Licensing can be a daunting & tricky topic to navigate in the world of photography. I try to talk about it as often as I can, because I believe it’s so important that we as photographers charge properly for our images. DISCLAIMER: I am (obviously) not a lawyer or a professional when it comes to contracts or licensing. I’m just sharing what I’ve learned & tools that help me price licenses as a food photographer. This one is a doozy, so let’s dive right into talking about how to license your photos as a food photographer.

Stick around until the end because I’m sharing my favorite software that helps me price licenses along with a discount.

Copyright & why you should keep it

You may have heard this before, but the second you take a photo & press that shutter button, you own the photo. That means you legally own the copyright (unless you’re doing “Work for Hire” which is a whole other can of worms). Your copyright is extremely valuable & is worth hanging on to. Being the owner of an image means you can use it however you want, including licensing it to others for a fee (if you’re issuing an non-exclusive license to the brand the original photo was for). One image has the potential to make you tons & tons of money in the years to come. Now think about if you signed a contract stating something like…

“Photographer agrees that, subject to the rights and licenses granted herein, Client is, and will remain, the sole and exclusive owner of all right, title, and interest, throughout the world, to all Photos and any copies of the Photos in perpetuity.”

If you’ve ever signed a contract that states something along these lines then you’ve essentially signed away your rights to own or use the images taken for this client. Technically, you can’t even use them in your portfolio, because they aren’t your images. Isn’t that crazy?

If you’ve signed something like this before, don’t worry. I’ve signed more than one contract like this in past years. I definitely don’t anymore since really taking the time to learn about the importance of copyright & licensing.

What is a License?

A license is an agreement between a photographer & the client as to how the client is able to use an image. A license allows the photographer to remain the owner of his/her work, & be fairly compensated for the use of the image by the client.

It can be tricky navigating licensing when conversing with clients. Some get it, some don’t. Part of our jobs as food photographers is to educate our potential clients about the importance of licensing. This is not only for our benefit, but for there’s, too! We don’t want them paying an astronomical amount of money for a license that they don’t actually need.

I believe Joanie Simon from The Bite Shot explained it like this: Imagine you’re traveling & you need to stop & sleep at a hotel for the night. You’re just going to stay for the one night & get up & keep driving the next morning. You aren’t going to ask to buy out the entire hotel for the night when all you need is one room. You’d be throwing away money. That’s how a license works, for example, when a client wants to own the image in perpetuity, but they really are only going to use the image on social media & paid ads for 3 years. They’d be paying thousands & thousands of extra dollars on a license that they won’t take advantage of.

Exclusive vs. Non-exclusive

Exclusivity means that the image(s) you take for a client can only be used by that client. This means you can’t license the same image to another company. Sometimes it’s lifetime exclusivity, & other times there’s a set amount of time, such as four months of exclusivity. Either way, it’s important to communicate with your client to understand why type of exclusivity they’re looking for. The more exclusivity they’re wanting, the more you should be charging.

On the flip side, a non-exclusive license means you’re free to license the image to other brands, which can make you more money! For example, this is beneficial when you took a photo of a chocolate shake for a certain client, & it was pretty generic & didn’t have their branding or anything in the photo. This is a great image to license to other companies that sell ice cream or shakes.

License vs. Usage

According to OMS Photo, the license is an agreement between the photographer and the client as to the usage rights that have been granted for a given project. The license is like a lease & the usage rights are the terms of the lease. You are “renting” the images to a client to meet their specific needs.

Renewing a License

To explain renewing a license, I’ll talk about a real life scenario that happened to me recently. I had done some work for a company last spring, & issued them a license for non-advertising purposes for the web, including social media for one year for four assets. As soon as they signed the contract, I made a note to reach out to them the following year (this year), one month before the license was set to expire.

I reached out to let them know the date that their license was set to expire & asked them if they’d like to renew. I let them know I’d happily chat over the phone with them if they had any questions. They responded saying that yes, they would like to renew their license. Yay! I gave them a few different options in terms of the length of the usage, they picked, & soon I was sending over an invoice for $3,200. The best part? No additional work was done! I was able to keep making money off of images I took a year ago because the client saw the value in them & wanted to keep using them. It’s a win for the client & it’s a win for me!

How to Price a License

If you follow me on Instagram, you’ve seen me talk about fotoQuote more than once. FotoQuote is a licensing software that’s considered to be the industry standard for photographers when it comes to pricing licenses. This software surveyed over 10,000 photographers to see what they charge for their licenses, so these prices come from real life photographers. Below is an example of what the software looks like.

Photography Business Software for Freelance Photography

I love fotoQuote because it has every license option under the sun from social media use, printing, all-advertising packets, & so much more. Once you pick the type of license you’re looking to price, you can then choose the amount of time the client is wishing to use the image. Once you choose the length of time, fotoQuote will give you a range of industry standard pricing so you can feel confident about your prices.

I’m so thrilled to have a discount code for you to use if you’re wanting to try out this software. Use CK-0424 for 10% off the fotoQuote software.

This is an affiliate link which means I get a small kickback if you purchase. I 100% recommend this software & use it to price every project I take on.

Photography Business Software for Freelance Photography

I hope you start to feel more confident about pricing your licenses after reading this post! Let me know if you have any questions about licensing or the fotoQuote software.

  1. Leah says:

    Great explanation- thank you so much for sharing! So just to make sure I understand; when a brand hire you to take pictures, they don’t buy the picture, so the speak, but they then license the pictures you take under prediscussed terms for usage and time? You never have a client where you just send them the pictures, and then it’s theirs to use as they want (I thought that was what most often would happen, but maybe that is just for the private people and not for the businesses?)? (Forgive me, I’m just on the verge to start on my own, and trying to navigate this administrative part of the business)

    • Kaitlin Yocom says:

      Hi Leah! That’s correct, if I were to give the brand the pictures to use as they wanted for however long they wanted, that would either be me giving away my copyright or it could also be a really extensive license to use the images in perpetuity. Either of these options should result in the photographer charging a lot of $$$ for this type of usage, since the brand’s goal with the image would be to make a ton of money off of it for years to come.

      Either way, you want to be sure it’s spelled out really clearly in the contract so both parties understand how the images are allowed to be used. It’s a tricky topic to navigate & fully understand! Especially when there is no set price for any of it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *