Art Licensing: What You Should Know to Keep Your Photography Yours



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In the age of social media, it’s getting harder and harder to protect your art from theft. While brands and companies rely on artists more than ever, the process of art licensing is still unclear for many people.

If you’re a photographer, you need to know the ins and outs of image licensing so that you can profit off of your hard work.

Keep reading to find out what you need to know about licensing your photos. Using a website like TopFoto can make it easier for both photographers and companies to avoid usage issues.

The Importance of Art Licensing

Art licensing is the process of letting a company use your photos for commercial products. For example, they may put your images on their bottles, books, or clothes. This is a different way to make money than selling one-time prints directly to buyers.

If you’re interested in making a living as an artist, then licensing is one avenue that can allow you consistent revenue. When art sales are slow, you can take advantage of royalties or one-time payments from the art you’ve licensed.

How to Submit Art for Licensing

Licensing art requires companies to notice you and develop an interest in your work. There are several steps you can take to get noticed by these companies.

For starters, you need to know your rights. In the UK, your original photo is protected by copyright as soon as you create it. This protection means that legally, no one can use your work without your permission as long as you live.

With that part covered, here’s what you can do to get your art noticed:

Post Your Work Online

Whether you have your own website or use an image hosting site, you want to have a solid online portfolio. When a company comes across your work, they’ll want the chance to find out more about you and your style easily.

It is easiest to pick an aesthetic that you do well so that the company can get a sense of your brand. Try to create images in batches so that you have more than one option for a brand deal.

Social media is another opportunity to put yourself out there. You don’t have to have a massive following for a business owner to notice you. If you attempt to connect with people genuinely, you never know what may happen.

Reach Out to Companies

When you use an image hosting site, companies can find you without you having to message them directly.

However, you can still gain exposure by contacting people you’d like to work with. Create a list of companies that match your aesthetic, do your research, and ask them about partnership.

Researching allows you the chance to get to know your market. Find out what similar artists have done, and don’t waste your time pitching to brands that aren’t in your niche.

Make Prototypes

Art licensing companies want to be able to visualize your work on their products. If you know you want to partner with a dishware company, post images of your photos on mugs or glassware.

Often, you can find online tools to create mock-ups of product designs. Having a diverse portfolio can set you apart if a company is considering multiple artists.

Understanding Your Licensing Deal

Knowing the different art licensing deal types is crucial to getting what you deserve.

For instance, one company may want you to create new work for them. Meanwhile, another company wants to use some work you already have. If you use a licensing site, the site may take care of the deal-making and any shipping or manufacturing costs needed.

The first part of your deal that you’ll want to clarify is the ownership. Will you still own the rights to your images? Can you sell the art to other companies?

Make sure the terms of the contract are clear. If a company wants exclusive rights, that means you cannot use the photos you took for any other purpose. It can also give that company power to license your art elsewhere and cut you out of the deal.

Similarly, you need to know the length of the contract. How long will the company want to use your images? Come to a mutually beneficial agreement about when you’ll want to renew or cancel your terms.

Lastly, you should know how you’ll be paid. Negotiate a fair royalty agreement for your work depending on the type of product. If you aren’t sure, do some research about the standard rates for your genre.

How to Source a Licensed Image

As a business owner, knowing how to use a licensed image is crucial. You don’t want to infringe on copyright and face legal trouble. So, how do you use a picture once you’ve found the perfect one?

An online image gallery will often outline the terms for use. There are usually different levels you can choose from depending on how you wish to commercialize the photo.

You should decide if you want the photo for social media, a website, a logo, or a product. You may need to negotiate additional rights for some of these options.

If you’re using a site where you can license free images, they’ll take care of this process. The only thing you’ll need to determine is what size and type of photo would work best to meet your goal. For instance, a photo for digital use should be smaller than one for print use.

Easy Licensing With TopFoto

If you’re looking for top-notch images to license for your business, TopFoto has a wide selection. We have photographs that span across many eras and topics, and we make the art licensing process simple.

Browse our curated collections to find the perfect image today.


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