Can You Sell Photos of Zoo Animals?

Can You Sell Photos of Zoo Animals

People love to take photos of anything and everything. With technology so readily available today, you can take pictures at any time with the simple click of a button. Those photos can then be shared with thousands of people within moments. Some people even go as far as to sell the photos they take.

Can you sell photos of zoo animals? It depends on the policies of the zoo at which your photos were taken.  You can sell the photos, but you may face legal backlash from the zoo. So, if you want to sell pictures of animals at a zoo, you need to follow the proper procedures to do so legally, which are:

  1. Check the zoo website
  2. Speak with someone in the public relations office to learn the policy

It is usually not a good idea to sell photos taken at a business or organization without permission, even if the location is public. Chances are, there are rules put in place to make sure individuals aren’t profiting from an area that is owned by someone else. In this article, you will find out the correct procedures to follow if you are interested in selling pictures of zoo animals.

Can You Sell Photos of Zoo Animals?

Before the idea of selling photos that you’ve taken of zoo animals even forms in your mind, it is best to find out if it is something you can legally do. You know you can take all the pictures you want at the zoo, but typically the zoo doesn’t want them to be used commercially or for direct monetary gain.

If you are adamant about selling the photos, it may benefit you to contact the zoo and inquire if you can be a photographer for them.  However, this may include giving the zoo a portion of the profits and copyrighting the images, meaning they can’t be used for commercial purposes outside the zoo.

Check the Zoo’s Website

Take a few minutes and browse the zoo’s website. Usually, there is a disclaimer on the site that will have a statement about using images of the animals commercially without specific permission. Most zoos will have an FAQ or Rules section of the website where this information will be listed.

You may need to search in the ticket section as well. Often, there are rules attached to the ticket purchase that asks you to agree not to sell or use the photos of the animals for commercial purposes. Sometimes this is in fine print, so you need to read carefully.

Speak with the Public Relations Office

If you are unable to find the information on the zoo’s website, it would be advantageous to call the public relations office to inquire about the rules. It may seem like a hassle to go through the process of calling, but the hassle of not calling and getting in legal trouble can be far worse than you can imagine.

Can You Sell Photos of Any Zoo Animal?

Let’s say you have been to the zoo with your family, and you took a few stellar shots of the lions or giraffes playing in their habitat.  You get home and realize they are magazine-worthy and want to investigate selling them. If this is something you are passionate about, you need to contact the zoo for proper permission.

According to The Copyright ZoneOpens in a new tab., when dealing with animal photos, there are two standard classifications:

  1. Average Photos
  2. Special Photos

Although the names seem self-explanatory, there is a distinct difference, especially when you are dealing with zoo animals.

Average Photos

With average photos, you could most likely sell the images or use them as stock photos without an issue. No, this isn’t referring to your photographic ability; this is referring to the subject matter in the picture.

You can go to any zoo or wildlife preserve in the United States and take a picture of giraffes or lions in their natural habitat, and they will all look similar. Because of this, they are referred to as average photos. Nothing is special about them.

Special Photos

Photos in this classification are the photos you need to be very cautious about trying to sell. These are photos that could infringe on copyright laws or the advertising of the zoo in question. But how do you know if you have a special photo?

In most zoos, there is an animal that may be classified as a mascot or a well-known animal at the zoo. You will often see this animal highlighted in magazines from the zoo or advertisements. Anyone familiar with the zoo will likely know this animal.

If you attempt to sell photos taken of this animal, without the proper permission, you will likely find yourself in trouble.

What to Do When You Get Permission to Sell Your Zoo Photos

Imagine you have gone through all the proper channels and have arranged to sell the photos that you have taken at a zoo. When doing this, you must make sure you properly register the images. You can’t just start posting the photos and making money. Some procedures must be followed.

You must make sure the zoo has signed a waiver of ownership form for the photo to be used commercially. This means they agree that you can make a profit on the sale of the picture, and they are okay with it. If you don’t have this form, don’t sell the photo! Be sure to check the forms carefully. It may be necessary for the zoo to sign its rights away for each photo, not as a whole group.

Is a Zoo Public or Private Property?

It is well known that you can legally take photos on public property without any consequences. It is even legal to take pictures of private property as long as you are standing on public property when you do so. However, if you step onto private property without permission and begin taking photos, you are breaking the law. If you try to sell the illegally taken pictures, you will find yourself in trouble.

This leads to the question about the exact classification of zoo property.  Most zoos are publicly owned, but many zoos are privately owned. You must find out the classification of the zoo you are visiting as well as their specific policies related to photographing the animals for profit or commercial use.

Selling Photos Taken on Public Property

According to “When Photos Break the Law – Your Rights When Taking PhotosOpens in a new tab.,” taking pictures on public property is fine. However, when you begin looking at the logistics of selling the photos you have taken, it gets a bit dicey.

You may have a fantastic picture with a famous building or, in this case, a gorgeous animal that you would love to sell or use for a commercial purpose. Without the correct permission, you can’t do this because it is considered illegal.

Selling Photos Taken on Private Property

Again, you can usually take all the photos you want on private property for personal use; however, the moment you attempt to use the images for profit, you are breaking the law, unless you have explicit permission from the owner of the property.

What Are the Consequences of Selling Pictures of Zoo Animals Without Permission?

If you decide to be a risk-taker and sell the photos you take, and the zoo finds out, you could be responsible for monetary compensation to the zoo.  The zoo reserves the right to sue you for royalties on the photos.

While this may not seem like a huge deal, the cost of the royalties can and will likely exceed the amount you are making from selling the photos.

Defamation Lawsuits

If any of the photos sold without the permission of the zoo are used to portray the zoo, zoo employees, or animals in a negative light, you can be sued for defamation of the zoo. An example of this happening would be if someone purchases your photos and uses them in a blog post that is lobbying against zoos. If they name the zoo, this immediately impacts the location negatively.

You must remember, if you put the photo on stock photos to sell, you have no control over what the photo is used for. Because of this, you can get in trouble for just supplying the picture.

Final Thoughts

While it is great fun to take photos at the zoo and you may very well have several marvelous photos that would be worth a hefty amount of money, it is highly recommended that you ask for the correct permission before trying to profit off of them. Just asking a simple question can save you stress as well as a significant amount of money.

Roy Davis

Roy Davis is the founder of YourPhotoAdvisor. He is a hobbyist photographer that loves the business side of things. He blogs about IT, cybersecurity, business, and more at BestofRoy.com. Follow him on social media at Twitter | Instagram.

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