Usage of images in portfolio

Aloha, I read a lot about photography law n stuff, but it is still not clear for me:

I´m starting out a product photography business. I didn´t have any customer yet - typical start out problem - how to build portfolio or write testimonials or write about your experience if you don´t have any.
I wonder, how legal is to shoot different products you buy or have around and use the shots in your web portfolio. I´m not promoting the products there, I´m trying to promote only the quality of my work using products. So please, any advice would be helpful. thanks

If you’re worried about the law, this forum is really the better one for the question. Personally, I can’t imagine that taking pictures of a Coke Can is illegal, if it’s your own photography.


And as if by magic, the thread is now in the right section of the forums :cool:

Who did that?

Must be a mystic. :cool:


The French courts seem to have a different view.

Photo of a coke is mine, but the trademark is copyrighted. not so easy

I still don´t know the answer

I ´m sorry for moving my thread to “right” section if it is more to do with photography and photographers would know better. Moving it back would help. thx


Well good thing he’s from Ireland! (Or at least thinks he is…:shifty:)

@ webwolfwizard, if I read your post correctly, what you are asking is whether you can buy a common product, take a photo of it and use the photo in your portfolio. The answer is basically yes, with a couple of caveats that I will explain.

The basic starting point is that you can take a picture of anything and use it for any purpose, unless there is an overriding law (whether statutory or common law) that says otherwise. The main areas of intellectual property that give someone else rights that you might be infringing are patent, trademark and copyright. In the case of individuals (but not corporations or inanimate objects) there is also a right of privacy and in some cases a right of publicity. In addition, though it is unlikely to apply in this instance, in many countries (but not the U.S.) artists have “moral rights” that may impact your ability to do certain things.

Taking them one at a time, you can rule out patent infringement if you are just taking a photo of any object.

You can also probably rule out trademark infringement in most cases. You are not selling the product and therefore it seems doubtful that, even if the photo contained an image of a trademark, the owner would be able to successfully argue that your use created a likelihood of confusion. One caution, however, is that famous marks are protected by another legal concept known as dilution. If your use injures the famous mark, you can be liable even if there is no likelihood of confusion. For that reason, you would be safer photographing an off-brand soft drink can rather than a Coca Cola can.

You can also rule out copyright in most cases, for two reasons. One is that most products are utilitarian and the designer does not have a copyright at all. That may not be true, however, for highly stylized products. For example, if you go to a Target store and buy a desk set designed by Michael Graves, there is very possibly a copyright involved. The second reason is that copyright law, unlike patent or trademark law, includes a concept known as fair use. Although that is determined on the facts of each situation, there is a good likelihood that fair use would apply to allow you to take a photograph of a copyrighted product in this case.

So, on the whole, you will probably be on fairly safe ground if you photograph everyday products and avoid photographing famous brands and designer-type products.

[This post is for general information only and does not constitute legal advice]

Thanks Green Moon! Should be as you say