Copyright – Who Owns the Photos?

Welcome to! With the advent of digital technology and the ease in sharing images online, the issue of copyright needs to be understood. Downloading images is easy and seemingly legal.

However, there is a chance that some of the images shared over the internet are not owned by those sharing them. Using such images for commercial purposes can result in legal problems. On the other hand, photographers need to know about a photograph’s copyright issues. That allows them to pursue payment if those photos are used, or to know when they have signed away copyright to the pictures.

Freelance Photographers

A freelance photographer owns his or her copyright if he or she is taking pictures on his own behalf. The implication of that is that those photographs can only be used with his or her explicit permission. If anyone uses those images without explicit consent, then copyright is violated and legal redress can be sought.

However, if a freelance photographer takes photos on behalf of a client, then copyright belongs to whoever paid for the photos to be taken.

Paid Assignments

When you’re paid to take pictures, then copyright is assumed to belong to the person who paid for them. This means that the copyright to wedding photographs, for example, belong to the person who paid the photographer for them.


In some instances, copyright belongs to the person in them. This happens mostly for celebrities. When photographs that contain the image of a celebrity are used for commercial purposes, such as advertising, the celebrity can claim copyright regardless who took the photograph. This means that photographers must understand a photograph’s copyright issues before using it.

That said, a photograph’s copyright issues can be negotiated. It is important to understand that copyright laws are subject to national constitutions, and as such must be understood in that context.