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Why Can’t I Sell the Photo, I Took It!

I received a call from a friend of mine about a month after we attended Photoshop World in Las Vegas. He was excited an agency want to use an image he took at the popular Westcott Shooting booth. He asked me to hunt down the model and get a release form from him. I paused, took a deep breath and searched for the right words to tell him why he can’t use the image. He snapped, “But why can’t I use the image, I took the photo!”. It’s true, he pressed the shutter that snapped the shot that took the photo. So why can’t he in good faith use the image? It’s simple, he didn’t create the image, Westcott did.

There is more to taking a photo than pressing a button.

To create this image, this is what Westcott did:

  • Designed, built and paid for the set.
  • Hired a model.
  • Hired a Hair and Makeup Artist.
  • Purchased the wardrobe.
  • Supplied the lights.
  • Had a Lighting Guru (James Schmelzer) set the lights.

As an added bonus, Westcott offered this shooting bay free to the public on the expo floor.

Is there another option?

Sure, if all parties agree on a price. I suggested he call Westcott and make an offer, plus pay the model and hair and makeup artist. He said, “Why, Westcott already paid the model and hair and makeup artist”. That’s true, but the payment was for the expo, not the right to use the image for advertising.

In the end, he agreed the amount of money the agency was willing to pay wasn’t worth his time and effort to pursue this option. I told him, he could always reshoot the image with a different model using the knowledge he learned from the Westcott booth. He’s still contemplating this option.

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