If You Shoot It.

You own it.

Kenneth Jarecke


It might not be much, but it’s mine. Kenneth Jarecke / Contact Press Images

Phil Collins and his bandmates just sold their music rights for over $300 million. The reason they could do that is because they owned the rights to their own music. The reason they owned their rights is because they never signed them away in the first place.

Luckily, if you’re a creative working for yourself, you own your rights as well.

As an artist, and in this case, photographers fall into that category, if you shoot it, you own it.

With photography that’s as simple as pushing a button. When you push the button it is yours, even if it’s just sitting on a card in your camera. The only way you stop owning it is by signing a contract that transfers that ownership to another party.

Your work has value. That’s why publishers and agencies demand that you sign away your rights as a condition to working for them.

Think about it, they’re in business to make money. If they’re paying you to create something for them, they’re going to sell it to someone else. That’s after anything they publish themselves. That’s the only reason they need to own your work outright. They don’t need to own your copyright just to publish your picture in a newspaper. That’s what licensing fees are for.

Bob Dylan sold his music rights for about $400 million. Bruce Springsteen’s rights brought him about half a billion dollars.

Unlike these guys, if you sign a work for hire agreement, which most of you do, you will never be able to profit from your work again.

All you’ll get is the day-rate that you accepted in the first place after you signed their contract. What did that get you… $500 or so?

How much would it have cost you to rent the gear you used to complete that job? I’m betting more than you got paid.

Don’t think that Collins, Dylan or Springsteen were never badgered by some producer or record company to sign over their rights. All of them heard the “you’ll never work again” threat or “everybody does it” plea, more than once. They were broke at the time as well. They were experiencing the same financial hardships many of us are feeling today.

You are better off not getting published, not getting a sideline pass, or not…



Kenneth Jarecke

I'm a husband, dad, photographer, a writer (sort of), an occasional rancher and the Founder of The Curious Society. https://www.curious-society.org