U.S. copyright law gives photographers full control over their work, according to the U.S. Copyright Office. If they took your photo with your consent, they own the rights to their photos, which gives them exclusive rights to distribute and display them, as well as license the image to others.
This agreement is usually under the contract unless it’s specified otherwise.
Your photos are taken by a professional photographer
In most cases, professional photographers own the copyrights of their work. Photography subjects such as yourself, have little or no rights associated with the image unless they’ve signed a model release stating otherwise.
This also means that they can license the image to others, sell it, use it in their portfolio and even use it for advertising purposes.
The only exception would be: that the photo was created in a “work for hire” situation, such as an employee taking a photo for an employer. For example, if a corporation hires a photographer to take pictures of its products, it is likely that the employer will own the copyrights to those photos and not the photographer who took them.
This is because when you’re working for someone else (such as your boss), you’re considered an “independent contractor” rather than an employee—and under U.S. law, independent contractors don’t automatically get ownership over what they create while they’re on assignment.
However, there’s still some wiggle room here since these laws vary from state to state; so it’s best to check with your lawyer if you want more information about this specific scenario before making any decisions based on this information alone.
Your photos are taken by an amateur or hobbyist
If your photos are taken by an amateur or a hobbyist photographer (i.e., no commercial purpose). He/She can post it on social media or make prints out of it as he/she pleases. This situation is much easier to deal with because there are no legal issues involved. But if you do not want your photos to be shared online, you should ask the photographer to delete them in a nice way.
You should ask them politely to delete your photos during the session or from their portfolio, if you are not happy with the outcome of the photoshoot and if you are not satisfied with how your photos turned out.
Usually, they will comply and gladly delete the photos for you to avoid any legal issues. The key here is to communicate clearly with your photographer and make sure that they understand what you want.
Can someone sell a picture of me without my permission?
Technically, if you hire and if your photographs are taken by a professional photographer under a contract, the photographer owns the copyrights to your photos. This means that they can sell or use them for their own purposes without your permission.
You may want to ask your photographer about this and make sure that you know what rights you give up in exchange for their services before signing any contracts.
But again, as I’ve stated above, if you’ve caught an amateur selling your photos without your permission, you can ask them nicely to delete the photos. They may not be aware of the law and may be more receptive if you explain your case politely and respectfully. If they didn’t comply, tell them that you will report them to the proper authorities.
If your photo was taken in a public area
In most cases, if your photograph was taken in a public area by someone or a street photographer, he still owns the photo.
In some cases, especially if the person isn’t famous or well-known and if he/she was acting like any other tourist would act (just taking photos) then it’s probably fine for them to keep your image on their website or wherever else they post their pictures online.
If you want them to take down that image because it is embarrassing, however then they may be willing to do so if you ask them to.
If your photos were taken inside your home or private place without your permission
Now, this situation is really concerning because it means someone is trying to invade your privacy. If this happens, you should contact the police as soon as possible because this can be considered as a criminal offense.
You can sue the photographer who took your picture without your permission. You may also want to consider reporting the issue to the website where they posted their images and any other site that has hosted these photos as well as anyone who has reposted them on social media sites such as Facebook, Flickr, or Reddit.
It’s important to remember that copyright law is complicated and varies depending on the situation and location. If you want to be sure about your rights, get in touch with an attorney who specializes in intellectual property that can help you determine whether someone owns your photo.
Emma Lucy is the Founder & CEO of Emma Lucy Photography. She has over a decade of experience shooting weddings and other intimate events. She also tests the latest digital camera bodies, lenses, analog cameras and other gear from Canon, Nikon, Sony and other camera brands. She currently lives in London where she spends most of her time being a self-employed professional photographer and writer.