I recently received an email from a new mom interested in booking a newborn photo shoot. Actually, she had been on the verge of hiring another photographer when she reached out to me. She had concerns about photography copyright and was worried about the contract wording that the other photographer had presented. She was also frustrated that the photographer wouldn’t show her every image from their photo shoot.

As an experienced family and newborn photographer, I’ve encountered copyright concerns over the years. I took some time to reply to her with a detailed explanation to ease her concerns—even encouraging her to reconsider hiring the other photographer—whose contract terms were actually industry standard.

I thought I’d share our email exchange since, undoubtedly, many other prospective clients have similar questions.

Read on to see my response to her concern about copyright.

Photo of mother and baby boy on the steps of Smithsonian American Art Museum by Washington DC baby photographer Julie Kubal. Photograph copyright ©2010 Julie Kubal.

Client Concerns About Photography Copyright


I have a 10-day-old for whom I spoke with newborn photographer during my pregnancy. While we discussed specifics, I never reviewed her actual contract until this week. It’s kind of unsatisfactory for the price point, with the photographer owning the photography copyright and delivering only a handful of (very expensive) photos out of probably several hundred I assume will be snapped. We don’t even get to see what doesn’t make her cut. Perhaps that is completely standard, but I thought I’d shop around on the off chance someone else might have last-minute availability. I learned about your work from my realtor, Greg Tindale [who was a former client of mine].

Little girl standing on a stone path in Bishop's Garden at Washington National Cathedral. Photograph copyright ©2017 Julie Kubal

One Photographer’s Explanation About Photography Copyright


Everything you describe is pretty much industry standard, but perhaps I can explain it in another way. I thought I’d take a moment to try to address your concerns.


The creator of the artwork—in this case, the photographer—almost universally retains copyright. The photographer may then issue a license to the user/buyer. Licensing rights can vary quite a bit, depending on the intended use of the photographs. For this type of photography [family, newborn, and portrait photography], the license will usually grant the client perpetual use of the images for personal purposes (i.e. not commercial use, which is a completely different scenario that I won’t get into here).


Most professional photographers include a licensing agreement in their contracts with clients, which will likely also include a standard photography copyright notice like this one on my website. In rare cases, the creator might transfer the copyright to the client, but this would usually be at a much higher price point. The client, not the photographer, would then have the right to reproduce and distribute the images for sale.

Giving Away Copyright = Inexperience

It may be possible to find a low cost photographer who gives away their copyright, though I think it unlikely. I would caution you against working with anyone who gives away the photography copyright. It would indicate that they are likely not informed of the legalities and, therefore, probably not experienced professionals. Instead, look for licensing terms in which the photographer grants you the right to use the images in the manner you probably intend to use them anyway.

Smiling three-year-old girl standing in front of her parents. Photography copyright ©2021 Julie Kubal.

I hope that was a helpful explanation for anyone wondering why, in most cases, the photographer keeps the copyright to her images.

In another blog post coming soon, I will address the prospective client’s other concern about why the photographer wouldn’t show her every image from their photo shoot. Stay tuned!

Julie Kubal family portraits Washington D.C.About the Photographer and Author:

Julie Kubal is a child and family portrait artist and photographer serving Washington DC, Maryland, and Northern Virginia. She is passionate about creating warm and meaningful artwork through modern portraits and lifestyle photography at a location of your choice!