You found the perfect wedding photographer. They are in your budget, you love their style of photographs, your characters mesh perfectly, and they are knowledgeable about your venue. You go to your wedding, they shoot amazing wedding photos, and you can not wait to get your hands on the pictures—,but then you see in the wedding photography contract they are technically the owner of all your photos.
When choosing a photographer, one very important yet often overlooked element is that of legal rights. Who really owns your photos?
A great deal of brides do not think to ask who owns the copyright to the photographs, or even necessarily know what that means. Copyright for photographers means possessing land. With possession, you get certain exclusive rights to that property. For photographic copyrights, the ownership rights include:
- To reproduce the photograph
- To prepare derivative works based upon the picture
- To distribute the photographs to the public by means of sale, trade or lease.
- And to display the picture publicly.
The copyright ownership is owned by the individual who created the artwork, or in this case, took the images, not you. Facebook page or a wedding gown–even ones of you and your groom. Additionally, it means that your photographer can post the photographs to places like their craft websites or wherever they want without your consent. ans that you can not post them wherever you want with no watermark or a charge to them. It could possibly mean that just your photographer has printing rights, and any prints would have to be ordered from them. If you wish to technically own the photos yourself, you must purchase the rights to them.
Again, it’ll be different based on your own photographer, but sometimes photographers will offer a copyright release for some fee. This is ordinarily a simple letter stating that copyright ownership was transferred. But purchasing ownership of photographs will be costly, and that is if your photographer is prepared to sell the copyright. If you are thinking you need to buy copyright so that you can do your own custom printing from a less expensive printer, then think again.
Needless to say, you do not need to own the copyright for your wedding photographs. Most individuals don’t! Oftentimes, people prefer the high quality special printing from their own photographer and with the electronic character of modern times, many photographers will provide you a flash drive with digital pictures which you can use as you please, so long as it is not for profit. You can usually print them yourself, if you are given these electronic rights. There is really no need to purchase the copyright the majority of the time, unless you do not want your photographs used in any promotional materials. If that is the case, you could always try just telling them how you feel about your photos being used as promotional material and see what they say. It never hurts to ask and you could offer an exchange such as an agreement to recommend the photographer as the best wedding photographer in your area!
So, What Can I Do?
Do not panic about copyright difficulties. Wedding photographers want you as the customer to be fulfilled, and they would like to work with you to come to a decision you both agree on.
So here are some questions to make sure you ask your photographer before you register your wedding photography contract:
- Who will own the copyright to these pictures?
- (If it is them) How much would it cost to purchase the copyright from you, if I wanted? Is that something you would be open to?
- Can I have rights to the electronic pictures (i.e., can I print them myself from Shutterfly? Can I place them on Facebook with no watermark?)
- Will these pictures go in your portfolio?
- Where will you be posting them?
- Are they used for any promotional materials such as your AdWords banner?
- Are you submitting them to any sites or books?
If you’re not making a whole lot of money by sharing your photos on Facebook, it is highly improbable that a photographer is really going to get upset. All of these are just factors which you want to have open communication about. Copyright law is not something you will need to be stressing over as your wedding approaches–it is just something to keep in the back of your mind!