How it all works

November 12, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

Photography, Modeling, Licensing of Covers

I have had several inquiries from new models and authors about the images and how business works with the photographer. There is no simple answer and everyone has their own idea and expectation of how it should be. Photographers all have a different way of looking at what they charge and how the license images, sell them, or give them away. The information I’m about to explain is not how everyone else may do it. It is what I have learned and how I do my photography and business. This might help some people understand. Again, how a photographer, model or author does business is often unique to them. This is me and SC-Photo.

Preamble (I will refer back to this from time to time as the preamble)

The Copyright Act of 1976 (found in Title 17, US Code, Section 100) states any original creative work is protected from the moment it assumes tangible form. A photographer does not have to register his copyright, nor does the work have to display that little circular "c." Protection is automatic and exists from the moment of inception. Registering the copyright with the U.S. Copyright office and displaying the little "c" only serves public notice of the copyright; it does nothing to enhance or even legitimize it. Therefore, all images taken by a photographer are and remain his property and only through contractual agreement may they be used by someone else for commercial gain. If the photographer gives you images for personal and promotional use, you may not profit from them or commercially gain from selling them or access to them without the photographer's contractual agreement.

All images appearing in the SC Photo's or Shelton Cole's Facebook page or web site are the exclusive property of SC Photo and Shelton Cole and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.

The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of SC Photo or Shelton Cole.

Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. © 2001 - 2016 - SC Photo

Custom Shoot

Any shoot in which the concept is relayed to the photographer for the purpose of capturing images that are of a certain nature constitutes a custom shoot. The details are laid out in a contract that will say clearly what is to be paid for the time and work of the photographer and what and or how many images will be licensed for the intended purpose. If it is a family shoot, wedding, or something of this nature, there is agreed upon package and number of images (sometimes all of them) that is rendered to the customer which they can have for personal use. They cannot profit from them. That would be a different type of contract.

A photographer shot a boxer TFP (trade for print) in which there was no financial transaction. The photographer got great images to use in his portfolio and the boxer got images he could use for personal but not professional promotion. The boxer got a title fight and was fighting in Vegas for the championship. The promoters of the match asked the boxer for an image they could use to get people to pay to see the fight. This image was plastered all over Vegas even on billboards. The photographer noticed that the image he shot was being used in a commercial sense without a license and won a settlement that he could retire on. (refer to the preamble)

The following is from our website at – It details what a custom shoot entails in price and what the customer gets in return.

Custom shoots takes your vision and turns it into YOUR cover.  ALL images are shot for you and other images in the same location or clothes, will NOT be sold to another author. You get ten (10) professionally edited images

Custom shoot - SC-Photo's Fee $400.00 + model/agency fee*

  • One (1) for Cover - (ROYALTY FREE, unlimited license for a single book cover),
  • Three (3) for sale, swag & promotion, with SC-Photo watermark
  • Six (6) online teasers for internet use only with SC-Photo watermark


  • Does NOT include any associated travel expenses (airfare, car rental, lodging, per diem) for either Photographer and/or model(s), payable in advance of the shoot if outside the Phoenix Metropolitan area.
  • Does NOT include any location or rental fees. These are the responsibility of the client.
  • Client is solely responsible for providing wardrobe, specific props, locations, and specific poses where required. Photographer shall use artistic license to capture specific poses but will use that license to insure the integrity of their work. Photographer is not responsible for mistaken wardrobe or unavailable locations and is due payment for their time in the session.
  • A minimum of 30 days notice is required to book a custom photo shoot if specific locations or props are required.
  • Different poses and/or outfits from any portfolio work the model may perform after completion of the cover shoot duties are available for further licensing by SC-Photo.

*Modeling/agency fees vary for certain models - (client must contact the model or agency, negotiate the fee, and arrange payment with the model/agency separate from SC-Photo)

Individual Stock Photo License

Stock images are images that have not been used but may have come from a another shoot including individual work or custom shoots. These images are and remain the property of the photographer.

Stock images are licensed for commercial use by photographers in various ways. Some photographers charge a yearly license as long as the image is being used commercially. If you bought a license for a year and you pulled the book or changed the cover, you would not have to renew the license. Some photographers charge a license fee plus royalty which means for each book you sell or sell the image in any way commercially. Though you have a license to use the image it will say how you can use the image and for what in the license contract. Some photographers license the image for the cover royalty free, and for exclusive use. SC-Photo license images this way. You can use the image for life for that cover without ever having have to pay another license fee and that image is “retired” and will NEVER be on another book cover. We do have a budget exception for a much lower price and the license is for one year but can easily be converted for lifetime at any time.

You can find our Stock Image rates and information here

Model Fees

This single item has been a learning curve for me over the years and every photographer handles this differently.  This is how I do it.

Professional full time models.

At first this is the only type of models I used to shoot. These models are professional and make a living getting paid to pose for photographers. Even though you do not need one (refer to preamble) I have every model sign a “Model Release” that stipulates what we are in agreement to, what they get out of the shoot, and contains a full commercial release restating the preamble. Why do I do this if I don’t need it? I do it to be upfront with the model and they have a document stating what the image is going to be used for. I do it also to easily answer any objections and being taken to court and costing legal fees to battle a case that will ultimately be won by the copyright holder. Produce the model release and the dispute is over. I shoot them, pay them, and we are done and they continue to make money posing full time.

TFP models

Newer models and people just getting started need to promote themselves and get their portfolio with a variety of images from different photographers. Instead of paying upwards to $500-1000 to get images they can use for promotional use, they will “trade” with a photographer. The photographer will give them images for promotional use in exchange for shooting with them. The trade is the model gets paid in photo shoot time and images. The photographer doesn’t have to pay the model for images he can use and profit from. This is how many photographers who are not interested in making a lot of money but love to shoot will work. This is also how a model with no money can get started in their career and secures quality images. There are some photographers who will always charge for photo shoots and some who never charge. The TFP agreement is usually verbal and it’s one and done. SC-Photo has helped a lot of models with their portfolio this way though we do it far less frequently that we used to. In every case we have secured a model release that details exactly what is expected from both.

Cover Models

Cover models usually shoot on a royalty basis. That is they shoot like a professional paid model but it is not for a fee for the shoot. They agree to a certain amount usually per cover sold to be paid. If nothing sells, they get nothing. If a cover sells, then they get paid for the cover. In a custom shoot, they may be paid up front for the cover with the prospects that other covers will come from the shoot. If we sell a stock image of a photo they are paid a modeling fee at the time of the sale.

This is where I have had some education in the past few years. Some models believe the images are theirs and they can negotiate a price for and hit the author up for an additional fee. I refer you back to the preamble and what was agreed upon at the time of the shoot and is usually in the model release is what they get. SC-Photo still tries to work with models who have since the shoot raised their fee. It is their image and likeness and it seems fair they should get paid a royalty each time an image sells for a cover. It is also fair that images shot and agreed upon at a certain fee should remain in tack.

Once again, each model signs a release where the details are stipulated.

Note: If you are a model, author, or photographer, be sure to know in writing what you’re getting from the shoot and images sold. Some photographers stipulate only covers get a certain fee and the model may get a percentage of other images sold. Generally, SC-Photo agrees to this. We have changed but continue to honor with some models a 50/50 split which few if any photographers do. In short, know what you are shooting for, how much you will get, and how you are going to get it before you shoot.

There is more I could have written and if you have any questions, please contact me. I love my work and often discount my fee but never my service. Open, up front communication is key and I have tried to do this with everyone that I work with. DON'T ASSUME that you know or someone else knows what it is all about -- that's why I wrote this out.


Shelton Cole



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