Can I make copies of my professionally-taken family portraits?

If a professional photographer takes family portraits and sells the hi-res copies, can the client create a black-and-white or cropped version for personal use (i.e. not for resale)? How far does copyright protection extend into the private household?

Alli on Dec 30, 2008

This might depend upon the conditions upon which the photographer took the family portraits. Often, portrait photographers make money from selling prints to the people in the photos, so making your own copies of those photos might be denying the photographer some revenue. Thus, based on factor four of fair use, this would not be fair use and would be copyright infringement.

fair use


Reply by Anonymous

June 26, 2015

What if you have no idea where the photos were taken or who took them to even get permission to reproduce them?

Reply by Andrew Hudson, PhotoSecrets

January 6, 2016

Professional portrait photos usually have contact information somewhere (perhaps at the bottom or on the back), since portrait photographers typically make money by selling reprints.

You probably won’t be able to get a company to scan the photo and make a reprint, as companies are legally obligated to get the photographer’s permission. For more info, see photocopying.

The photographer owns the copyright, even if you have no idea how to contact the photographer. So unfortunately you are in a Catch-22 situation.

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