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The Absolute Basics of Copyright and Licensing

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Copyright seems to cause an enormous amount of confusion, both to clients and commissioners of photography, as well as photographers themselves. I've personally heard some lovely comments in my time ranging from "you're using a Nikon camera, so Nikon own the copyright", through to models acting outraged when shots of them turn up in magazines, despite having signed a release form that said "full library usage". This piece is mostly written by Emma Taylor of Vue Photographers agents, as she has more experience with licensing and copyright than I do. As primarily an editorial photographer my copyright status is fairly straightforward, and I've always read the contracts I'm asked to sign very carefully, so I defer here to someone with more intricate knowledge.

As a quick summary before we kick off, here's copyright law in a nutshell:

Providing you are not in full time employment, in which case your employer owns the copyright for any work you produce whilst working for them, you always automatically own the copyright to your own work, and will continue to do so until long after your death.

Now, the easiest way to lose your copyright is to sign it away if someone asks you to. This may seem like a no-brainer, but when faced with the choice of not working or signing it away it can often be tempting. You don't legally need to assert your copyright, though identifying your work, either through watermarks, stickers or embedded IPTC data is usually a good idea, as it makes it easier to prove in the event of a dispute. Needless to say, both myself and Emma are here talking about UK law, it will be different in other places, and as with anything of this ilk, if you're in serious trouble, get some legal help - don't quote a website!

And now on with the main bit, and I'll hand over to Emma:

One of the first things to check before you agree to take on a commission are the terms of the shoot. Make it a rule of thumb to ask what the Usage is and how many images your client requires from the shoot. Not only does this allow you to start thinking about a rough checklist of what to achieve on set but also allows you to gage whether you’re getting a fair day rate or if additional Usage fees are needed (more on this later).

So remember to ask . . .

- How long will the images be running? (3mths, 6mths, 1yr?)
- What media will they be run in? (press, posters, online?
- And in what territories? (UK, Pan European, Global?)

Unfortunately not all clients, or photographers for that matter, are aware of how the legal land lies and exactly who has what rights to commissioned images.

Rest assured Mr. & Mrs. Photographer the copyright always belongs to you. And if your client doesn’t understand that you can send them here . . .

Copyright for Clients

Now that doesn’t mean you won’t ever get asked for an in-perpetuity buyout. Although this is a rare occurrence, it can crop up and it’s up to you or your agent to make sure the commissioner pays accordingly.

Although your client is commissioning an original shoot, they are only buying the right to use, not the copyright to the images themselves.

As standard advertising (not always the same for other market sectors) practice included in your day rate is a clients right to use . . .

- One Image – Two Media – 1yr in UK (or similar size)
- OR
- One Image – One Media – 2yrs in UK (or similar size)
- OR
- Two Images – One Media – 1yr in UK (or similar size)

Over and above this you are within your rights to charge for additional usage.

So if you were asked to produce x4 portraits for a client across a two day shoot, that are to be used in Press & Posters – UK – 1yr, no additional cost would be required. But if you were asked to produce x4 portraits for a client across on a one day shoot, that are to be used in Press & Posters – UK – 1yr, an additional cost would be required for usage on X2 of the images. This is normally charged at a half-day rate per image.

Now however much we’d all love to be working to the 80’s ideal of fixed day rates and inflexible usages, these days we have to be flexible. Just make sure you don’t bend too far in one direction! Use your judgement; if you have a client who is looking for a days shoot to get a portrait to be used in trade press, online & direct mail for 1yr in the UK, it’s not totally unreasonable of them to expect this included your day rate.

When you get into the realm of Pan European, Worldwide, ATL (above the line) & BTL (below the line) you can turn to the AOP’s handy downloads to give you and your calculator a point in the right direction. There’s a very useful PDF titled Re-usage Guidelines on their site, although you may well have to join to get access to it.

It’s crucial to protect yourself as much a possible, establishing the terms with your client is just one area to do this.

You also need to be aware of third parties involved in your shoot. If you’re using models you need to make sure they sign a Model Release form. This states what the images are being used for, for how long and how much the model is being paid. As long as your model has signed this you have no fear of them turning around within the usage agreement and swearing blind they didn’t know they would see themselves on a 48 sheet! Having the model fully aware of the Usage can often turn out to be a huge blessing, especially when they spot an image 5yrs after the fact in a Brazilian airport!

Something that is becoming an increasing pitfall in this modern age, is protecting your clients exclusivity.

As a standard they retain exclusive use of your commissioned images in accordance with your Usage agreement. You’ll be hard pushed to find a client who will begrudge you the presentation of these images within your portfolio and website, But that doesn’t mean you can start to show them before they have run.

And neither can your assistant, make-up artist, model or stylist! In these Flickr, Twittering, Facebook days of camera-phones it is all to easy for shots to get leaked. Make sure all your crew are aware of your clients rights to show images first. Behind the scenes shots can be very interesting, but they can also be a potential legal time-bomb if an overzealous assistant posts shots of a celebrity getting changed to facebook.

And lastly but by no means leastly be very careful what you sign. Just because a contract has been thrust under your nose doesn’t mean you have to sign it. You are within your rights to cross through and initial any areas you feel are unfair or not in accordance with your own Terms & Conditions.

Useful links . . .

Copyright for Clients

Photo Agents London
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A Brief Guide to Photographic Markets 4: Social, Commercial, Event and In-House.

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Last in the little series of market guides, of particular use to those attempting this year's assignment.


Probably the largest market in the UK, and quite probably worldwide. Social photography is the term used to cover all photography that is sold direct to the general public, and usually the customer is also the subject. Think family portraits, weddings, and other landmark events that need recording such as school photos and graduation pictures.

The fees charged can vary quite widely, as can the structure of charging. Some photographers charge a fee up front, and then extra for prints and finished images, whilst others charge no fee, and make all their money on reprints.

Licensing and copyright are not much of an issue in the social market, as the photos are rarely if ever for commercial use, and the photographer will likely have no problem keeping hold of their reproduction rights.

Many social photographers operate as sole traders, although there are an increasing number of franchises, such as Venture, springing up as well. Social photography can be very lucrative if well marketed, with some of the more successful social photographers comfortably exceeding annual turnovers in the 6 figure region. As always, the average is somewhat less than this, so don't expect to take a few family portraits and walk away with a hundred grand.

Corporate and Commercial

A slightly odd definition here, and perhaps not the best label. "Corporate" is often used as a label to describe a certain type of photography - generally meant to mean shots of business people. Usually in suits and offices and looking very clever and business like. Commercial work, in the context we're talking about here, is taken to mean all work commissioned directly by a company (rather than an individual - that's social work) without going through another agency - such as a Design, advertising or PR agency. In a nutshell, with respect of the other markets covered in this brief guide, commercial is "everything else"! When a local firm of accountants want some headshots doing of their staff, but have no need of a design agency to put together a brochure, and instead contact the photographer directly, that's commercial work. I guess, since it's likely to be shots of people in suits it would also be "corporate" too!

The type of shots this covers is, again, fairly broad, as it can effectively be anything the client wants photographing. Without the use of trained personnel available from a design agency or ad agency, commercial clients are likely to commission photographers whose work seems professional and polished, rather than go through a lengthy process of comparing different portfolios. In this respect it's often good exposure that can net a photographer work - things like an easy to find website, presence in local business directories, and membership of professional institutions will all help to bring in work. The fees for such jobs are whatever the market will pay, and some photographers even charge by the hour for this sort of work (a tactic unheard of in advertising, editorial and design). As a guide though, you can expect fees to be in the hundreds rather than the thousands.

Since there's often very little future resale value of the images, licensing becomes much less of a hot potato with commercial work than say, advertising. Clients often want the images for lengthy periods of time, and for as many uses as they can think of. This can easily be dealt with by a healthily sized one-off charge up front to save the client the hassle of having to come back every time they want to change one of the pages on their website.

Event Photography

Event photography is essentially social photography, in that it is primarily concerned with selling to the general public, but using events, such as parties or races as the focus. Event photographers often work within the framework of a parent company, though are usually self employed themselves with the parent company taking a percentage from them in return for smoothing their way with the event organisers. Marketing and selling such images has becomes a great deal easier by use of the internet. Images from an event can be online in a thumbnail gallery within hours of the event, and customers can then easily use secure credit card ordering systems and have prints delivered very promptly.

Rights are something of a grey area in events photography, as employment status will have a major bearing on copyright. There is also the fact that in the case of events such as races, it's quite possible that not everyone photographed has given their consent, and may not necessarily be happy with their image being used for promotional purposes, to give just one example.

Fees and wages are also quite hard to pin down. Some events companies will keep photographers on a retainer, whilst others will only pay on a per-diem basis. Photographers may take a direct cut related to how many of their images sell after the event, or all the money may go into a central pot with all the snappers taking a roughly equal share.

In House

In house photography is a blanket term used to cover all those photographers who are employed full time by a company to fulfill that companies photographic requirements. Generally their numbers have dwindled in the past few decades as companies have sought to cut overheads by getting rid of facilities and staff, and outsourcing their needs to freelancers. In house photographers are almost all fully employed by their respective company, and though this means they sacrifice the copyright to their work, in return they should reap the full benefits of being an employee, namely paid holiday, sick leave, and possibly pensions, company cars and healthcare. As with any full-time position, wages and fees can cover quite a range, although it's rare for in-house to be extremely lucrative, with job security being the trade off against reduced earning potential.

My definition of in house photography also includes people like Forensic and Scenes of Crime Photographers, MOD photographers and Cruise Ship photographers, so the remit of work that the job description covers is very large. The “market” these photographers are selling to, is of course the company they work for, consequently the MOD will have different requirements to a cruise ship photographer, and so on.

Other Markets: Editorial, Books and Stock Libraries, Advertising, Design and PR Agencies.
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A Brief Guide to Photographic Markets 3: Advertising, Design and PR Agencies.

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A rough guide to advertising, design and PR agencies, from a snappers point of view.


Ah, the biggie, and the one that almost everyone seems to want to get into at some point in their career or other! The world of advertising offers potentially very high fees indeed, along with nationwide and possibly even world wide exposure of one's work in huge sites like 48 sheet billboard posters, as well as the (often begrudging) admiration of one's peers. The industry itself is largely centred on London, though there are smaller offshoots in Leeds, Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol. The most typical way an advert gets from someone's brain to a billboard site is for the client (the people who want to sell more of whatever product it is they sell - chips, hairnets, dog food, insurance, or hairnet insurance) to contact an advertising agency. The agency will then put together a team to work on that account, and in their turn they will source specific people such as photographers, illustrators and so on to produce work for specific campaigns. Most campaigns run for a period of time, rather than reappearing in a different form within a short time period, indeed, some even run for years with very few changes. The long term sporadic nature of the industry means that it's quite rare to get commissions from the same agency over and over again in a short space of time. Each account team may only work on a few campaigns each year. Advertising broadly falls into 2 main types - Above the Line (ATL) and Below the Line (BTL). These are definitions of the media used to display the advert itself. Mainstream things such as TV, Posters, Press ads and such are Above the Line, and Direct Mail, Trade Press adverts and Viral are Below the Line. The definitions are getting steadily blurred as new forms of media become viable ground for advertising.

It should be obvious to anyone with their eyes open that advertising photography covers pretty much any and every subject matter and approach, and because of this it's common for photographers to be picked for specific jobs, and then not used again for 18 months or so, as their style of work doesn't suit the other campaigns that the agency are working on. This is common to much of the higher end work in photography, along with editorial and design work, although it's all the more marked in advertising, as what suits a campaign for Pedigree Chum may be a million miles away from what's required for British Airways, and the gap between major campaigns will be measured in months if not years.

Fees in advertising are hugely variable, although one thing they tend to have in common is a basic rate, which is what's paid for the shoot and the agreed basic usage of the images, and then a re-usage fee when the images are used outside that context. Day rates for photographers shooting advertising are rarely less than the high hundreds, and can often reach comfortably into 5 figures. There will also often be a significant production budget (think location fees, personnel costs, transport, equipment hire, retouching and so on) which will bump the whole bill up by a large amount. Some photographers handle all such things themselves, whilst other have agents who will deal with much of the production side. Despite the appeal of higher fees it's worth remembering that even a busy advertising photographer will spend a significant chunk of his or her time not shooting, as there is a great deal that has to be agreed upon before a shoot takes place, and often nearly as much work afterwards to ensure it comes out exactly as envisaged. The supposedly high day rates need to be balanced against the fact that that 1 day of shooting may well represent 10 or more of meeting in pre-production, and nearly as many after the event in post!

Advertising is one industry where licensing really becomes important. As a reflection of the value that a client derives from the advertising image, re-usage fees for advertising work are fairly high. There's lots more detail about this here, but in a nutshell, once the initial usage has been used up, any extension to it - an extra territory, time period, or media, will result in a nice, healthy extra fee. Photographers and their agents make a very lucrative income from this source, and it's vital to ensure that you've got things like rights and usages agreed before the shoot starts.

Design Agencies

Much of what's been said about advertising agencies goes for design agencies too - they tend to work on projects for external clients, and commission photographers on a bespoke basis. The big difference is in the end product. Design agencies are much more likely to work on things like brochures and annual reports, packaging, or brand identity work than a large nationwide advertising campaign. Having said that, many design agencies often do smaller scale ad work as well, as there are many similarities between the 2 markets as far as commissioning and producing work goes.

The rates a photographer can charge a design agency are fairly healthy, being in the several hundred and upwards mark, although there's rarely quite the same potential for more earnings from extended usage as there is with advertising work. By the same rationale licensing and rights follow a similar pattern, any usage above the basic agreed one incurs an extra fee.

Design agencies, along with advertising and most editorial work, tend to commission photographers for specific jobs, selected on the strength of their portfolio. They may well have a small roster of regular people, and in the case of long term contracts with their own clients they may use the same photographer repeatedly to retain consistency.

PR/Marketing Agencies.

This sector covers a lot of ground, as the boundaries between what would be seen as advertising, design, PR and Marketing work are often very hazy indeed. Some larger PR firms are nothing less than advertising agencies, and handle a great deal of work for their clients, whilst some only handle occasional events and photo calls. The type of work they commission matches this, with the smaller agencies more likely to be on the lookout for someone of a decent local press standard, who can take a good "grip and grin" shot, and have it ready for release within minutes, and at the higher end a much more creative approach with lots of consultation throughout the job, and a very polished final result from a photographer who's been picked from a short list of several other candidates. At the lower end of the PR market it's quite common to receive regular work from an agency, although the work tends towards the mundane, and the fees don't tend to be too huge either. Mind you, speaking from personal experience, they still tend to be very healthy amounts when weighed against the amount of time required - most jobs don't entail more than a few hours work from start to finish, so there's a decent overall wage to be had if you can get hold of lots of regular work.

Rights are fairly straightforward in PR, certainly at the lower end. The use the images are to be put to tends to be fairly immediate, so a simple first usage exclusivity is usually enough. Such shots generally tend to have limited resale value unless they depict things like celebrities, so there tends to be less pressure to sign away more rights to the agency. At the higher end of the market you can expect there to be much closer policing of rights and licensing, as the work commissioned will usually be for a wider market, and there will be more emphasis placed on exclusivity.

As far as a photographer is concerned, PR work can range from shots of a few local dignitaries presenting a giant cheque, all the way through to small scale advertising campaigns. As a result of this, the type of shots required will also vary immensely, so there's no such thing as a typical "PR" photographer, although this term generally defines someone who works towards the lower end of the market if you ever hear it used.

Other Markets: Editorial, Books and Stock Libraries, Social, Commercial, Event and In-House.
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A Brief Guide to Photographic Markets 2: Books and Stock Libraries

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Number 2 in the series of market outlines, here's info on the Books and Publishing market, as well as Stock Libraries. Enjoy.


The internet seems not to have dented the sales of books, as many feared it would. In fact, some would argue that extra sales outlets such as Amazon have only increased the sales potential for a new title. Photographs used in books rather obviously can cover a huge range, with everything from technical illustration for a Haynes manual through to abstract artistic work for a romantic novel book cover being required. There is no typical "book" or publishing photographer, and it's more likely that the editors and designers of books will pick specific snappers for the job in hand, much like in the editorial world. There are a host of small, bespoke publishers around, but the market is dominated by large companies such as Random House, Hachette, Penguin and Harper Collins.

Fees in the publishing world are on average higher than those in editorial, and in the case of bestsellers with the accompanying publicity material and advertising can go very high indeed. At the other end of the scale, the content required to fill say, a fitness instruction boo, would be shot to a set budget with the emphasis very much on quantity rather than elaborate quality. The commissioners of photography within publishing are usually designers or art directors, although it's not uncommon for Editors and authors themselves to have either a say in the choice of photographer or even some direction on the shoot.

Licensing book and publishing work is very similar to other markets, with a basic fee being paid for the agreed first use, and then a syndication or repeat fee if the images are used beyond this initial agreement. What this first use entails will of course vary from job to job, but it's fairly common to see terms such as: 18 months, English Language, Hardback and Paperback Editions, Advertising and Promotional materials. Usage beyond this initial agreement would then result in an extra fee. There will almost certainly be an exclusivity clause as well, which prevents the photographer from selling the work that was commissioned on to another party, even a stock library.

Given the huge range of subject matters in book publishing, there is obviously no such thing as an average shoot, and in keeping with editorial and advertising photography it's common to pick and choose photographers according to their suitability for the job in question.

Stock Library

Stock libraries are collections of photographs from a wide range of photographers which the library sell on to anyone who needs them. This can cover designers, advertising agencies and magazines, as well as direct commercial clients. The range of images themselves is also often very diverse, with the exception of smaller specialist libraries which focus on things such as science or wildlife.

Each stock library operates slightly differently, but broadly speaking they all expect an initial submission from a photographer, which will be assessed for quality as well as other factors such as subject matter, marketability and so on. Once accepted the photographer's work will then be visible in the library's catalogue and can be purchased by any customer searching the database. Some libraries insist on a minimum regular submission as well, often a certain number of images per month or year, in order to keep the library fresh. Libraries make their money by taking a percentage of the sale value of the images, and passing the rest on to the photographer. The percentage varies from library to library.

For freelance photographers stock libraries can be a useful source of extra income, and it's very important to retain as many rights to your work as possible so that it can be resold as required. Many photographers use stock as a “dumping ground” for spare images, leftovers or outtakes, and whilst this can bring in some money, it's never as lucrative as shooting things specifically for the library. Libraries sometimes even commission photographers to create a selection of work, usually after they themselves have identified a market niche that needs filling. In this instance the production costs are often shared between the photographer and the library, and the photographer tends to take a slightly higher than normal percentage of the resale fees.

Some of the larger stock libraries and picture agencies, such as Getty and PA, have full time staff photographers working for them. There will be many similarities to In House photographers (see below) in this field as regards wages, rights and so on. Such photographers are often quite specialised, for example Getty have a pool of photographers who cover premiership football games, and another pool who follow the European Golf Tour.

The two main ways of reselling images via a library are Royalty Free and Licensed. With the former the price is based on the file size or image size required, irregardless of the actual usage. The latter is much more akin to the licensing common with editorial and advertising markets, the price will vary with media, time and territory usage. A ¼ page in a magazine, for sale in 1 country for 1 month will net a much smaller fee than a billboard poster to be used across Europe for 6 months. There is also something called microstock. However, this is pointless – don't get involved.

Other Markets: Editorial, Advertising, Design and PR, Social, Commercial, Event and In-House.
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A Brief Guide to Photographic Markets 1: Editorial

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This series of posts is intended as a very brief outline to some of the markets for photography that are available in the commercial world. I've split them into 4, as they'd be one hell of a post otherwise. I can't claim that this list is exhaustive, I'm sure there must be a few other ways to make money out of photography. It should be of some help to those attempting the assignment this year, as well as of general interest to the rest of you. That's presuming you ever hope to make any money out of photography that is....

So, to begin, here's an outline of the editorial market.

Local News

Fairly obvious what this market sector covers isn't it? Local news photographers have suffered in recent years, as sales of many papers have dropped. The current thinking is that the increase of free papers, along with the availability of free news content on the Internet has been the main cause. Most local paper photographers used to be full time (see in-house market below), but increasingly papers are relying on a pool of freelancers to get the work done, thereby avoiding the running costs of salaries, paid holidays and so on.

The range of work a local paper photographer may be asked to do is very broad, and could cover everything from studio portraiture to doorstepping local celebrities, aerial photography, sports photography, right through to the annual nativity play, and with a healthy amount of “grip and grins” thrown into the mix. The fees are never huge, although freelance day rates tend to be higher than the comparative full time ones. However, it's important to consider the trade offs – as a freelancer you'll keep your copyright, but may only work a couple of days a week, and will almost certainly be responsible for buying and maintaining your own gear. If in full time employment, your employer owns your copyright, but you've got some semblance of job security, as well as a broader support network, both in respect of things like equipment and computers, as well as holiday and sick pay.

Life as a local paper photographer can be very last minute, plus it's very common to have to cover a lot of ground in one day or shift. Back in the early 90's when I worked at a local paper, the office record stood at 13 shoots/different locations in 1 day, and I believe it's since been broken.

National News

Life as a national news photographer is broadly the same as that of a local paper photographer, with the difference that you'll have to cover a wider area, and the stories tend to be slightly more high profile than things like Golden Wedding anniversaries. In pretty much every other respect the jobs are almost identical; there's a big swing towards freelancers rather than full-time staffers, the fees are never huge, the hours can be awful, and you can find yourself covering a very wide range of subject matters. I won't go to the lengths of listing some national papers as an example – if you can't think of any you're probably not ready for the real world yet.

Consumer Press – Magazines

Consumer Magazines are the ones that you see on the shelves of Borders, WHSmiths, Tesco's and so on. Think Vogue, What Car?, Men's Health, and Cage and Aviary Bird. The market sector is obviously very large, as any trip to a major branch of the above shops will tell you. The range of subject matter is also correspondingly large, and if you can think of something to shoot the odds are there's a magazine that will be interested in pictures of it. Despite this, it's very common for photographers to specialize to some degree, as a knowledge of subject matter and the specific market can be a major advantage in securing work.

The majority of magazines are published by large companies such as IPC, Dennis, Bauer and Future, although smaller publishing houses exist that tend to cover very specific market sectors. Most of these companies are based in London, though there are notable outposts in Bath and Peterborough. The photographic content of most magazines is usually made up of a combination of bought-in stock library shots (see below) and work commissioned specifically for the magazine. Fees can range from as low as the high double figures up to a thousand pounds or more, for each job or shoot, though the latter is generally only for much larger shoots on more prestigious and high selling titles.

Consumer magazines have been suffering slightly with the recent recession, both as a combination of falling sales and a drop in advertising revenue. Each magazine will have a slightly different balance as regards their income bias between sales/subscriptions and advertising space.

Very few magazines have full-time photographers, relying instead on a pool of freelancers who will be called in depending on their specialization and suitability for the shoot in question. As a consequence, the rights a photographer retains in magazine work can vary a great deal. As a full-timer, you have very few rights to your own work, and more and more companies are asking freelancers to sign “all-rights” contracts which amount to pretty much the same thing. More acceptable to freelancers are “first rights” contracts in varying forms. The general thrust of these is that the magazine retains the rights to publish the images first, and usually enforces an exclusivity period as well, to prevent the work being sold to their competition within a short time. After this period the photographer is then able to sell the work on themselves to third parties, either directly or via a stick library (see below). In return for signing this contract the magazine companies normally promise to pay the photographer within a certain time period, then generally pay them whenever they feel like it.

Contract Publishing – Magazines

Contract publishing covers titles like the Ford magazine, the Tesco's magazine and suchlike, along with titles for charities, large companies and so on. They operate in a very similar way to consumer magazines as far as rights, and commissioning work goes. The 2 main differences are that the fees are often higher, and that there's an extra link in the chain of command. At a consumer magazine, once the art director and/or editor is happy with an article and the corresponding pictures, the feature will run. In contract publishing, there's also the client to keep happy. In the case, for example of a feature for a Tesco's magazine, a representative of Tesco's will have to finally approve the work to make sure it stays on message.

Trade Press

The trade press is almost a hybrid of consumer and contract publishing. Generally speaking, such titles are not visible on the news stands, in the same way as much contract publishing is, but they are also very market specific in the way that much consumer publishing is. Trade journals are by nature specific to their trade – think Farmer's Weekly, What Hammock, and the Draper's Journal. Their appeal is pretty limited, and the personnel within are usually specialists with much relevant knowledge. Budgets tend to be lower due to the generally smaller circulations of such magazines. The photographers rights will generally be much the same as those for contract and consumer publishing.

Other markets: Books and Stock Libraries, Advertising, Design and PR, Social, Commercial, Event and In-House.
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