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Monday, October 22, 2007

Custom Photography versus Stock Photography

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In the 1990's, the photography industry went through a revolution. Now it's common to discuss imagery in terms of pixels per inch, jpegs, and tiffs. No longer do we discuss photography just in terms of film specifications. Digital images--both custom and stock photography--and software such as Adobe? Photoshop? are commonly used. As a result, we all need to be careful. As consumers, there are many options and legal implications to be aware of when buying and using graphic images.

Rights to photos: custom and stock

A question to ask early on in a project is, "Who has the rights?" Copyright law protects images as property of the photographer, with specific rights as defined by contract. These usually relate to time frame, types of use, and use in photographer's promotional materials.

"For example, if you're shooting an ad campaign, you may want to purchase rights for a year. If you extend the campaign, however, you need to renegotiate your purchase agreement with the photographer," notes Kim Cobb, team leader at The AVS Group. "Any models, professional or not, used in pictures, should also sign releases, and you should be aware of any time or usage restriction that may be included in the release."

"At AVS, you have rights to use images we shoot for you for as long as you want, in any type of media. There is no additional charge for these rights," says Cobb. On the other hand, rights for stock images vary depending on the purchase agreement. Usually stock image firms allow the user free use of an image to present a concept or rough. If the user wants to use the image in a project, though, the image must be purchased.

Purchased images generally come in two types: traditional and royalty-free. The traditional license purchase is based on a full gamut of contract specifics and should be carefully reviewed. The second type, royalty free, typically allows the buyer to use the image with very few restrictions. Usually they are purchased for a one-time flat fee and altered to create new, unique works by the graphic designer.

What rights do consumers have for stock images?

"We're often asked to provide the stock images that have been used in the creative execution of client's project, but that is usually expressly prohibited in the license," says Cobb.

As a rule, licenses state that the images may not be sublicensed, resold, or otherwise redistributed. Nor can they be detached from a product or Web page. Clients can receive the digital media as part of the product, but not separately.

Can consumers use their own images?

Yes. Having a disk of useable imagery at your fingertips is convenient, plus you can always add more.

"You might want to consider having commonly used images of your products or services compiled on a CD in formats you can use," notes Cobb.

Some variables to consider would include how you plan to use the images (PowerPoint? presentations, Web use, printing, etc.) and color format (CMYK for print and RGB for electronic delivery).

Always read the fine print!

It is important to understand that the information in this article is intended to highlight general issues and is not legal advice or a solution to individual problems. If you do have further questions or problems, seek competent legal counsel before relying on this or any information. It is your responsibility to ensure that you comply with all laws regarding your use of an image. The penalties can be severe.

The AVS Group is a marketing, training, and communications company. AVS is in La Crosse, Wisconsin. AVS helps clients communicate and market effectively. AVS can be found online at http://www.avsgroup.com

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