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An Explanation of Photographic Image Licensing

This may be scary to some, but it shouldn’t be. In general, I copyright my images (they are sent to the Copyright Office and registered there). This has implications in terms of image ownership and use.

You have to remember that a photographer is no different than other visual artists with easily reproducible work, such as a choreographer, or a film maker. It is the “easily reproducible” nature of the work – especially when we talk about digital files – that is the challenge over what say other professions protected by copyright – say an author of published books – faces.

The Internet Age has added even more complexity in the use of professional photographic imagery. Although specific terms and conditions may vary with each instance, the following are generally true even in the absence of an explicit license agreement (although they can be altered by a license agreement):


Physical Prints

You own the print. You can sell it, give it away, or, hopefully, hang it on a wall in your home for you to enjoy. You cannot reproduce it (scan it, have other prints made from it, etc.)

 Digital Files  

Digital files may be offered to you as proofs or in addition to physical prints. You may also receive a license to have prints made from them (this may be required by the printer – be sure to get one if you intend to have prints made).

Files are for your personal use. Check with your photographer, but in most cases you may post them on Facebook or other sites, under your account, for others to enjoy. This is how my licensing works.

You may not alter the image.

You may not provide these to a third party (especially a business, but technically to other individuals as well) without a license agreement. Typically, it is the third party who must obtain a license for specific use of an image.


If you have any questions, please ask your photographer. It is a good idea to get any potential ambiguities in use, or any foreseen “unusual” use, in writing so everyone understands and you have documented specific rights granted to you in use of the image.

These should be considered reasonable and logical terms given the nature of the profession. Also remember that licensing works both ways – it protects you as much as the image creator. When in doubt, it is best to get a written license.


Every post needs an image; this is one used on my Fine Art Card offerings. I’ve increased the number of cards to 9 in each box. These are printed on Museo card stock (not cheap), and are individually printed. They make a unique and wonderful way for you or your dancer to communicate the old fashioned way.

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