Real Estate Photography Resources

Who Owns Real Estate Photos?

By Lindsay Goebel Last Updated March 29, 2023 3 min read

You just received your real estate photos and published your client’s listing to the MLS. After your listing sells, you may wonder what you can (and can’t) do with your purchased real estate photos. Who owns these photos—you or the photographer? 

The likely answer to image ownership is whoever took the photos owns the photos. Even if the photographer owns the images, you may have a licensing agreement to use them. 

There are circumstances, however, where a photographer gives all photo rights to the purchaser. Keep reading to learn more about real estate photos, who owns them, and how real estate professionals can use them. 

Real estate photography ownership

Photography ownership varies greatly, and the terms of use may be confusing. Some photographers require written permission to use real estate images outside of promoting a specific property. Other photographers sign over the rights to the photos entirely

It is essential to understand who owns the real estate photos and how they can be used after a listing sells. 

Who can own real estate photos?

Who owns real estate photos depends entirely on the photographer and the type of ownership detailed within the contract. 

Many independent photographers maintain ownership of their images while allowing real estate agents to use them for specific needs. This type of ownership means the real estate agent cannot promote their business with the listing images.  

Other photography companies give the copyright and licensing rights over to the real estate agent. This setup seems fantastic for the agent, but it has its drawbacks

We’ll cover the pros and cons of each type of ownership below. 

Types of ownership

When selecting a professional photographer, real estate agents should be aware of two types of photography ownership. Copyright and licensing ownership vary greatly and impact how an agent promotes their listing and business. 

Copyright ownership

Whoever takes the photo receives full copyright ownership of the image. This type of ownership means your photographer continues to own the copyright of the pictures you purchased from them. 

Copyright ownership can protect real estate agents whose photos are used unlawfully by other agents. For example, another listing agent may try to use your old photos to sell the same property years later. They do not own the images and cannot legally use them to promote the property. Instead of you having to send a cease and desist letter, the photographer handles the improper use issue.  

Some real estate photography companies maintain copyright ownership but allow the agent unlimited use of the images for marketing purposes. Other photographers may pass copyright ownership to the image purchaser. 

License ownership 

Licensing ownership happens when a photographer grants certain image use rights to the purchaser. The licensing agreement under this type of ownership determines how a real estate agent uses and distributes the photos

Before hiring a real estate photographer, you should ask what the licensing agreement allows and doesn’t allow. If you can only use your images to sell a listing, you may want to research other providers. 

Ideally, your image license allows you to use your real estate images for promoting the listing and marketing your business. 

What are ownership agreements?

An ownership agreement is a document between two parties that outlines the specific rights of each owner. A professional photographer provides an ownership agreement to each client. This agreement precisely states how the client can use the images. 

If your photographer does not provide an ownership agreement, ask them what rights you have to the images and consider drafting a contract from your side. 

What’s the best agreement for agents?

As a real estate agent, it’s crucial to have a solid visual marketing database. Consider hiring a photographer who provides unlimited licensing of real estate images but maintains copyright ownership. This way, you can freely use your photos, but if another agent or business steals your pictures, the photographer can handle the legal issues on your behalf. 

Use Virtuance for real estate photography

Virtuance’s copyright policy is the best option for real estate agents. Real estate agents who partner with Virtuance for professional photography have unlimited use of their images. 

Virtuance encourages agents to use their purchased real estate images freely for marketing and business branding. At the same time, Virtuance maintains copyright ownership, allowing them to handle image theft on an agent’s behalf. 

Ready to add some beautiful real estate images to your marketing toolkit? Schedule your photoshoot with Virtuance today!