Photography Glossary

The images that photographers create are considered intellectual property and are protected by copyright laws much in the same way music and books are for their creators. This principle is the cornerstone of business practices for a photographer, musician or writer. Below are a listing of some of the terms and concepts we use in our business.

Copyright Law

An international law that is designed to protect photographs (and other creations) from being used without permission, knowledge, and/or compensation of the creator. Under the 1976 Federal Copyright Act, photographers are the owner of each image they create which are licensed to clients for their use.  

Photographs are considered artistic/intellectual property. Like computer software, video, or music, they come under the protection of copyright laws. The photos remain the property of the photographer. Only he or she, as the copyright holder, has the right to license their use. The fees charged for reproduction are based upon how widely and how often the photographs are to be used.


A license states the rights granted to the client for usage of the images. Clients are granted license to use the images for a specified manner and period of time.

Multi-Party Funding

Two or more parties co-funding some or all images created of a project to reduce costs. Additional compensation is made to the photographer for each party having rights to use the images.


Clients licensed are granted rights to use the images for their specific purposes. Rights are not transferable to a third party. The needs of a party not associated with the original photography session negotiates rights to use images with the photographer. The photographer, as the copyright holder, is the only party that can grant license.

Stock Images

Existing photographs that can be purchased for use that fill the photo buyer's specific needs, saving time and expense of having to specially create desired photos.


The manner in which an image will be used (portfolio, web site, newspaper advertising, billboard, etc.) The usage is a primary factor in determining the value of the images. Generally, the more extensive media exposure a photograph receives, the higher the fee will be for producing it. This principle applies to both assignment and stock photography.

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