Images are the intellectual property of the creator (photographer), but for that property to generate income, photographers have to know their production costs, the value of their work, and the value of the usage their client is licensing The business of professional photography is broken into three main categories of use:
- Commercial refers to photography that is used to sell or promote a product, service, or idea.
- Editorial refers to photography used for educational or journalistic purposes.
- Retail refers to photography commissioned or purchased for personal use
The difference between these categories is not in the type of photography, but in the use of the images. For example, suppose that a corporation hires a photographer to document a product launch event.
For the corporation, the type of photography being commissioned is event coverage, and the use is commercial because the corporation will use the photographs to promote their new product. For a local newspaper covering the same product launch, the use would be editorial.
An example of retail photography would be a wedding, which is also event coverage — but now the work is categorized as retail because the end use is personal.
While some photographers concentrate in one of these three areas, it is not unusual for a photographer to work in multiple arenas, making it imperative to understand the business practices and pricing structures of each.
Commercial, editorial or retail, photographs are intellectual property. Unless you are an employee or have contractually transferred ownership, the photographer becomes the owner of this property when they create the image. Licensing this property for specific uses is how the photographers business generates gross income.