Magazine Article


License to Thrill
Slideshows can add excitement with music, but is it legal?

Emotion Media
Triple Scoop Music

As photographers search for more ways to increase their visibility, and therefore increase their business opportunities, the importance of a good website continues to grow. A website can provide all types of information, including testimonials, contact information, and, of course, your images. Slideshows have become one of the most popular ways to present images, and slideshows with a musical background are all the rage. But, photographers need to be careful in choosing the music for their sites. If you think you can just download your favorite song and sync it up with your slideshow presentation, you're not only wrong--you may also be breaking the law.

To inform you on how to find legally licensed music and how to get permission to use a certain piece, we went to some of the experts in the field and one of the top music-licensing services for advice. Read on...

Emotion Media

Based in Tulsa, OK, Emotion Media is a professional multimedia design studio that specializes in creating custom media services for professional photographers and other businesses. Erick Pinell and Brian McMurray, who founded the company in 2004, discovered they could combine their love of music, photography, and multimedia delivery into a dynamic presentation service that could drive photo sales.

Emotion Media is a slideshow service, which means there's no software required. Photographers order a show from the company's website and upload photos. Emotion Media then delivers an electronic version that can be shared via email, websites, blogs, Facebook, etc. They can also provide a DVD printed, packaged, and ready to hand to a client.

"Our Designer Shows come with the music you hear in the online sample," says McMurray. "Building a video to a specific piece of music allows us to create high [quality] productions with unique intros, perfectly timed transitions, backgrounds, and animations that highlight the photographer's photos like no other slideshow can."

Some of Emotion Media's show styles give photographers the option to select different music. Customers can choose from the company's selection of licensed music, which includes some royalty-free tracks and music that is typically licensed for use in television and film production. "There are also a number of artists that we've licensed music from directly," reports McMurray. "We've spent hundreds of hours searching for the very best music for wedding and portrait photographers."

Finding and licensing quality music is much easier today than it was two or three years ago, according to McMurray. "Now photographers can find high-quality music that enhances their presentations and complements the uniqueness of their photography," he says. McMurray notes that there are several companies that sell and/or license music to photographers, and that Emotion Media has a list of providers selling to professional photographers on its website (

"In addition to the links we have on our site, we'll be partnering with music production companies to offer even more options to professional photographers," adds McMurray.


Austin, TX-based Photodex Corporation develops imaging and media applications that help computer users worldwide organize and use their digital content effectively and creatively. The company focuses on providing powerful and easy-to-use digital imaging software and provides slideshow and content-management tools with customer satisfaction in mind.

Photodex just released a new version of its slideshow software, ProShow Producer 4.0. "Version 4.0 makes it easy for photographers to combine their images, videos, and music to create professional slideshows with time-saving features like Slide Styles [premade animations that can be applied to any photo or group of photos in a show], adjustment layers, and a new keyframe editor," says public relations manager Amanda Sahliyeh.

Producer comes with 75 built-in styles, including multilayer montages, camera flashes, and reflections, and users can create and save their own styles for future use. "Shows can be output a number of ways, including DVD, Blu-ray Disc, CD, YouTube, and more," says Sahliyeh.

While Photodex software doesn't come with any music, users can use any MP3, WAV, WMA, or Ogg Vorbis file, according to Sahliyeh. Producer will also automatically rip a track from a disc and use it as a soundtrack for a slideshow.

"We always recommend that our customers use royalty-free audio in the slideshows they create--especially if they're selling a slideshow to a client," says Sahliyeh. "There are a number of sources available to photographers online that provide high-quality and reasonably priced musical selections."

Photodex also sells royalty-free content as an add-on to its slideshow software. This product line is called MediaSource, and the company has a number of discs available that provide royalty-free audio, artistic background images, DVD menu templates, photo frame borders, and more. "All content is royalty-free, so photographers can have peace of mind when creating and selling slideshows to clients," says Sahliyeh.


The founders of Animoto Productions include veterans of the entertainment industry who share a passion for helping people share their stories and express themselves through online media by innovating technologies in the field of video production.

Based in New York City, with an office in San Francisco, Animoto Productions features Animoto, a video creation platform that lets users quickly and easily create professional-quality videos from their own photos and music. Animoto for Photography lets pro photographers create professional-quality videos that can be emailed, burned to DVD and resold, or distributed online via blogs, websites, social networks, and mobile devices.

"Animoto for Photography takes the heavy lifting out of video creation, allowing photographers to create stunning video in minutes and spend more time taking photos," says Brad Jefferson, CEO and cofounder of Animoto. "Until now, the process of editing photos into professional videos has been time-consuming and difficult, requiring expensive software. Animoto changes everything, giving photographers the fastest, easiest, and most affordable way to produce professional-quality video from their photos."

Animoto for Photography features a royalty-free library of hundreds of precleared songs and incorporates two new features designed specifically for photographers. In addition to Animoto's default speed, derived from the tempo of the selected song, half and double speeds are now available. Half speed emphasizes each photograph longer and is ideal for wedding, portrait, and baby videos, according to the company, while double speed creates a more energetic video, perfect for action sports or senior portrait videos. The Call to Action button allows photographers to create a button to "book appointments" that links to their appointment page, or a button to "purchase prints" with a link to their order page.

Each Animoto for Photography subscription ($99 for three months; $249 for a year) includes full use of the company's library of 225-plus commercially licensed songs at no additional cost. "Our music is licensed for any commercial use, excluding television, theater, and performance," says Animoto's Erik Bjornard. "Every subscriber has their choice of commercially licensed songs from the following genres: Top 40/Pop, Indie Rock, Electronica, Hip-Hop, Singer/Songwriter, Latin, Jazz, Classical, Country, and Children's."

In addition to choosing from Animoto's commercially licensed library, photographers can upload and use any music to which they have the rights. "This would include music that they have purchased through a music-licensing service like Triple Scoop Music and could also include their own original music," says Bjornard. "We make it easy and affordable for professional photographers to incorporate high-quality, commercially licensed music into their slideshows."

Triple Scoop Music

Roy Ashen founded Triple Scoop Music in 2006 with his two partners, Ali Handal and Jennifer Herbig. All three are accomplished songwriters and recording artists with extensive experience in music licensing. "Many of our friends were professional photographers and videographers who needed a better way to find high-quality, legal music," says Ashen. "So we rolled up our sleeves and developed an innovative new licensing service that combined real songs with a limited 'royalty-free' type license."

The Triple Scoop Music website was designed as a fast, fun, and easy way to license world-class music. Since its launch a few years ago, it's become quite a hit within the professional photography world and it now offers many thousands of songs by acclaimed independent artists. "We add fresh new music all the time, and every song is handpicked to retain the highest quality of any music licensing service," says Ashen. "That's why we trademarked the phrase 'Sound As Good As You Look.'"

Triple Scoop Music has an impressive array of photographers on board who provide input on the music that works best with slideshow presentations. "It's been truly rewarding to have so many legendary and iconic photographers endorse Triple Scoop Music," says Ashen. "They each fell in love with the music we offer and wanted to collaborate. We love their enthusiasm and support!"

Joe Buissink was one of the first photographers to tap into Triple Scoop Music. Buissink felt strongly that the community of professional photographers deserved incredible and affordable music for their websites, slideshows, and promotional videos. "Once he heard the music, he jumped in to collaborate with us," says Ashen. "Since then we've had a blast working with Denis Reggie, Bambi Cantrell, Marcus Bell, Jim Garner, Kevin Kubota, and so many other fantastic photographers."

Ashen and his cohorts noticed early on that most photographers are big music aficionados. They felt that as visual storytellers, each photographer brings a unique energy and perspective that deserves an equally unique soundtrack. "Ali, Jennifer, and I thought it would be fun to share the top 10 song picks from these iconic photographers as 'Signature Series' music collections," reports Ashen. "In addition to the many wedding and portrait-themed music collections, we've recently launched 'Sports & Action' with Sports Illustrated photographer Bill Frakes and 'Senior Portraits' with Kirk Voclain. It's inspiring to see what songs these talented guys have picked out from the thousands available on our site."

All of the music on is available 24/7 for download and legal licensing. Ashen says the best business advice is very simple: "Make sure you have a legal license for any music you use within your business and website. Period!" he states. "No one should ever steal your photographs or use them without permission, and the same holds true for music."