Sharing Photos of Completed Work

Should a contractor share professional photography he has paid to have done with the owner of the project being photograped? And on what terms? The issues can be complicated. September 3, 2014

Question (WOODWEB Member) :
I just finished a large commercial job and Iím having professional photos taken. The owner of the project knows about the photos and wants them for his advertisements. Whatís the best way to deal with the photos since I'm paying the photographer? Give them away? Charge for the photos? Split the cost of the photographer? Thanks for your input as I would like to know how other custom shops deal with this situation.

Forum Responses
(Business and Management Forum)
From Contributor M:
I would definitely charge. If the customer is looking for portfolio images for their own promotion they can take their own images. Even if your customer were to accredit the work in the photos in their literature (doubtful) I would still be looking for some amount of payment given they are professional photos. The customer can walk around and snap their own photos if they want them. If I walked around a completed job snapping photos on my phone or a personal camera and the customer asked for copies that may be one thing.

From contributor P:
You have already paid for the photos. The cost to give them away at this point is zero. Will you be disadvantaged if he uses these photos in his advertising? Will there be any advantages to you if he uses them? As a matter of policy we always give our customers any photos we have. They can't show them to their friends if they don't have them.

From Contributor G:
Charge him a fee. Why should he be able to take your photos that you paid for and use them to make money for himself? If he questions that just tell him you paid $xx for the photos and he could do the same, or just pay you less for the same thing. I wouldn't sell him them myself. There are always legal ramifications of you both having the same photos. If something ever went wrong with your relationship with him it could cause problems.

From Contributor H:
I think that the fact you need to ask this question shows you see the potential awkwardness of the situation. You could easily insult an otherwise satisfied customer. I'm for giving the photos to him as a thank you for giving you the project. It will help build your good will with this customer. However you could also suggest that there be a small insert in the corner of his advertising photos listing your company as doing the project. If he'll do it you'll gain advertising from your photo investment.

From Contributor U:
I would talk to my customer and ask him that any photos that are used, my name is put on them somewhere saying who did the work. Most customers are fine with this since you did the work and are providing the photos. This way he can pay for advertising and you make sure it has your name on it. You won't upset your customer and most are willing to do this since you are providing the photos. You also get your name out there with the photos having your name on them.

From the original questioner:
I like the idea of having the photos stating who did the work. Normally I would feel great about giving a customer free photos at the end, but this client has worked me over pretty hard. One option I'm considering is to just buy certain images from the photographer that way if my client wants photos he can buy the ones he likes and I'm not involved.

From contributor D:
You did the job, you got paid and you thought enough about your job to pay for photos for your portfolio and future work right? The photos were your idea and your money paid for them. The client wants to show pictures of your work while advertising his business - to me that is a win-win and whether your name is on the photos is a small detail. You and he know who built it. The client paid for the job and it belongs to him. By all rights you should have his permission to take and show those pictures of his property. Would it be possible to burn a disc or two with the pictures on it? How much would it actually cost you? That way he can decide which to use and have them printed.

From the original questioner:
Thanks for all the replies. I'm really trying to find the most professional route. If my client had professional photos taken I would not feel entitled without paying. When you own a small business everyone thinks you can give them stuff for free when in fact it hurts you the most.

From the original questioner:
I'm wondering is if thereís a standard practice when it comes to professional photos. It appears that everyone has their own standard and it mostly depends on the client. I would like to simply have a clause in my contracts stating how photos will be managed so not one client is treated different to the next. That way my disposition doesn't affect the result.

From the original questioner:
This isn't a residential job either. I've never had a residential client get upset about photos nor would I withhold photos to a residential client since they would simply want them for a photo album. This commercial job seems different since the photos will be used for ads and they would normally have to hire a photographer anyway.

From contributor C:
I would go to the professional photographer and ask him what is reasonable. As this is also his work and may be copyrighted. He is also a small business and you are going to give his work away. My wedding photographer's contract with me says all photos are to be used strictly for personal use. He explained to me that he had a wedding hall use some photos he took of a bride for their advertisements and he won in court his royalties. Put the ball in his court and give the owner the photographerís phone. You are not the bad guy either way then.

From contributor S:
Iíve been in this business along time. Here is what I've encountered. Architects want high end photos for their marketing/portfolio. They bring in pro who can charge as much as $10k for a shoot. They then solicit the GC and every sub for participation in the cost, about $1500 typically. Who won't participate, as you want to keep working with these guys. If you're lucky, you might get a shot or two that is pertinent to your work - there is no free ride in business. There is a tactful way to tell your client that you have paid a pro for his time and you would be glad to share the results if cost is shared or credit is given prominently.

From contributor A:
A tactful way of getting the client to contribute to the cost would be to tell them that they should have input into the process to have some control over how their facility and corporate image is represented in the photos. His desires may be different from yours.

From contributor F:
Contributor C hit on a very good point here and I think you should proceed carefully! Regardless of whether or not you decide to charge your client for the photos, you also will need to have permission from the photographer for them to use them and how they can use them! There are different ways you can work out your contract with a photographer, but most want to maintain ownership of the photos. Make sure you have that aspect covered beforehand. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars for a super high end photographer. I spend several hundred per project for a local part time photographer who does great work. I've had two photos of my work appear in local magazines, unfortunately without credit.

From contributor O:

As a professional photographer, I can tell you that this issue comes up quite often. Photographers should explain the parameters of your rights when you hire them. I spell out those parameters in the invoice. For most of my jobs, I license (not sell, I still retain the rights to the photos!) "unlimited, non-exclusive, non-transferrable rights" to my clients. Unlimited means that they can use the photos in perpetuity, non-exclusive means that I can still sell the photos in the future (I always ask the client's permission), and non-transferrable means that the client cannot transfer the rights (give them away) to any other party without my permission. I often have two or more parties share the rights to the photos at the time of the shoot, but at a fair upcharge to the fee. If someone is interested in the photos after the fact, always refer them directly to the photographer.

The photographer is in the business of taking and selling photos. You pay them for their knowledge, ability and expertise, like any good contractor. If you give their photos away to someone else (especially for commercial purposes) it undermines their business, but more importantly, may be illegal. Photo credits should be a given - always offer to credit the photographer, and offer to include a link to their website as well. Keep everything above board and have all parties who want to use the photos pay an honest fee for the photos. Everything stays legal and your photographer will thank you.

From the original questioner:
Nothingís simple in business and based on the wide variety of things shared this topic is proof of that statement. Thereís more than one person/business to accommodate, plus legal issues. Itís great to see how each business thinks.

From contributor L:
Talk to your photographer first. The photos are probably not yours to give or sell. If a prospective client asks for a copy of blueprints from a previous job would you make them a copy? Approach your customer as a respected client and your photographer as a valued partner.