Ask An Agent / 'Off The Shelf' Photography

Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column that answers all your dilemmas about the business of photography – a sort of photography agony aunt. Whatever area of the industry you are in, if you have any questions you’d like to ask please send them to LisaASKanAgentsmaller

This month on Ask an Agent, a question that comes up now and again from our clients , so I thought it would be helpful to publish the answer by kind courtesy of Peter.

Dear Ask and Agent,

I need to get together a bank of images by the same photographer for a client of mine (I’m a freelance creative and they are a large media company). I don’t think they would have the budget to commission this time, although if the images work well they may be persuaded to next year. I don’t really want to go the photo library route as the images will all be by different photographers and won’t be consistent. Would it be possible to have access to one of you photographers back catalogues to choose a collection of images? I probably need about 50. I thought this might be a good middle ground and will give my client access to a photographic vibe that they can buy off the shelf and use to re-energise their visual cache.

Peter Robinson

Thanks very much for your question Peter. Although this is a nice idea in theory, in practice I’m afraid you might come up against a few barriers if you need to licence a large amount of existing imagery by the same photographer. (Although never say never and if you can give me a few more specifics, I can certainly have look; for example are you looking for more lifestyle, ‘real' looking shots of people in real situations or something slightly more stylised/aspirational/filmic. Spontaneous moments or posed? Do you need people in the shots at all? What sort of locations are they in?).

PH © Patrick Harrison / British Gas

The issues you might come up against with licensing a 'back catalogue’ are namely :

• The images might be still licensed to someone else if they have been commissioned, so can’t be used. • The images might be in a photo library already. Photographers who are known for their commissioned work can also be signed to photo libraries. • With regards to images featuring models you would need to get a model release signed for the usage your client specifically needs. ( i.e for their specific brand/ product, what media, how long and where) It could be very time consuming to track people in the pictures down if they aren’t from model agencies, if possible at all. And if they are professional models, it could be just as expensive as booking a model from scratch.

KH © Kerry Harrison / Lloyd Northover / Regent's University

Sorry to be a bit of a naysayer about it. But the good news is I could prepare some figures for say a 2 to 3 day shoot to produce a bank of images based on your client’s specific brand guidelines. Then they can have exclusive, tailor made photography that no-one else can use and own the look totally. We could look at street casting to keep costs down on models and produce about 50 images with a buyout over 3 days for example— roughly 3-4 different scenarios a day with multiple images from each scenario- scenarios being particular models, location and styling for example a family on sofa or a couple on a beach.

As you can see it really might be easier, quicker and cheaper to commission from scratch when you need a whole bank of images. Let me know what you think!?

Please Note: We reserve the right to shorten questions due to space constraints.  We reserve the right not to enter into ongoing correspondence.  We reserve the right not to answer all questions. Please state whether you would like to remain anonymous.  This advice should be taken as a guide only. Lisa Pritchard and LPA take no responsibility for any omissions or errors. Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.