Using Photographs

You can use photographs for certain purposes such as educational use, research or study or criticism or review. For more information, see Using Copyright Material.

If you are using photographs of people, you may also need to consider privacy. See Photographing or Filming People for further information.

You must properly acknowledge any photograph that you use.

Under the personal use provisions, you may make a copy of a photograph that you own in a different format for your personal or domestic use. You can digitise a print photograph or print out a digital photograph. There are some conditions that must be abided by:

  • The photograph must be a legal copy
  • You cannot sell, hire, or give the copy to anyone. You may lend it to family members or people you live with
  • You can only make a single copy
  • If you have signed an agreement with the photographer that prevents you from doing any of these things you must abide by the agreement.


Physical ownership is different to copyright ownership. Copyright will generally be owned by the photographer, but it can vary depending on factors such as employment, licensing agreements or if the photograph has been commissioned:

  • Photographs commissioned prior to 30 July 1998 - copyright will be owned by the person who commissioned the photo, regardless of the purpose.
  • Photographs commissioned after the 30 July 1998 - copyright in commissioned photographs is owned by the photographer with the exception of photographs created for 'domestic or private use' (such as wedding photos or family portraits). Copyright in these photographs will be owned by the person who commissioned the photo unless an agreement is signed to the contrary.

Photographers may have a "right of restraint" when a photograph is commissioned and they do not own copyright. Right of restraint is the right to prevent the photograph being used for purposes other than which it was commissioned.

If you are commissioning photographs for University purposes, you should have a written agreement that outlines who owns copyright. Legal Services have two standard agreements that can be used

In certain circumstances, the photographer of commissioned photographs may have a 'right of restraint' if they do not own copyright in the photographs. The right of restraint is the right to prevent a work being used for purposes other than those for which was commissioned.

For general information on ownership, see Ownership of Copyright.

Rights of Copyright Owners

Copyright owners of photographs have the right to reproduce, publish, communicate or broadcast their photographs. There is no right 'to perform' or display photographs. You do not need permission from the copyright owner to exhibit a photograph in public, unless you need to reproduce the photograph in order to exhibit it.

For more information see Rights of Copyright Owners.

Duration of Copyright

 Published & Unpublished (except for C)Published anonymously or under a pseudonym
Copyright expired if...
Photographs Life of the photographer + 70 years. 70 years from the end of the year the work was first published or made publicly available. Taken before 1 January 1955
Copyright in photographs made for, or first published by a government, or in which copyright is owned by a government, lasts for 50 years from the end of the year of first publication.

Photographing a Building

Buildings themselves are not subject to copyright but the design of a building is. You can photograph a building without needing permission from the copyright owner but the property owner may impose restrictions on access to the building. Any restrictions should be identified and clearance in writing obtained before entering. The resulting photograph of the building is a separate work and will be protected by copyright. Photographs of buildings should acknowledge the creator of the building, in accordance with the requirements of moral rights.