Retaining copyright could be one of the best business decisions that freelance or self-employed photographers make, according to new research from the British Photographic Council who surveyed 1,698 photographers working in the UK market (91% were freelance photographers).

The results show those freelance photographers who keep their copyright earn on average 33.2% more than those who routinely give their copyright to clients.

The survey showed nine out of ten freelance photographers keep their copyright rather than assigning it to their clients - despite almost three-quarters saying that they had encountered clients in 2009 who wrongly believed copyright belonged to whoever commissioned the photography. Also, during 2009, 71% of freelance respondents said they had been asked to give copyright to their clients, and 62% said they were pressured to give clients a more extensive licence for no increase in the fee.

Three out of every five photographers said they knew of instances where their copyright had been infringed in the previous three years, costing them on average just over £3,600 each. But only 30% of these photographers pursued all known infringements, with most citing difficulties in bring legal cases for copyright infringements. Overall, 82% of photographers said their businesses would benefit from a quicker and easier legal redress for copyright infringements.

The results show a predominantly male industry, with fewer than one in five photographers being female.

61% of photographers surveyed said that photography was their sole source of earned income, with almost one in five professionals saying that photography was not their main source of income. Only a third of respondents said they had spent 91% or more of their working life as a photographer.

The survey showed photographers' career paths to be less regimented, with only half having industry qualifications, and many entering the industry in middle age. Two out of every five photographers are educated to at least degree level - but those with an undergraduate degree were twice as likely to have it in a subject other than photography.  While 73% of respondents said they thought formal photography qualifications were "essential, valuable or useful", only 5% considered formal qualifications to be "essential" for working in the industry. Those respondents without photography qualifications are less likely to consider those qualifications to be "useful" or "valuable".

Interesting stuff - Any views?