Frequently Asked Questions about Architectural Photography


Q. Who owns the photographs after a shoot?

A. The photographer does. Since the Copyright Act of 1976, photographers sell the right to use images they've created rather than the photographs themselves. Only she or he, as the copyright holder, has the right to license their use.


Q. What if I am given a photograph?

A. Contact the photographer to discuss usage. Physical possession of photographic material, such as digital files, prints, slides, or transparencies, does not grant the right to reproduce the images. Without specific permission from the photographer, it is a violation of federal copyright law to reproduce photographs in any form, including color copying and scanning. Under the 1976 Federal Copyright Act and the Bern International Copyright Agreement, photographs automatically receive copyright protection even if a copyright notice is not displayed. Absence of the copyright notice does not relieve the prospective user from the responsibility of obtaining permission from the copyright holder.


Q. What if a publication, contractor or manufacturer wants to use the photographs?

A. Contact the photographer before passing the photographs along to colleagues, suppliers and publishers, or have them contact the photographer directly. Usage rights cannot be transferred by the client, except with written consent of the copyright holder.


Q. Why is this so important?

A. Photographic reproduction has always been a valued means of income for photographers. These days the fees charged for reproductive use of photographs are based upon how widely and how often the photographs are to be used. The dollar amount is also commensurate with the profit the user will realize with their use. For example, an architect in a small office using photos in portfolios and award submissions will pay a lower rate for usage than would a window manufacturer using the photos in a national print ad campaign costing hundreds of thousands of dollars. Broader usage increases the value of an image, and fees are adjusted accordingly.


Q. What is Multiple Client Usage?

A. When more than one party pays for the rights to use the photography, it is called multi-client usage. For example, architects often split the cost of a shoot with the contractor or other parties involved in construction. Fees in this situation will be greater due to the increase in usage. However, each party will still realize savings compared to the prospect of paying for photography on their own.


Q. Who can use the images in a Multiple Client arrangement?

A. The photographs can be used by those licensed in the agreement. If a number of commissioning clients share in the cost of an assignment, each party considers their specific needs, receives a copy of the agreement with their needs specified, and signs the agreement before work begins. The AIA, American Institute of Architects and ASMP, American Society of Media Photographers, have jointly developed a set of documents called "Commissioning Architectural Photography", which describes today's best practices for hiring photographers. It can be read and downloaded from ASMP under "Creative Community" at

Phone: 215-451-2767     Email: