I’ve been a profession photographer for over 12 years and over those years i’ve seen the public confused over what copyright means.

After all there are even some “professional” photographers who still don’t really understand it, so how are you suppose to know what it is?

In this blog I try to explain what copyright means to you when you purchase images from a photographer.

Baby photos chesterfield

What does copyright mean?

Copyright law lays out a framework of rules around how that work can be used. It sets out the rights of the owner (in this case the photographer), as well as the responsibilities of other people who want to use the work (in this case you). The photographer can do many things with their copyright work including for example copy, change or sell it, share it online or rent it to someone as well as prevent other people from doing those things.

This is the easiest way that I can explain it, without going into jargon.

When a photographer takes a photo, regardless of what the content of that photo is, they automatically own the copyright to it.

NO ONE can use, copy, print, save, edit, alter, share or reproduce that image in any way without the photographers written consent.

The photographer can use that image for their marketing, on the web and in any way they want (there are exceptions and I’ll go into them later).

It also means any photos that the photographer puts online are subject to copyright too, so you cant just take them from there either (regardless of wether of not they have a logo on it).

How does this affect you?

If you purchase a print, artwork, album or any other printed products from a photographer, you CAN NOT copy, print, save, edit, alter, share or reproduce that image in any way! You have purchased that product NOT the rights to the images.

When you purchase any digital images from a photographer, you should be given a licence to print (some photographers have their own rules about what you can and cant do with the images). What this means is, you can print that image as many times as you wish, you can share it with friends and family, You can make your own art work and products etc.

What you CANT DO with the digital image: You cant edit the image in any way (sorry guys this also means adding nasty instagram filters). You cant sell that image and you certainly cant claim it as your own work or use it to advertise your own business (this is of course for personally use, if you have had a corporate shoot you can of course use it for your business).

What happens if you are in breach of copyright?

If you use a image in any way that its not meant to (or that you don’t have permission for) you are breaking the law. You could end up with a big fine or even sued by the photographer.

But I want the full copyright to my Images!

When I hear this my first question is “why?”

When I ask the question, its usually because the client doesn’t want their photos sharing online, or used by the photographer in any way.

You do not need to own the copyright to keep your images private. Just let the photographer know and and don’t tick the box on on the model release that allows the photographer to use the images. It’s that simple.


You see you are coved by the new GDPR law, which means you have the right to privacy. Under that law, if you ask for your photos not to be used, the photographer can not use them, otherwise they are risking a very hefty fine.

If you have answered a model call for a photographer, it would have been discussed between you, what the photographer needs and what you will receive. This can be something like a photo shoot done free of charge/at a reduced cost and or received images free of charge/at a reduced cost.  A contract should be made and signed by you by you both stating in the terms and conditions what you both get.

You still have the right to ask for the photos to be removed and for the photographer to stop using them, but then as per the contract that you agreed and signed you may be required to pay for any images and shoot that you received.

My photographer says I get full copyright!

This is what I mean when I say some “professional” photographers don’t really know what copyright means.

What they actually mean is you get a licence to print and reproduce.

If they were actually giving you full copyright, they CANT use your images to advertise or in any of their marketing as they would have signed the copyright over to you, so wouldn’t be able to use them unless they sought written permission from you.


I hope this helps to explain copyright, but if you have any questions about what you can/can’t do with your images, please speak to your photographer, we don’t bite and would be more than happy to help you.