A copyright gives its owner the right to copy, distribute, publicly display or create derivative works from the original work. A copyright also gives its owner the right to license those rights to others.
A photograph is copyright protected from the moment it is created. This means that even if you purchase a print or digital file from your photographer, you still need to talk to them about making reproductions from that item.
The current copyright term is the life of the creator – in this case, the photographer, plus an additional 70 years.