Authors and Writers Get the Skinny on Purchasing and Using Photos

© is the copyright symbol in a copyright notice

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Question: This is a two-part question. First, I use photos to accompany or enhance my blog posts. Some clients expect me to incorporate photos into a blog post or article I write for them. Do I need to purchase extra licenses? As a freelance writer my business is writing, not photography. Second, what kind of license would I need if I wanted purchase an illustration or photo for a book I wrote? If I self-publish, am I better off using the self-publisher‘s graphic designer and or illustrator? Help!

Answer: These are excellent questions and a good sign you’re aware of copyright protection.

Photos for freelance writing clients

Most clients have their own stock photography; you shouldn’t be stressed about it. If you need to purchase or find photos from a stock photography site, a photo can be used once (at least this is my understanding) in a blog post or article. For example, if you purchase a photo from iStock, Bigstock Photos, Fotolia, etc. you’ll be able to use the photo one time for a specific client. You can’t reuse photos for all clients, unless, you purchase additional license agreements. Reading and interpreting license agreements can be a tricky. When in doubt, always ask questions before your purchase photos. Each stock photography company has different licensing terms. However, the goal is the same; to protect the copyright of artists.

The bottom line for you, the freelance writer, is selling your writing and not worrying about photos. Of course, if you’re interviewing someone and writing an article for a magazine or newspaper, you can take your own photos or have the publication’s photographer take photos.

Adding a photo is nothing more than an ‘enhancement’ to a blog post or article; your main focus is writing. If you’re a freelance writer who ‘dabbles’ in photography, feel free to sell clients your photos separately or as part of a writing package. To ease your anxiety about purchasing photos (if you have any), you may consider telling a client your focus freelance writing. They’ll have to purchase photos.

Artwork for book covers

You may consider using the services offered to you by a self-publisher or hiring a freelance graphic designer or illustrator. Traditional publishers also have graphic designers and illustrators. Again, it will behoove you to ask questions such as:

● Who owns the rights to the artwork?

● Is the artwork licensed to me, the author?

● Where did you purchase the artwork from?

● Can I reuse the artwork?

All of this may sound like paranoia, but it’s better to err on the side of caution. When I worked for a real estate and development corporation, we used to say, “CYA” which stands for ‘Cover Your A**”

BTW: Artists appreciate knowing how and where their photos are used. If you use ‘royalty free’ photos from Stock Exchange or some other site, send the artist an email and link to your writing.

As an author or writer, you want to understand copyright protection. The more you know and understand the better for you and your writing (freelance) career. There’s nothing wrong with investigating and making sure you dot the “I’s” and cross the “T’s.” Not only does it protect you, it protects your clients. Artists are also protected; all they want is credit and recognition. Isn’t this what we all want?


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