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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 18 Sep 2011 (Sunday) 03:20
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When can I sell a photo?

Senior Member
570 posts
Joined May 2011
Sep 18, 2011 03:20 |  #1

Ok, have some examples of situations many of us could be in and whether we can or cannot sell the images we take.

Airshow photos where you pay to enter the gate and your dslr with kit passes entry inspection....can we sell the images to people, magazines etc?

Car Show n Shine where you pay a small donation to the charity or school where its hosted, can you sell images of cars and bikes etc to owners of them or to respected magazines?

Sporting Events - with donation or minimum entry fee at local sports ground with minimal spectator attendance ?

Large Sporting Events such as major league, cricket etc etc?

Walking around in your city and taking creative snaps of landmarks and buildings that dont breach security?

Please note the photographer I am referring to could be just a you and I hobby snapper to the run of the mill wedding/portrait photographer who makes their living from weddings/portraits.

I attended a motorcycle show and shine 4 weeks ago Sydney and it was held at a local sports field with a gold coin donation $1-$2 AUS.

It managed to snag some really nice shots of bikes and closeups of the wheels and relative parts. Prior to taking photos of each bike I respectfully asked permission from the owner of the bike if I could take snaps and all agreed.

The shots impress me to the point that I would like to sell them to magazines or back to owners themselves......CAN I DO THIS?

I ask as I am trying to come to terms with the concept that though I was given permission, I should sell the photo back to owner, where as my old fashion train of thought is to give them the photo as they gave me permission in the first place.

How do I treat this circumstance?


Cream of the "Prop"
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Sep 18, 2011 03:33 |  #2

Private 1:1 sales are generally kosher anytime provided your buyer doesn't turn around and do something other than just hang it on a wall in their house, hangar or garage.

Where it gets sticky is the end use of the image.

"Fine Art" is generally recognized as "protected" use. Gallery prints, coffee table books, etc. Where people can be recognized easily, a model release (when able) is always a good idea but not carved in stone if you want to claim fine art as the use.

"Editorial" is magazines and newspapers in conjunction with reportage (not ads for or in the magazine .. see below)

"Commercial Use" is the 400lb Gorilla where you really need your ducks in a row. This is where an image is used for an advertisement or other means of selling something other than the photo itself. Model releases for people are 110% required as are "Property Releases" if there are recognizable landmarks or signage belonging to corporations. You might (and probably would) have to go so far as to obtain permission from every company who's sign can be readily identified in an image. Without permissions, you run the risk of violating their copyrights and registered trademarks. Even things as mundane as cars, motorcycles or bottles of soda can be fodder for corporate lawyers (can you imagine how unhappy Coke would be if one of their logos turned up in say, a beer ad?) This can also apply to aircraft manufacturers. There are one or two who insist that their designs are copy written and you need property releases to sell or license images of their planes / helos for anything but private use. Lockheed Martin and Sikorsky come to mind.

Study advertising photos and you'll find that the vast majority are pretty vanilla except for the product being advertised. You may recognize the location, but probably every car emblem and billboard has been photoshopped out.

ETA: You can actually sell or license any image at any time but the onus is on you to tell the buyer / licensee that you do or do NOT have the necessary releases that clears the image for anything beyond a private sale. If you have that one shot of Elvis getting out of his spaceship on the Las Vegas strip with every major casino in plain sight behind him, chances are your buyer will do the legwork necessary to use the image (if it's for commercial use) but for most images, they'll pass you up to find an image that's free and clear of having to do any extra work to use your shot.

One other caveat regarding Commercial use: Many/Most will tell you that using an image to promote your own photography is considered commercial use but some disagree. Merely showing an image in an online gallery is (to my mind) fine so long as you don't make any inference that the subject is endorsing or recommending your photographic services. The best example I can think of is your logo over the top of a couple from a wedding or an engagement shoot. The subliminal connection is that you are their preferred shooter and they are helping sell your services.

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Sep 18, 2011 11:29 |  #3

Great writeup Jay!

Now, who could give me a "private exclusive heads-up" as to when and where Elvis will be landing and procure me a model release? I'd be glad to run around picking up needed property releases:)!

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Senior Member
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Joined May 2011
Sep 18, 2011 16:48 |  #4

I agree,

great writeup Jay.

Cream of the Crop
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Sep 19, 2011 10:05 |  #5

Good one, Jay.

4 weeks ago Sydney

And keep in mind that where the image is taken can make a big difference.
Canada and Australia have an odd twist in their laws, in that the client who commissions the photography owns the copyright unless the contract explicitly transfers it to the photographer.​ad.php?t=756127

In Finland, for instance, it's necessary for the creator to publish the work in some way in his own name; when the work in his name has been made public, that's considered adequately "registered."

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When can I sell a photo?
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