Should I Charge a Licensing Renewal Fee?

Should I Charge a Licensing Renewal Fee?


LG Asks: I am an architectural photographer just starting out my business. I have downloaded the APA contract template as well as read articles about licensing. I had a question in regards to renewing a license. For example, when I photograph for a client and all goes well and licenses photos to the client for 5 years. After 5 years, the photographer has the right to limit the use of photographs. Say the client would like to use them for another 5 years. How would you price a license renewal (if that is an option) or does the photographer completely limit the usage of photographs and if the client wants more photos, client shall schedule another photoshoot?

There are a few ways to do this, and it depends on the client. For example, a designer or architect probably does not want to deal with re-licensing images every five years. In these situations I provide a license with an unlimited time frame because many years down the road, that architect may want to use the images in a monograph or continue to use them on their website.

For corporate clients, there is a bit of a different story. You are licensing images based on their usage, which is often times not perpetual. If you photograph an advertisement for a carpet company or a drapery company, those images will probably have to be refreshed every few years, and I bet you probably will not find a drapery company that wants to produce a monograph of their work. To go one step further, in advertising photography, licenses are valued based on the duration, audience, and placement of images. For example, if you photographed an ad for a movie, you should be compensated for a photograph based on where it appears, how long it appears, etc.

The five years mentioned in the contract is usually a minimum when dealing with large real estate developments, hotels, etc. As a developer sells off condos in a building, they have less of a need for images, often whittling them down to a handful of images five years after the first condos go on sale in a new building. Hotels often refresh decor every 4-7 years, and usually want their images to be good for at least that long. Feel free to plug in numbers with certain clients to reflect their needs when amending your contract, but do know that certain industry standards dictate a certain length of time for licensing commissioned images. No architect in 2021 is ever going to hire a photographer who puts a five year usage cap on images, but there are photographers every day photographing ads putting time limits on usage for good reason.

Mike Kelley is an architecture and interiors photographer who has photographed projects all over the world. He is a self proclaimed airplane food enthusiast and the founder of the Architectural Photography Almanac.
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