Photo Licensing Agreement

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Photo Licensing Agreement Page 1
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Updated May 5, 2024
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A photo licensing agreement is a legal contract that permits a person or company to use an image owned by another individual. The document will detail what the image is, along with how the other party can use the image and whether they can manipulate the picture. Complete this Lawrina template with our article below and download it in PDF on your device in minutes.

Template Description

Paper named "Photo Licensing Agreement"; male and female looking at a screen with a picture and a player

A photo licensing agreement is necessary to state the applicable terms between a person who requires the use of a picture and the owner of the picture. Both parties may use a photo licensing agreement template to negotiate and clearly state the agreed terms in the contract. A breach of the agreement may provide sufficient cause for either harmed party to seek legal redress.

A photo copyright license agreement sample provides opportunities to all involved parties. While the licensor may earn money for the use of their photo, the licensee protects their work using the photo from legal consequences that may lead to a loss of rights or income. 

What Is a Photo Licensing Agreement?

A photo licensing agreement is a legal contract that guides the use of a photograph according to its owner's preference. This simple royalty agreement template specifies ownership of the image, describes permitted usage, and also includes the allowed duration of usage for a photo. The average photo licensing agreement template features a copyright owner and a licensee, which may be an individual or a company. However, if the agreement does not confer exclusive rights to one licensee, the owner may license the same image to other people.

Parties of the Photo Licensing Agreement

Typically, a photo licensing agreement involves two parties, including:

  • The licensor is the person or entity that owns the image. This entity maintains the copyright and may license the image to one or more licensees. The licensor decides what the image is used for and for how long another party may use the photo. An image owner may use a photo licensing agreement template to create a contract offer for a potential licensee.
  • The licensee acquires rights to an image from a licensor. After both parties have agreed to the terms of the photo licensing agreement, the licensee may access and use the image only as specified. Licensees who use images outside of the scope of a photo license agreement may be subject to legal action. Sometimes, a photo licensing agreement template may allow a licensee to sub-license an image.

Key Terms

A photo license agreement outlines responsibilities and conditions governing the use of a photograph, and it contains a few terms that all related parties must understand. The average photographer contract maker template contains the following language: 

  • License: A license is the legal permission received from the owner of an image to use the image as allowed by the signed agreement. There are several different types of licenses, each one describing different terms and conditions.

  • Licensor: This is the person or entity who owns the image and retains the copyright. This person or entity dictates the terms governing the use of the image and includes those terms in a photo license agreement. The licensor may also create the photo licensing agreement template and may alter terms and conditions depending on negotiations with the licensee.  

  • Licensee: A licensee obtains permission to use an image from a licensor. The licensee only uses the image as allowed by the contract.

  • Copyright: The copyright is an exclusive legal right held by the creator of an image. Copyrights may be held temporarily or in perpetuity, depending on specific circumstances or contracts. In most cases, the entity holding a copyright may publish, display, or otherwise use the image according to law.

  • Photo licensing agreement template: This is a template that contains basic details required for a valid photo licensing agreement. A licensor and a licensee may negotiate terms and edit the template until both parties are satisfied.

The Consequences of Not Having a Photo License

Photo licenses are essential for several reasons. Photographers, artists, and creators who use images without permission may expose themselves to certain risks. 

Likely consequences for licensors include:

  1. Loss of Control: A photo license ensures that the copyright holder has control of their image. It also ensures that use of the image is only allowed under the terms of the signed photo licensing agreement template. For instance, an owner can permit a licensee to publish an image online but restrict them from using it on a product label or a t-shirt. Without a photo license, the copyright holder loses control and cannot limit use of the image.

  2. Loss of Revenue: Creators profit by selling rights to third parties. An image owner can license that image to one or more private or commercial entities to open multiple income streams via one image. There are also several types of licensing a copyright holder may enforce with a licensee according to the photo licensing agreement template used. Copyright holders without a photo license cannot monetize their work and therefore risk losing potential revenue.

For licensees, using an image without a license may result in the following consequences:

  1. Inability to Legally Use the Image: Unless the owner has freely published an image, you cannot legally use it for any purpose. Anyone who needs to use such an image must ensure they negotiate terms with the copyright holder using a photo licensing agreement template.

  2. Loss of Exclusivity: Without a photo license, anyone can use the same image you use. This means there is no exclusivity to your application of the image, and you cannot ensure that the general public associates the photo with you, your product, or your image.

Who Can Use a Digital Image License Agreement?

Several entities that use photos for business or personal branding may need a digital image license agreement to legally use a photo. Entities that use digital image license agreements include photographers, models, and marketing companies.


A photographer can use a photo license agreement template to sell a license and make money from their pictures. Licenses help photographers generate revenue from their work, control specific use of their photos, and create multiple streams of income for themselves.


Brands and small or large companies use models to advertise their goods and services. Sometimes, a brand may enter a deal with a model and retain full rights to all images created. However, models may also sell a pre-existing image to a potential licensee using a photo licensing agreement template.

Marketing Companies

A marketing company helps brands, celebrities, and other companies, with publicity and advertising. This process usually involves using images for hype and attention. Typically, marketing companies need certain images to run specific client campaigns. These companies must negotiate with copyright holders and sign digital image license agreements to legally use copyrighted photos for their campaigns.

What Should Be Included in a Photo Licensing Agreement?

A photo licensing agreement should clearly describe the responsibilities of all involved parties. The details may be simple or complex, depending on the terms negotiated by the licensor and licensee. A comprehensive photo license agreement template used to create a contract should contain the following:

  • Parties: A photo license agreement must clearly state the parties involved. The names of each person or entity are essential to the agreement, in addition to which party is the licensor and licensee. A photo license agreement template should have space for these parties to be defined.

  • Image use: A licensing agreement must specify the terms of image use. This typically varies and may depend on what the licensee needs, as well as the owner's preference. Images can be used for retail, commercial, or editorial purposes. Specific uses may include advertising, online, print, and television. Depending on party preferences and the photo license agreement template used, image application may also be restricted to specific geographical locations.

  • Payments and Fees: A digital image license agreement must include the total cost of the license. Parties should also agree on payment specifics, such as mode and intervals. A free photo license agreement may contain usable options.

  • Time Frame: All parties should know exactly how long the contract lasts. This avoids disputes and lets the licensee plan and use the photo.

How To Write a Photo Usage License Agreement

Only a few easy steps are required to write a comprehensive photo usage license agreement. Anyone can create a contract from a free photo licensing agreement template which should include the following:

  1. Specify parties: You may begin drafting the photo license agreement by specifying the parties by name. The agreement should mention each person or entity’s name, and indicate whether they are the licensor or licensee.

  2. Describe the image: While creators may attach copies of the image to the contract, the contract also must describe the image. The description may provide specific image details and also state whether it is a photograph or artwork.

  3. Specify license type: Depending on the copyright holder's preference, a creator may explore different types of licenses. For instance, an exclusive rights license allows the licensee to use the photo and prevents anyone else from using it until the contract expires. On the other hand, a non-exclusive agreement allows the licensee free usage as specified by the contract, but also lets others use the image.

  4. Write permissions: The licensor may allow unrestricted use of the image. However, some licensors may specify permitted usage, or firmly restrict application in the photo license agreement template used to draft the contract. A free photo license agreement template may provide parties with permission options.

  5. Include time frame: A photo license agreement template must specify a duration of use. The licensee in each agreement must clearly understand how long they may use the image.

  6. Specify licensing fees: The licensor may ask for a specific amount upfront or prefer to collect royalties as the licensee uses the image. Either way, the type of license may determine applicable fees, as an exclusive license is usually more expensive than a non-exclusive one.

  7. Sign: An agreement only becomes valid after both parties have added their names and signatures. If either party is unhappy with one or more conditions, negotiations may resume using the photo license agreement template as a starting point.

How To Use a Digital Image License Agreement

There are many different ways to use a digital image license agreement. Most uses may be classified under the following:

Common Use Cases

  • Editorial use: A newspaper, magazine, or online publication may use an image with a published post or article. Establishments like these can only publish images if the photo license agreement template used allows for editorial purposes.

  • Commercial use: This use case applies when a company or business sells or promotes a product or service. Photos used in their commercial campaigns require permission covering commercial use.

  • Retail use: Here, licensees may use images for personal use, such as for private artwork or portraits. The licensee may also print the image on personal surfaces or items, provided that using the image is not used for editorial or commercial purposes. Both parties can specify terms using a free photo licensing agreement.

When Not To Use the Photo Licensing Agreement

A photo licensing agreement is necessary to use an image you do not own. However, many scenarios exist where a photo license agreement may not be required to use an image. Some include the following:

  1. The image is a free photo.
  2. You have no intention of retail, commercial, or editorial use.
  3. You have no rights to the image.
  4. You are the copyright holder and are using the image for your own purpose.

Laws & Regulations

Copyright requirements and provisions depend largely on U.S. federal copyright legislation. Any photo license agreement must adhere to these provisions. According to the Federal Copyright Act, only the copyright holder can:

  1. Reproduce copyrighted work;

  2. Create derivatives based on the copyrighted work; or

  3. Distribute copies to the public by selling or otherwise transferring ownership.

Copyright law automatically applies to all works at the point of creation. The creator is not required to apply to the Copyright Office or notify any authority, for federal copyright protection to take effect. However, a creator cannot bring an infringement lawsuit without first registering the work. The following requirements are necessary for the Federal Copyright Act to apply: 

The Fixation Requirement

Copyright law requires that all works of authorship must be “fixed in any tangible medium of expression” through which a person can perceive it, whether directly or indirectly with the aid of a machine or device” (17 U.S.C. § 102(a)). A work of authorship should also be “sufficiently permanent or stable” enough to be perceived for a reasonable period (17 U.S.C. § 101).

The Human Authorship Requirement

The U.S. Copyright Office will not register any work not created by a human. This means that copyright protection will not apply to works produced by an animal or nature. For instance, photographs or paintings done by a monkey or other animal, or a copyright application based on markings found naturally on a rock or in the ocean, do not satisfy this requirement.

The Originality Requirement

The work must be original and not directly copied from another. However, this requirement does not compel novelty, as copyrighted works may closely resemble another. In addition, a copyright work must possess some creativity, however minimal.

You should note that you cannot copyright an idea. The U.S. Federal Copyright Act protects creations that meet the above requirements but does not prevent the general public from copying or using the ideas expressed in the original work.

Frequently Asked Questions

Do all stock photos come with a license?

No. Not all stock photos come with a license. A stock photo is an image created and made available for others to use. However, photographers or creators may not always sell licenses to use their images. Sometimes, the photographer may simply ask to be credited as the owner.

Is it permissible to utilize stock photos?

Yes, if they are royalty-free. There are many websites where photographers and other creators submit their work for free use by the general public. Users should note that any photo not freely published may require a license or payment before use.

Are there any royalties for photographers?

Yes. Some photographers sell rights to their images for a specified time and may receive payment as the buyer uses the image, or request a one-time payment for the photo's perceived value. However, photographers may also receive royalties. This is usually a percentage received for each sale or applied use of the photo. A photo license agreement template should provide for royalty negotiations where required.

What are the different types of photo licensing agreements?

Licensees may use images only as specified by the contract terms, such as the type of photo licensing permitted. The following are the most common types of photo licenses, depending on the photo license agreement template used:

  • Rights-managed license: This type of license requires the licensor to manage the use of the image in specific ways. For instance, the photo licensing agreement template used for a rights-managed contract may specify that the image may be used on physical print and not online. The license may also impose geographical limitations on usage.
  • Royalty-free license: Images sold via a royalty-free license cost a one-time fee. The buyer does not pay the copyright holder any extra fees and may not suffer restrictions on image use.
  • Unlimited use license: An unlimited use license does not restrict usage. The licensee can use the image for nearly any purpose and across all locations. However, licensees should note that unlimited use only covers image usage and not the duration of the license.
  • Exclusive and Non-Exclusive License: A license is exclusive when the licensee is the only person allowed to use the image until the contract expires. This means that the license is the only source of revenue for the copyright holder for that image. For a non-exclusive license, the licensee can use the image as the photo license agreement allows. However, the copyright holder can freely license the image to others at the same time.
How much should I charge for photo licensing?

The amount chargeable for a photo depends on multiple factors. For instance, since an exclusive license restricts the owner’s income, it is typically a lot more expensive than a non-exclusive license. The permitted usage, potential market size, geographical location allowed for the photo's use, and other factors contained in the photo license agreement template used may also contribute to pricing.

What does having exclusive rights to photos mean?

A licensee with exclusive rights to a photo is the only entity allowed to use the photo until the contract's expiration. Entities with these rights are assured that no other person, company, brand, or business may use the photo as long as the contract is valid.