One of the basics of real estate photography that I find there is always a lot of confusion and misunderstandings surrounding is that of who owns the photos from a real estate shoot. Agents are sometimes surprised to find that they can't do anything they want with the photos they get from a photographer and photographers are always surprised to find out that agents don't understand use restrictions.
Here are some considerations that can help communications around this subject:
- Take the time to understand the photo use rules of the MLS in your local area. Many MLSs have rules and conventions that allow the primary exterior photo to be used beyond the current listing. Don't make your photo licensing agreement so it's impossible for the agent to comply with both your agreement and the MLS rules.
- Think through and document your photo licensing expectations and take the time to review them with new clients. It wouldn't hurt to have new clients sign a photo usage agreement, but at least give it to clients and have a discussion about your expectations. Most agents just don't have a clue about photo licensing but if they understand your expectations they will go out of their way to comply. In a previous post on this subject I listed what is considered the standard practice for most real estate photographers.
- Some photographers, notably open2view.com franchisees, give ownership of the photos to their client. I bring this up because if you are competing in a market with an open2view franchise this may be a competitive advantage for open2view. Ownership of the photos by the client is unusual, most photographers license photos for a specific use.
- In a recent flickr discussion, Scott Hargis raised a good practical approach to the conundrum I point out in 1. Scott says. "There's a third option, which has never failed me yet --- just telling the "new" agent that the photos are copyrighted by me, and they have to pay me -- and that includes the primary exterior. I don't think most agents are really up on the fine print of MLS rules to begin with, and even if technically that one photo is up for grabs, I can still appeal to altruism; after all, right is right, fair is fair, and most people understand that and are willing to play nicely."
I hear about a lot of misunderstandings about the use of real estate photos. Most of these misunderstandings can be avoided by establishing, documenting and discussing your photo licensing policy with clients upfront. As Scott says, " most people are willing to play nicely"