images into American homes.   We still see them on the Internet today. Most of us scroll through these images without giving a thought to the photographers who went out into the world to capture them. This was the heyday of photo essays and journalistic photography, and the average reader wouldn’t recognize names like; Alfred Eisenstaedt or Margaret Bourke-White,  but you would most definitely remember the iconic images they took that made their way into the American Zeitgeist through LIFE Magazine.

Grey Villet isn’t a household name, but as a freelance photographer, commissioned primarily by LIFE and TIME magazines, Grey was given assignments to create  photo-essays that capture the essence of some of the most poignant stories and social movements of that time.

 

Gay rights in New York. – This issue is obviously close to my heart, especially now with Gay men being rounded up, put into camps and tortured in Chechnya. It’s easy to loose track of how far we’ve come in the United States when it comes to Gay rights, but in the 1960’s, the movement was just beginning. Here in our own country, the people who were tasked with protecting the rights of citizens were raiding gay bars and arresting men simply for being homosexual. The birth of the gay rights movement here in the U.S. was a powder keg of anger and passion.   Grey Villet was tasked by TIME magazine to cover the protests. These were some of the first images that actually portrayed individual Gay people, their struggles and the passion behind their cause.

 

Loving vs. the state of Virginia – As gay men and women were fighting for their rights in the 60’s, there was an interracial couple in Virginia who were also fighting for their right to love and marry, a right that Gay couples fought for just a few years ago, and in some states, we are still fighting.   Mildred and Richard loving were married in Washington D.C. in 1958. It wasn’t until they moved back to their home state of Virginia did they realize that they may be subject to arrest for the crime of miscegenation (mixing of races). In fact, Virginia lawmakers told them that they would indeed be arrested and face 25 years in prison if they didn’t leave the state, (and their family and friends). They weren’t the first interracial couple to get married, but this case captured the attention of the whole country.   The images that Grey Villet captured of their life, along with the accompanying story in LIFE magazine, made a huge impact in the heart of the country. Sure, the images didn’t change everyone’s mind, but putting a human face to the issue makes it just that much more difficult to hold on to one’s racist views.

At a time when there was no digital photography and no Photoshop, the job of a good photojournalist required patience, technical skill and the ability to really understand their subjects. Photographers whose images graced the pages of TIME, LIFE or NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC we’re empathetic, astute observationalist’s and masters of their craft.   We owe thanks to these courageous photographers, like Grey Villet, for their legacy of images, images that tell the story of all those who came before us, braved the trail to give us the rights that we may now take for granted.

 

Choosing the right travel Camera

Travel season is upon us, which means tons of vacation photos. In past blogs I’ve written about how to get the best results from your iPhone camera. The iPhone is still the most used and versatile pocket camera. With each successive Apple upgrade to the iconic camera/phone comes more and more megapixels and better features. But there are many amateur and professional photographers out there who are used to a certain amount of control and creativity when it comes to their photos. For these photographers, it’s good to know how to navigate the world of Prosumer travel cameras. In this post, I’m going to break them down a bit to help you find the right camera for you.

To choose the right travel camera, the best advice is to get a sense of which features are the most important for the type of travel you want to capture and photos you take. For instance – do you spend a lot of time in the water and need a waterproof camera? Do you shoot more video than photographs or do you shoot mostly landscape and architecture. Is your eye more tuned to shooting people and events?   Do you want a camera with interchangeable lenses or do you just want something small and compact that will fit in your pocket?

Small travel size cameras range in price from around $200 to $10,000, so it’s a good idea to come up with a price range that fits your budget.  Here are the basic types of travel cameras:

 

Point-and-shoot:

These are the most common and versatile type of cameras on the market and I’ll be spending the bulk of this post on this category. These cameras are all mirrorless cameras; when you look through the viewfinder of a traditional DSLR camera, you are actually looking into a mirror, which is angled so that you can look through the lens. When you press the shutter button, the mirror flips up to expose the sensor (or film if you’re shooting film). Smaller travel cameras don’t have mirrors. (The iPhone is a good example.) The image through the lens is electronically transmitted to the screen behind the camera.   Eliminating the mirror drastically reduces the size and price of the camera.

Point-and-shoot cameras have a staggering amount of options available, which is reflected in the huge difference in price. Here are a few features that you want to have if you’re just looking for a simple, easy to use point-and-shoot camera.

  • Built in Flash (most have them)
  • Fully automatic mode as well as manual modes – not all low-end cameras have manual modes
  • Shooting in Camera RAW files – you’ll have to spend more for this feature, most low-end travel cameras don’t offer it, but if you’re used to working on your photos in Lightroom and want the control over your images, it’s worth the extra money. Do your research if this is something you want.
  • Video Capability– Most have this function but some of the low-end cameras shoot in 24fps (frames per second) rather than the standard 30fps . If good quality video is something that interests you, you might want to splurge on a camera with better video capability.
  • Mega Pixels – 12 up to 30. A quick note about mega pixels as it relates to price point and file/print size: The sensor inside the camera will dictate how many mega pixels your camera is. The more mega pixels the larger the file size.  If you’re not planning on printing HUGE quality prints, then mega pixels aren’t that crucial for you and you can spend your money on more important features like video or waterproof cases. Many low-end point-and-shoot cameras have between 12 and 20 mega pixels and these work just fine for most vacation photos. Provided you don’t have to crop the image in post-processing, you’ll get a nice 8×10 or 12×14 print out of a 12 mega pixel camera.
  • Wifi-enabled – A feature that’s beginning to appear more and more often in both point and shoot and high-end digital cameras is the ability to connect to a WiFi network. When you can send photos wirelessly through your home WiFi network, it can greatly simplify the process of creating backup copies of your images, as well as sharing photos with others.  Some cameras allow you to make direct connections to Facebook or other social networking sites, too, which can be a great feature. Many WiFi-enabled digital cameras also now give you the option of uploading your photos to the cloud, which usually is a storage site that’s owned by your camera’s manufacturer. Using the cloud to store your photos is a great idea, as you’ll always have backup copies away from your home computer, where they’ll be safe from a fire or other natural disasters. The downside to WiFi-enabled cameras is that they can be a little difficult to set up and use on occasion. You will almost certainly need to understand a little bit about entering network passwords and knowing the name of your WiFi network before you can make the connection with your camera. If you’ve ever made a WiFi connection with your smartphone or with a laptop computer, you probably have the experience needed to make the WiFi connection with your camera. The wireless connection also can drain the battery more quickly than using a USB cable connection.
  • Zoom lens – A quick lesson in zoom lenses in point-and-shoot cameras: they are broken down into how far they’ll zoom in from the widest setting- 3x, 7x up to around 12x. For example, if your camera, fully zoomed out, is 24mm (a pretty standard wide zoom), then a 3x zoom lens will zoom in to 72mm, the maximum zoom for a 7x lens is 168mm and obviously a 10x fully zoomed in is 240mm. There is some loss of clarity with the higher zoom lenses but if you’re looking for the most all around versatile lens, you can’t beat a built in 10x lens.

 

Recommendations for Point-and-shoot cameras:

Canon PowerShot ELPH 360 HS – $225

PowerShot_ELPH_360_HS_Silver_1_l

  • 20 mega pixels
  • Built in flash
  • 12x optical zoom
  • 1080p video at 30fps
  • Wi-Fi enabled
  • NO RAW shooting

Review and specs for the Powershot 

 

 

Panasonic Lumix ZS50 / TZ70 – $250

The Panasonic LUMIX ZS50: The ultimate all-round travel camera, boasting enhanced low light performance and powerful optical zoom (PRNewsFoto/Panasonic)

  • 13 mega pixels
  • Built in Flash
  • 4x digital zoom
  • Fully automatic plus manual modes
  • HD video at 30fps
  • RAW shooting

Review and specs for the Lumix

 

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX100 V 20.1 – $900

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  • 21 mega pixel
  • Built in Flash
  • 3x optical zoom
  • 4k video at 30fps
  • Automatic and manual modes
  • RAW shooting

Review and specs for the Cyber-Shot

 

 

Action Cameras:

This would include the GoPro line and any shock or waterproof cameras. They’re used mostly by people who’s vacations are a bit more adventurous and want to capture more physical activities. I personally own a GoPro camera. They’re really fun little cameras. I’ve mostly used them for motorcycle trips or camping where there is an opportunity for some fun with water. If I’m being honest, it’s more of a novelty than a necessity when traveling. They’re purely for fun. But if you love to swim, rock climb, kayak, water ski, sky dive, ride a bicycle or motorcycle or any dynamic activities like that, then get yourself an action camera and have a blast!

 

Recommendations for Action Cameras:

GoPro Hero 5 Black –  $400

Hero5-Black-Carousel-1

  • 12 mega pixels
  • No flash
  • Waterproof case included
  • HD video 30 fps
  • Raw Shooting
  • Focus free
  • No Zoom

Review and specs for the GoPro Hero

 

Nikon Coolpix AW130 – $350

nikon_26494_coolpix_aw130_waterproof_digital_1120474

  • Nikon Coolpix AW130 $350
  • 16 mega pixels
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • Built in flash
  • Underwater depth 98 feet
  • Auto modes only
  • HD video at 30 fps
  • NO RAW shooting

Review and specs for the CoolPix

 

Canon PowerShot D30 – $300

71VK-6KKTHL._SL1500_

  • 12 mega pixels
  • 4x Digital Zoom
  • Built in Flash
  • Auto modes only
  • NO RAW shooting
  • Waterproof up to 80 feet
  • NO Raw Shooting

Review and specs for the PowerShot

 

DSLR and high-end mirrorless cameras:

This is the larger and heavier option of the three and used mostly by more serious photographers. Bringing a big heavy DSLR on vacation does defeat the purpose of having a light, easy to use travel camera. But, if photography is your passion and your art, then finding the right DSLR, one that you’ll use often, is important.

I shoot Canon and right now I have 3 canon cameras in my bag. Very rarely do I bring one of my big 5D’s with all of my lenses when I’m on vacation. I’ve tried, but lugging a big heavy backpack all day while you’re on vacation is a drag and I end up not using it very often.  PLUS, my work cameras don’t have built in flash so I’d have to bring a Speedlight flash unit if I just wanted to take night shots with my friends.  I end up looking and feeling like an ‘event photographer’ , so my vacation starts feeling like I’m at work.  I have a smaller Rebel that fits the bill and takes great shots. It has a built in flash, has all of the functionality of the high-end DSLR’s, and if I take one versatile zoom lens with me, I never have to change lenses.  There are a number of really great smaller DSLR’s on the market today; they’ll give you lots of options and won’t slow you down on your travels.

Recommendations for DSLR and high-end cameras:

 

Canon EOS Rebel T6i – $900 lens included

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  1. 24 Mega Pixels
  2. APS – C Sensor (not full frame)
  3. Optical LCD screen
  4. ISO – 100- 12,800
  5. Kit lens 18-55mm  – I recommend upgrading to a 24-105mm
  6. Full auto/manual modes
  7. Video capable at 30fps
  8. Built in Flash plus hot shoe for external
  9. Wi-Fi capable

Review and specs for the Rebel T6i

 

 

Sony Alpha A77 II – $2,000 kit with lens included

highres-Sony-Alpha-A77-II-DSLR-4_1403020457

 

 

 

 

 

 

  • 24 Mega Pixels
  • APS-C CMOS sensor (not full frame)
  • Full auto and manual shooting modes
  • Tilting LCD screen
  • 1080p HD video at up to 60 fps
  • ISO 100-26,000
  • Built in Flash plus hot shoe mount

Review and specs for the Alpha A77ii

 

 

Leica TL – $1,600 -body only. Lenses run between $1,500 and $3,000

Leica-TL,-titanium-colored-Order-no.-18112_teaser-1200x800

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

LEICA-TL-LENSES_Window-teaser_2400x940_teaser-1200x470

 

 

 

 

  • 16 mega pixels
  • APC-C Sensor
  • Fully auto and manual modes
  • Lens not included
  • Built in Flash – no hot shoe mount
  • ISO 100-12,500
  • HD 1080p 30fps video
  • Wi-Fi and smart phone Apps

Review and specs for the Leica TL

If you can, SUPPORT YOUR LOCAL CAMERA STORE.  You can find these cameras on-line for a great price, but many local camera stores will match the online price. I’m a big believer in shopping locally if you can.  Plus, there is a certain tactile satisfaction in going to the store and holding the camera.  If you’re in San Francisco, Los Angeles or Santa Barbara, I recommend Samy’s Camera – they also have a great online selection and will ship tax free in many cases.   But, if you don’t have a  store near you – B&H  photo (based in New York) has great prices.

Happy Shooting!

 

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Special New Years rate on “Model Experience” shoots!

Have you even wanted to have a model experience? To appear in a magazine quality shoot and have the images for your own use? These shoots are designed for you!

These shoots are a FUN and artistic collaboration designed for people who have always wanted to capture new and unique sides of themselves, and to have high-end artistic prints that they can either proudly display on their walls or share with their partners or perspective dates.

Beat the cold and the rain in a hot bathtub!   Take advantage of my locations or I can come to your home and we can set it up there in a comfortable environment.

Examples of past shoots.  (Some NSFW) content.

 

Your shoot includes:

  • Wardrobe and shot consultations to help you get the most out of your shoot.
  • Individuals or add $100 for a couple shoot.
  • As many as four wardrobe changes.
  • Natural or artistic physique shots.
  • Both artistic lighting and natural light.
  • A variety of black and white and artistic color choices.
  • Print quality image files.
  • All proofs from your shoot are available for you to download.
  • Professional retouching on two images of your choice.
  • Additional retouching available on a ‘per-image’ rate.
  • Discresion and privacy guaranteed.

* All models appearing in the above images have given their express permission.

Special $200 discount for January and February 2017 –  Discounted Rate:  $300

The special rate is for an individual model, two-hour photo shoot (one location), which includes all of the features listed above and must be booked and paid for before February 28th 2017. 
Additional time, wardrobe changes, couple shoots, locations and retouching are available for an additional fee. 

Contact me today to inquire about setting up your shoot!