Four Things to Consider When Using Photography in Advertising

Another day, another stab in the heart of Chipotle. Yes, Chipotle. A Sacramento woman is suing Chipotle for $2.2 BILLION for allegedly using a photo of her in their marketing efforts, The Fresno Bee reports. Womp womp womp. As if the norovirus outbreak wasn’t bad enough for, USA TODAY reported that Chipotle’s co-CEO was stepping down. Too bad, so sad.

What does this lawsuit mean for marketers and advertisers?

It actually doesn’t change much, but places further significance on the importance of observing all rules and regulations when it comes to photography for advertising and marketing. The rules for using someone else’s photo, or taking your own photo with models, are pretty straightforward. Always have permission and always know what the local laws and regulations are.

Here are a few things to keep in mind the next time you’re shooting or choosing photos for your next advertising campaign.

What are you using these photos for?

If you’re using photos for an advertising or marketing campaign, that means it is for commercial use. You have now entered a realm with a whole set of special rules. I mean, it makes sense, right? You are now using a specific photo to advertise a product or service with the intent to profit or otherwise benefit from sales or brand recognition.

Are you asking for permission or forgiveness?

Picture this (ha!) You’ve just completed an all-day photo shoot for the newest print campaign for your business. The photos are beautiful and are going to work magic for your business. All fine and dandy, right? Sure. If you’re confident that you have permission from the models that you photographed. To use someone’s image, you must have their written consent and the best way to obtain consent is with a photo release form. You can keep them on file and reference them any time you need to. Here’s an example of a release form.

Did you find this photo on the Internet?

Unfortunately, it isn’t a great defense if you have ever said “I found it on Google,” as a way of justifying the photo you used for social media. In fact, if you found it on Google, don’t use it. Just because a photo is online, doesn’t mean that you have the creator’s permission to use the photo for commercial use. If you’re looking for photos to use for commercial purposes, try using a free stock photo site like Pixabay or Pexels that have photos that are released under Creative Commons CC0, meaning the photographer has their copyright to those images.

Can you photograph here?

Believe it or not, but you can’t actually photograph every place you visit. Places like museums, businesses and other locations can limit photographers’ access for reasons like safety, privacy or security. These locations may have signs posted, but when in doubt, always check with someone in charge to get the low down.

Fun fact: you are required to have a permit to photograph or film for commercial use in California State Parks.

Moral of the story? Always ask for permission and get it in writing. You don’t want to be begging for forgiveness later. It never usually works out well.

Nicole Maul, Social Media Manager

This blog is not meant to serve as or replace qualified legal advice from a licensed attorney and may or may not apply to your circumstances. Always consult with your legal team regarding any questions, concerns or issues pertaining to your spe