Understanding Architectural Photography Licensing

Architectural Photo Licensing is a cornerstone of any major project between a client and an architectural photographer.

Photo License

From architecture and design to commercial hospitality projects it is important to understand the meaning and options both sides have to make sure you get the license you need. and it does not have to be complicated.

Ok, so the first thing you need to know is that regardless of how a photographer price their work or how simple or complicated their quote is, it always includes two main fee elements, no matter if they use the exact terminology or other.

Creative Fee

The creative fee is somewhat parallel to the actual cost of photography a combination of time, experience, and labor required for the job.

This calculates somewhat on a simple matter of expenses (travel time and cost) + equipment + labor hours.

I think a great compartment is when a chef creates for you a custom menu and go buy the ingredients.

Licensing Fee

The licensing fee reflects the usage of work, similar to the example of a chef creating a custom menu and buying all the ingredients, it matters how many people would be using the final product, somewhat similar to 2 guests in a hotel and an additional charge per extra guest or buying a new car that comes with an empty gas tank and without insurance.

After I finished my metaphorical explanations let’s get to the bottom of it.

The fee includes the territory of usage (local, national, international), media (online, print, ads, billboards), and entities (how many companies or individuals would use the images).


While there are many elements, professionals photographer try to simplify the process for their clients, and we as an agency love to work with one-page quotes and remove complicated terminology saving our clients valuable time and uncertainty.

95% of the time you will see one price that includes both the creative and licensing fee, sometime you will see it as a separate line of items, but the majority of the time it will be already included to simplify the process for the client.


The purpose is simple, to allow the client to pay for the actual use of pictures and to reduce the overall costs for them, it defines the relationship and usage of visuals after the work is done, making sure you pay for what you need.


Furniture Design Commercial Photography
Furniture Design Commercial Photography

Type of Photo License

As we mentioned before there can be dozens of professional terminology, but we will address this in the most two common ways

License Usage

Typically refers to a set of basic rules including the duration of the license, where they can use the images, and that they are not transferable to 3rd party (only you can use them).


Refers to the client buying all the rights for the photos in advance, they can use it without limitations of time, place, or media and can transfer the rights to vendors while the photographer can use the images for their portfolio and advertising purposes (client give a license to the photographer to use the images).


Allow the client to pay for known uses at a reduced price, rather than paying for future uses that are not required. Also, the photographer would license the images to other vendors in the project (design, architecture, suppliers) and keep the integrity use of images instead you as the client need to check where all of your vendors are and how they use those images.

What license do I need?

As a commercial photography agency & studio, we typically give unlimited usage of time to all of our images and some guidance on how to use those images, so the regular license covers 99% of all clients.

If for some reason your project includes many vendors that you want to sponsor buying their license in advance or you want the freedom to own the images (not license them) you can use the buy-out option.

From our experience paying an additional 100% of the project cost to obtain a buy-out license is very rare, but an option you as a client have.

How does it impact the price?

What will be the price of gold in the feature? we don’t know, this is why when you want to use the visuals without limitation it prevents the professional to license the work to other professionals in the project.

You simply purchase the license for “them” in advance at a reduced price, therefore you can expect different pricing that reflects the potential profit of licensing in the unforeseen future.

Want to know more?

Feel free to read our other blog post, if you have a professional question or need complementary consultation feel free to reach out to us at any time trough our contact page.

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