“Works made for hire” are an exception to the general rule that the person who takes a photograph is the copyright owner. When a photograph is a work made for hire, the employer is the copyright owner, not the photographer.
A photograph is a work made for hire if it was taken by an employee within the scope of his or her employment. An example would be a staff photographer who is an employee of a newspaper.
A photograph can also be a work made for hire if the parties sign a written contract designating it as such, and it is specially ordered or commissioned for use as part of a collective work, compilation, motion picture, or other category specified in the law. 
Instead of the usual copyright term of life of the author plus 70 years, works made for hire have a copyright term of 95 years from the date of publication or 120 years from the date of creation, whichever expires first. The right that a copyright owner normally has to terminate a transfer of copyright after a period of time, does not exist for works made for hire.