Photographer’s Guide to All Things Legal for Your Photography Business

Photographer’s Guide to All Things Legal for Your Photography Business



Let us walk you through the ever so important legalese in your Photographer’s Guide to All Things Legal for Your Photography Business. Click click. You’ve got this.

Hello all you beautiful photo makers out there. We love your work. Let’s talk about it. Photography is an art, a beautiful, inspiring, feeling-making art. But it’s also a business. We understand that with every click of the camera there are legal obligations and steps that you, as a photographer, must be aware of before any of those photos see the light of day. As a legal company that works alongside creative entrepreneurs on the regular, we’ve chatted with a fair number of talented photographers and business owners along the way and realised that there are a handful of questions, legally speaking, that come up over and over again. Namely about contracts, copyright and how to protect your images. So we at Foundd put together this snazzy little Photographer’s Guide to All Things Legal for Your Photography Business. Check it out.

Do I own the copyright in my photographs?

Under The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) copyright is a right  that gives the owner of certain creative works, be they artistic, dramatic, literary, text, sound recordings and so on the right to how it can be used, reproduced or communicated. Legally speaking, in Australia, you do not need to register your work (in this case, photos) in order to have them be covered under copyright law. As soon as the photo is snapped, its copyrighted! Copyright basically means the photos are property of the owner of the copyright, as is the ability to reproduce, publish, communicate the work or sell those photos. Get it? We know. Law stuff. Oof. But take a breath and keep reading, this is important!

A photographer always owns the copyright in the photographs they take, including derivative images (basically a new image created out of the original image). That being said, there are 4 situations you could find yourself in where they may not be yours under copyright law. There’s always something, eh?

  1. If you’re an employee of a business and you took photos on their behalf.
  2. If you’ve been hired as a contractor. Chances are they’ve stuck you with a contract that states this to cover their bases - so make sure to read the small print if you want to retain ownership.
  3. If you license or sell the rights to the images.
  4. Photographs taken in the domestic sector e.g. wedding and portrait photographers will need permission from their clients, in the form of a written agreement to transfer rights to the photographer.

Do I need a model release?

If you’re wanting to use any of your images that include models for commercial purposes, like advertising or promoting your business, then you need a model release form! This fancy little number - the form, not the model - will cover your arse so you can maintain image rights and have full commercial release, be clear about where any money made from the image goes, or, if you’re working with a minor, set out terms for working together. The only thing a model release may not be able to do for you is set you up with a model who has very specific and complex compensation rights. For that you need to connect with a lawyer. Guess what? We do that!

How do I protect my images on social media?

There are a few ways you can keep your images protected on social media. Let’s take a look.

  1. Upload low res images on social only and specify that you have hi res versions available for purchase (if that’s the case, of course!).
  2. Add a cheeky little watermark to the image.
  3. Throw on a copyright notice with your name in a place visible to any sneaky browser to show your image is protected by The Copyright Act 1968 (Cth). That’s the cute little © symbol! e.g. © Foundd Legal 2019 - its not mandatory to do this but it is helpful to let others know who owns the copyright
  4. Make it super easy for people to reach out to you so people can simply ask permission to use or buy your photo!

What should I do if my images are used without my permission?

Once you’ve cursed up a storm that someone had the audacity to steal your photograph and at the same time revelled in the fact that someone loved your work enough to steal it, there are a few things you can do. If they’ve used the image without permission or ownership of the work, tried to pass it off as their own or used it for commercial purposes, you may have a legal leg to stand on, we’d suggest you do the following:  

  1. Contact the image lover/thief and ask them to remove it or, depending on how you feel about the way they’ve used it, ask for proper attribution. 
  2. If the image lover has officially been put on your ‘yuck’ list and isn’t replying or is giving you trouble, it’s time to seek legal advice. Chat with someone, you know like us, and figure out what legal principles you can use to secure a case against the ‘yuck’ lister.
  3. Don’t get angry and blast them on socials or via email, make sure to take a calm and measured approach. You don’t want your words to come back and haunt you. We loved Netflix’s approach to a breach of copyright - it’s worth the click! 

How do I protect my images on my website

How dare someone copy and paste your well thought out creative photography that’s on your website! *Shakes fist in the air!* It’s down and dirty and not fair. And you can do a few things to try and prevent it from happening.

  1. Copyright has you covered. Use that fancy little © with your business name and year and that will automatically make people think twice. Boom. Next.
  2. Google Alerts can be set up in such a way that when an exact replica of your content appears online, you get a notification. From there, you can contact the copy-paster! Thanks, Google!
  3. Watermarks are an option here, as well, though having an image, however faint, isn’t always ideal.
  4. Website T&Cs. You can use this awesome info as a way to tell people how they can and cannot use your site and the content that lives there. 
  5. You can disable right click saving of images on your website

Should I trade mark my business name?

The short answer is yes. The long answer is on this blog we wrote called How to Register a Trade Mark in Australia. The medium answer is we absolutely recommend trade marking your business name alongside your brand or even your logo. Registering a trademark will protect your business and is a great professional investment. Your brand identity is valuable! The last thing you want is someone taking your name or awesome new product out from under you. Get on it. 

How do I licence my images?

You can license your images in a couple of ways depending on what your aim is. If you want to share your images with your client but don’t want a zillion copies made or if they want any fancy sizes or reprints, you can secure a restricted use licence. This could mean that reprints only go through you or the client only has permission to have so many reprints made or enlarged. The specific use licence offers very specific uses for the photos. Maybe they’re for a brand’s business cards only, or on a t-shirt made for a specific company. You get the idea.

So have a think before you click and give those photos away so you know exactly how they’ll be used and you can keep them protected. 

Do I need insurance to run my photography business?

Yes. Yes you do. If you’re running a business, photography or otherwise, you want to be insured! As a photographer, you want to protect yo’self! There are a few types of insurance options available to help you do just that: 

  1. Public Liability: This is business insurance no brainer. It protects you from damages or injury caused to third parties (other people). So if someone knocks over a decorative ladder and a planter lands on their head during the shoot in your studio, your arse is protected!
  2. Professional Indemnity: If a client comes back completely unhappy with how long it’s taking you to get their photos back to them (this is where a contract comes in handy, too) or they really don’t like their images and claim you’ve ruined their wedding memories, this kind of insurance protects you from bridezill--ehhrmm--clients who don’t like your artistic vision. Look, we jest, but it happens. Not everyone jives all of the time. Protect yourself.
  3. Equipment Insurance: We probably don’t have to explain this one. You know, the cameras, lights, lenses. Your business life-blood!

Should I have a contract with my clients?  

Yuppers. Hands down. Securing a contract with your clients will ensure that you get paid on time, will protect your intellectual property (that’s fancy speak for the photos you took for them!), set out timing for post production and turnaround on your terms and cover you if they cancel last minute amongst other important things! This also goes for contracts with models, not just clients you shoot for. You want to stay protected, your business is the bomb and you shouldn’t let anyone mess with that! 

Do I need any other documents?

If you have a website, make sure you have some standard terms and conditions there too. It’s important that your future clients know what to expect from you and also to protect your website and the content on your website. If you take bookings online, or obtain any personal information, you should also consider a Privacy Policy. And as we’ve said before, if you use models, make sure to have a model release. 

Document Recap:

⌓ Photographer Agreement

⌓ Website Terms & Conditions

⌓ Disclaimer

⌓ Privacy Policy

⌓ Cease & Desist letter

⌓ Model Release

Hope this handy photographer’s business guide for all your legal questions has been handy. If there’s something on this list that’s missing for you and you need some more answers, we’re all ears! Law geeks, remember? So hit us up. Happy snapping! x

psst... pin this to your Boss Babe Pinterest board for safe keeping ;)

Photographer's Guide to All Things Legal for Your Photography Business


FOUNDD LEGAL articles are intended to provide commentary and general information only and presented in an informal style. Though we like to keep it real, please don’t rely upon our posts as legal advice. If there is something in one of our articles that speaks to you, reach out for some formal and up to the minute legal advice to properly address and discuss your queries and concerns. We’re here for you!