If I am hired to photograph and event, who holds the copyright?


I was recently hired by a Museum to shoot an event. I would assume I get copyright since they are my shots, just as I would have in any portrait session. I know that copyright goes to the employer if it’s a for hire shoot, so is ‘for hire’ referring to when another photographer or studio hires you as a second shooter only? I mean, any paid gig you are ‘for hire’ right?

Thank you!

Great question, thanks for asking.

Ultimately, you as the photographer have to copyright.  You should have a conversation with organizations that hires you or have them sign a contract that states how they are allowed to use the images.  When you let them use your images, they are licensing them for specific use like a stock house would.  (You are just cutting out the stock house.)  If you are shooting a specific event, they are still licensing the images.  It just happens to be that they are hiring you for specific images.

After this conversation with them, they can choose to hire you or go on to another photographer.

You may also negotiate with them that if you are ‘work for hire’ for the event (meaning they retain all the copyrights to the images) and you will be happy to do so, and your set schedule is $$$ vs $$.

What gets photographers in challenging situations is when they do not have a conversation first and try to negociate later.  Believe me, this conversation is MUCH harder to have than having it before being hired for the event.

Do I need to clean my sensor or back element of my lens?

I can see some noise in my image, but my camera has an automatic sensor cleaner that cleans it on start up and shut down. Does that ‘only go so far’ or could this be smudges on my lens?

A blue sky showing four red circles that demonstrate where dust shows.









Thank you for this work.

It looks like you completed this assignment pretty well and you have very little dust on your sensor!  That’s great!  What you circled is small dust, not noise.  Noise would spread differently on your sensor.  It is possible the dust is on the back element on your lens, http://photographylife.com/the-effect-of-dust-on-lens-bokeh.  My advice would be to make sure the back element is clean and reshoot the sky.  If the same dust shows up, then it is on your sensor.  Do know that the auto sensor cleaning are great, but not infallible.  They way they work is by shaking your camera’s sensor in an attempt to knock off the dust.  The dust that does fall, may land on a two sided sticky sheet of tape that runs along the side of the sensor.  It is possible for dust to stay on the sensor.

Your sensor is not too bad at this point.  You will want to watch this areas in images that has smooth surfaces.  When you do get to a point where you need to clean your sensor, be sure to do it in a manor that is safe for your camera.  As you know this will save you hours of time in the future from having to remove spots on your images and give you cleaner images to work with.  Stock houses do not accept images that have dust on them.  

If you do not already clean your sensor, please learn.  Watch at least five different videos on it.  You can also go to a pro camera store and have them teach you.  They will want to sell you some sensor cleaning stuff.  You want to buy it.  Do NOT use cotton swabs.  Do NOT use canned air – the propellant in it will cause your sensor cover to become sticky and make cleaning the sensor later MUCH harder to do.  

If you do not want to clean your sensor yourself, then go to a pro camera store and ask who in your area does the best job at cleaning sensors and have him/her do it.

A helpful suggestion is to place a reminder in your calendar to check your sensor again in six months time so that you can stay up to date with a clean, dust-free sensor.

Do I need a model release for people in parades?

What about a parade for example? The people have no ‘reasonable expectation of privacy’ as they are IN a parade, right? I have some really nice photos of the children’s parade that I’d love to use.

Great question, thanks for asking.  I like that you are making this class personal.

Short Answer – Yes, if you are going to use the image for commercial purposes.  No, if you are going to use the image for editorial purposes… but if the image involves a kid, there are limitations in editorial use.

Long, more thorough answer: First, you must consider which country you are taking you images in.  If you are traveling to a different country, be sure you know the expectations of privacy where photography is concerned for that country.  If anyone knows about certain laws for a specific country that are different than I am about to explain below, please speak up.

As I am guessing you are talking about a parade that occurred in the United States, I will let you know what you can do with your images as far as stock photography is concerned.

Anyone out in public, whether you are in a parade or walking on a public sidewalk, the reasonable expectation of privacy is expected in bathrooms, changing rooms, security points, and the like.  Beyond that, and provided your subject is on PUBLIC property, you are permitted to photograph them.

Now, I want to caution you, just because you are allowed to photograph a person, do not drop your code of ethics.  Sometimes, it is best to put the camera down and let a person be.  Listen to your inner voice and not your ego in these cases.  The world won’t stop if you choose to pass up a great image out of respect for another.

So, we have established people in public areas (barring areas of expected privacy) can be photographed.  The model release allows you to do more with the image than you can do without it.  You may upload a photo to a stock house of anyone that is photographed legally in public, but unless you have a signed model release for that day’s shot, you may only submit the image for editorial purposes.  It will not be accepted for commercial purposes.

For example:  A lady is walking down a public street drinking a dark beverage in a clear, plastic container.  The container has ice in it and is perspiring.  The lady is perspiring too.  To top the image off, there is great light that is shining through the beverage.  If this image was used as an editorial image to talk about the heat of the day, this woman is not being a spokesperson for the heat.  If this image was used as an advertisement for a drug rehabilitation clinic where the ad suggest she is nursing a Jack Daniels(TM) and Coke(TM) to stave off DTs, then the ad could be considered slanderous to this lady.  She could come back and sue the ad company that created the ad, they would sue the stockhouse that gave her the image  The stockhouse is not going to risk this.  They require that all images that have identifiable people have signed model releases.  If you told that stockhouse that you DID have a signed model release from the lady, then you best have one for that day’s shoot.  If not, the stockhouse could come back and sue you.

Now let’s change the story.  Let’s say Coca Cola(TM) uses the image for an ad.  There is nothing slanderous going on. In fact the ad state how beautiful and wise that woman is for choosing Coke(TM) on such a sweltering day.  Even if the brown liquid was Coke(TM) and the lady LOVES Coke(TM), she could still come back and sue Coke(TM) and Coke’s(TM) ad agency.  Her likeness has now become a spokesperson for Coke(TM)… only she has not agreed to be a spokesperson.  She may be a person in hiding, thought to be dead and now her likeness is slapped on the sides of buses and billboards.  She may just be a private individual.  She may be a person that likes to sue people or has relatives that convince her to sue.  She could be desperate and in need of the money.  There could be any number of scenarios that could bring your image of her to litigation.  If you have a signed model release for this day’s shoot, then she does not have a strong case.

In short – No release means that the image will not be accepted by a stockhouse for commercial purposes.

One quick word on photographing children for stock.  If the image is of a single child, most stockhouses will not accept the image for editorial purposes.  They will need multiple children in the image to be acceptable.  Also, for commercial purposes, the legal guardian must be the signer of a minor’s model release form.  It is wise to get both parents to sign when possible.  Remember, people can sue for any reason. You want to set yourself up so that you have a strong case should you need to go to court.

Whew, that was a lot.  Thanks for hanging in there.

Can I get a release signed for a range of dates for stock agencies?

In film we can cover a time period by putting the shooting dates covered:  1/3/14 – 1/15/14 on the release form.

Is it so specific in stock that we actually need to do it everyday even if we have set dates?


Great questions on date range for a model release shoot.

In stock, it depends on the stock agency you are shooting for.  Some will require daily releases while others are more flexible.  Many agencies like the model releases signed after the shoot has occurred on the same day.  This way the model knows the nature of the images that were created and agrees that his/her likeness can be used for commercial purposes.  

Releases signed before the shoot are still legal documents, but those signed after the shoot hold up better in court.  If you do have your model sign before the shoot, be sure to explain how the image may be used.

For example:  I know of a photographer (Nicole Younge AKA Nicolesy) that had a female friend who ended up getting a black eye in an accident.  Nicolesy asked her friend if she could photograph her for stock.  The Nicolesy made sure to tell the model that her likeness may be used in ads about domestic violence BEFORE she signed the model release.  Her friend was cool with it and signed.  

Nicolesy proceeded to shoot a series of images with her for iStock.com photo.  If you want to know how well Nicolesy has done with this shoot, click on each image and view how many times each image has been downloaded.  As to whether any of the images were used for domestic violence or not… yup, here is a link to one site that I found that uses the image for domestic violence.  

Additionally, here are some links to other instances of some of the images being used on the Internet:

Over-the-Top Mailer in Dickerson-North Contest

While you obviously can’t state every possible instance an image can be used in, nor do you want to scare your model away from signing, it is still up to you to educate your model how an image could be used.  Ideally, you do this before the shoot and before they sign.  One way to start is to assure your model how the image will not be used. All stock agencies have limitations on how the licensed images can be used.  It is your responsibility to read these limitations and understand them.  This way you can assure the model that the likeness of the model will not end up on a porn site for fetishes or any site like that.

OK, I ended up going a bit off track there, so let me swing back around to your question.  In short, it may be possible to use a range of dates like film, it depends on your stock agency.  It is best to get releases signed daily after the shoot.  Remember, I am attempting to prepare you to stay out of the courtroom and if you do end up in the courtroom, with the best chance at having the stronger case.