Copyright and Photography

Copyright photographs are everywhere. Online image search functions makes finding pictures so quick and simple it is easy to forget that those images are probably protected by copyright.  Most photographs found online belong to someone and you will need their permission before you use them.  In this post I will briefly explain what copyright is and how you can avoid falling foul of the law when selecting photographs for your blog or website.

What is Copyright?

Copyright is an automatic protection applied to all photographs at their creation.  Copyright grants the copyright owner, the exclusive right to profit financially from the work and maintain full control of the work.  The copyright owner can control reproduction of the work, distribution, communication to the public, public performance, adaption and public performance. This means if you want to use a photograph on your website you need to get the permission of the copyright owner before you do so. There is no differentiation between personal site and commercial ones in relation to using copyright photographs.  It is not necessary for photographs to be marked with a copyright symbol to be protected.

Who Owns the Copyright of Photographs?

The owner of the copyright of a photograph can vary depending on the status of the photographer.  Any photographer taking photographs for themselves or for clients will own the copyright of those images.  Where a photographer is employed and takes photographs as part of that employment the copyright of the photographs will be owned by the company.  If you commission a photographer to take photographs for you, the photographer will own the copyright. You will need to get permission if you want to use the photographs for purposes other than those for which the pictures were originally taken.  The photographer however will have the moral obligation not to use images taken for you for other purposes without your permission.

How Long Does Copyright Last?

Copyright will generally last for the lifetime of the photographer plus 70 years. This is the case for all photographs taken since 1989, different rules apply to images taken before this date. You should do your research thoroughly before using older photographs.

What are the Penalties for Copyright Infringement?

If you are caught using copyright images without permission the copyright owner can pursue you for payment of licensing fees.  They can also take legal action against you which can be costly.  In some cases fines  can be up to £50,000 and in some cases custodial sentences can be given.

How Can I Make Sure I am Safe?

There are several ways to make sure you don’t fall foul of copyright laws when selection photographs for use in your blogs and websites. Below are my three top tips:

  1. Licence photographs from a reputable picture library such as or  These companies have large databases of pictures covering a wide range of subjects which can be easily searched.  Licenses start from just £9.99 which is a small price to pay for please of mind.
  2. Commission a photographer to take photographs for your specific need. Hiring a professional photographer may be more cost effective than licensing lots of individual images. Many photographers can be hired for set time periods during which time they can take many pictures for you.
  3. Take your own photographs – this way you own the copyright and can use the pictures as you want.

Copyright is a complicated subject which I have only scratched the surface of here.  The above overview relates to UK copyright laws, laws in other countries my be different.  More information about copyright and photographs information can be found in the links below.

If you would like to know more about copyright you may be interested in my ebook Questions about Copyright available to purchase hereYou may also be interested in my Copyright Toolkit free to download from here

If you would like a FREE themed pack of photos for use on your social media channels please visit my Freebies and Offers page.  These photos are all taken by me and as long as you only use them for the purposed stated

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