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A Video about Real Estate Photography Licensing by Jordan Powers

Published: 07/03/2019

Jordan Powers sent me this video he made explaining real estate photography licensing. He originally made this video to give to the agents he works with. Jordan's YouTube channel is a weekly real estate photography vlog you may want to check out.

I like the idea of having a video you can give to your clients that explains photo licensing.

Photo licensing is a subject that we've talked about for many years on PFRE and I wanted to distill the insights that have come out of those years of discussions. Here's my attempt at a summary:

  1. Only 49% of real estate photographers discuss this subject with their clients because they don't relicense their photos. This, of course, contributes to agents lack of understanding of photo licensing.
  2. Even if you don't intend to relicense photos it's a good idea to discuss photo licensing or send Jordan's video to each client. Otherwise, you are likely to find your client giving your photos away to others.
  3. Real estate photographers that do intend to relicense their photos should have a written license agreement and have each client sign it a least once. Although Joel Rothman would recommend that clients sign a license agreement for each shoot.
  4. Your MLS may claim that by uploading listing photos to the MLS site, you (the agent) transfer ownership or copyright of the photos to the MLS.  Court cases have shown this to be false. The agent cannot transfer the copyright because they do not own the copyright. Copyright can only be transferred via a signed document.
Larry Lohrman

8 comments on “A Video about Real Estate Photography Licensing by Jordan Powers”

  1. Thanks Jordan. An issue for me right now - and I've been having a few of these lately! Real Estate Agencies in Australia often tend to pass 'their' sale listing photos down to their new property purchaser/s to then on-use for their property management purposes - if listing the rental through the same agent that they purchased through. It's a touchy subject to broach when the listing agent gives you a good deal of work, but then you lose out because the photos are then used to rent the sold property out. I will attempt to utilise some of your well communicated licensing facts and information for this scenario in my upcoming conversations with clients.

  2. Really useful video this, thanks Larry for posting: it stresses the onward value aspect of the images we create for clients..and while Real Estate imagery might have a short term value in the scheme of things, our images are still working hard to contribute to that all-important sale. There seems to be an unwritten assumption that RE photography is equivalent to what they call "work made for hire" i.e. client effectively purchases unlimited rights to use, distribute and share images wherever and to whomever (e.g allowing a kitchen company to use pictures on their site for years forward). This arrangement is something one might agree to for a straightforward assignment like covering an event (you are still not giving up copyright with this method). But I think that even Real Estate photography should conform to the licensing model: doesn't matter how small the fee is for that licence to use images, the key principle is that the licence cannot be transferred to a third party (who may derive far more value from the images : eg builder looking to use them for several years on their website). Sure it can be a touchy subject to broach with agents but as industry we must value our work.

  3. Excellent. And a good video to show to start this discussion with clients. But also, I have this spelled out on my price list that I supply to my new clients before starting work with them and I have this discussion right at the front end of a relationship so they understand the process and the laws. Advertising agencies all know this since they work with photo ownership and copyright issues all the time. But ordinary folks probably don't. The parallel with buying music as CDs or downloaded make a good way to get the idea across.

  4. I keep it really simple with my clients by telling them I own the images regardless of (meaningless) MLS "copyright" notices, that my client has a nonexclusive right to use the unaltered images for their personal marketing efforts, AND SO they cannot sell, lend, or give away something that they do not own.

    Even so - like everyone else in this forum - I have found that some expired listings' photos have made their way to being used by a new agent. I investigate and tell the new agent to take them down OR pay a relatively small fee to me. No problems yet - they always pay the reasonable fee. It really only happens three or four times a year.

  5. My question for Phil Tuggle is why are the images you created for one agent ... worth less to another? Seriously, everyone who produces work, deserves to get what they charge for it...from everyone.

  6. Jerry, it sounds like you may sell the images to a subsequent agent for the same price as the original agent paid, which is what I do. However, I often wonder what my reaction would be if the second agent gave me a choice of giving them a discount on images already created or getting me to go and re-shoot the property for my normal fee. Thankfully it's never happened!

  7. Matt, I give the new agent the choice of either coming out and re shooting the property or take what I have already created.

    If they want me to come out, then I remind them that the property should be cleaned, staged and ready to go when I get there to meet them. Rarely has a property maintained its "staged" look after changing realtors. If they want to put the effort in to bring it back up to snuff, inside and out, then good for them. But most of the time the realtor sees the value of saving their time, their clients frustration of having to go through the process, etc.

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