August 27, 2019 /
Welcome, welcome, friends! It’s been a few days since we’ve seen you and we’re so glad that you’re back! We hope you all are having a wonderful week!! 🙂
Today we’re tackling a somewhat sticky topic, and something that can cause a lot of confusion for both brides and grooms hiring a wedding photographer, new photographers, and wedding vendors alike. Yep, it impacts all of these people and more, but it’s kinda tricky and not a lot of people are familiar with the ins and outs of it.
Today we’re talking copyright.
Also commonly known as “the rights to my photos,” “owning my pictures,” “the right to reproduce,” and “I paid for it so I own it,” “full rights to my pictures, “my face is in it so I can do whatever I want with it” in some communities.
Our goal today is simple. Pure education. So this might get a little lengthy, and we apologize in advance for that. But in the world of digital photography, it’s a must. Especially since digital imagery can be manipulated so easily by anybody and everybody nowadays. And especially, especially when every other wedding planning resource out there always tells you to make sure you get “the full rights to all of your pictures.”
What does that even mean?!
We’re about 99% sure that at some point this has come up in your journey in selecting and choosing your wedding photographer. Or even if you’ve already chosen your photographer and are walking through your contract questioning what copyright is.
Along the way we’re going to share some of our favorites from Logan & Ben’s engagement session. Because, you know, that’s just how we are. 🙂
We’re going to try to keep our discussion about copyright real simple because honestly, there’s so much to it we can barely scratch the surface. And we are by no means lawyers. But it’s still a discussion that needs to happen. If you want more information and all the awesome FAQs, check out the Professional Photographers of America page on Copyright (we’re proud PPA members!!).
Alright friends, hang on tight. Here we go.
So. Copyright. What is it exactly?
The dictionary defines copyright as, “the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (such as a literary, musical, or artistic work).” Say what?
Essentially, it’s the exclusive legal right of a creator to reproduce, distribute, edit, or publicly display an original work. The creator being the person who makes whatever it is at hand (in this scenario, photos), specifically, the photographer.
Simply put? Only the photographer that creates the picture can decide who can use it, how they can use it, and what can be done to it. When is an image copyrighted? As soon as that shutter is snapped and the camera saves the digital file to the SD card in the camera.
Now. How does this all work with wedding photos?
Especially since they’re digital and especially since you want to “own the photos?” The tricky part about this is that all photographers operate on different terms. Ugh. We know. But, there are some photographers out there that don’t care how their images are used or where, or by whom. Others do care. Some photographers don’t care if you put all the Instagram filters on their photos. Others do. Some photographers don’t actually understand what it means when they say, “sure, you’ll get the copyright.”
To avoid confusion, let’s say that when you receive your photos you also receive a right to reproduce them. There are lots of different ways to say that, but this is the most basic.
Most professional photographers will always own the original photo they take and the copyright that goes with it. BUT, they commonly grant their clients written permission to reproduce those photos in a certain, specific way. That written permission? It’s vital here. It means that you actually have the permission of the creator and the person holding the copyright to make extra copies of that photo, to share it online, and to hang it in your home.
MAKE SURE YOU GET A PRINTED, PHYSICAL COPY OF YOUR RIGHT TO REPRODUCE YOUR PHOTOS THAT SPECIFICALLY DETAILS HOW YOU CAN REPRODUCE THEM AND WHAT YOU CAN DO WITH THEM.
Because even if you print them at the local Wal Mart, they should still ask you for a print release proving that you can reproduce those photos.
Several, several years ago I tried to make an emergency print for someone at our local Wal Mart, and they didn’t believe me when I told them that I was the photographer for the photo. I had to go home and print a photo release, to myself and signed by myself to show them before they would release the image.
Anyway, the content of that right to reproduce your photos? That’s what’s important here. That’s where your photographer will tell you exactly what, how, and where you can reproduce your photos, and if you can “edit” them. And the catch is that every single photographer is different.
So don’t be afraid to ask for clarification or specificities.
The print release for our clients? It says that they can reproduce the digital files in possession up to an 8×10 from a 3rd party lab of their choosing. It also says that they can’t sell the photos, enter them in contests, or profit from them in any way shape or form. (This just means that you can’t enter them in a best of professional wedding picture contest and win $10k from it). It does specify that the photos can be shared online and with friends and family, but that the delivered images CANNOT be altered in any way, shape or form. Including, but not limited to cropping, adding Instagram/SnapChat filters or editing the final image in any way shape or form (making your eyes bigger/smoothing your skin, etc.).
We know. We sound like hardasses.
But the fact of the matter is, we are very, very carefully and thoroughly edit the final photos that our clients receive, and anything other than that is a misrepresentation of our work, brand, and artistic expression. The same thing goes for ALL photographers, not just us. And this is our life’s work, the way we make income to support ourselves. If someone out there is selling wedding photos that we took, or making a profit from work we created that’s not okay.
We’ll be the first to admit that we have a very strict photo release policy. But it’s honestly for your and our protection.
Now. Other things photographers might say about their clients’ photo rights?
Some photographers will deliver full size, massive files to their clients so they can print however big their hearts desire. We don’t do this because we prefer to print wall art for our clients on the best archival products we can get our hands on. It just makes life easier. Some photographers will say that you can only print at certain places. Or share in certain ways online.
The contradiction of this? Some (mostly very new and green) photographers will say that, “sure, you’ll receive the copyright to your pictures.” But we’re betting that they’re not sure what they’re saying. And that if you just receive a disc of photos or a download option with no written transfer of that copyright from the photographer to you? Or anything that gives you permission to reproduce or share your photos? Then you’re still missing a right to actually reproduce or share them.
Just a little switch in words and everything changes. We told you copyright was kind of confusing. Just check out this recent copyright case Katy Perry got tied up in. Because the copyright laws that we’re talking about here? They’re the same ones that pertain to Katy Perry.
But no matter what. Above all else, no matter what your photographer says you will or won’t get, how it’s worded, or where you can share it, it’s still not okay to alter the photos your photographer gives you.
Guys, that includes making your eyes larger and your skin smoother in Snap Chat. It includes putting those Facebook holiday/celebration frames on them. It includes cropping the watermark out. Or turning your sisters wedding photos into a gif.
Other common things that happen that violate copyright law that people don’t think about?
- Screen-shotting your photo from your photographers online proofing gallery.
- Right clicking and saving an image on your photographer’s Facebook page.
- Again, putting an Instagram filter on a finished photo.
- Cropping your finished photos.
- Printing photos that you’ve screen-shotted with your photographers logo on them. (Yep, we’ve heard of people blowing those up and hanging them on the wall too).
- Recreating an image identically down to the last detail from Pinterest.
- Resizing the digital photos that your photographer gave you so you can print them larger than what’s specified in your print release. (Especially if you found a tutorial on Pinterest about how to do it. )
We know. Since you paid for the picture, doesn’t that mean that you have any rights or say so about your photos?
Of course. You always have the option of not signing a model release for your photographer that will let them use your images in a public way (social media, advertising, etc.). But ultimately when you purchase your digital files (again, unless you receive a signed copyright transfer), you’re purchasing copies of the digital files and not the actual original files themselves.
You guys. We’ve been talking forever.
And we feel like we’ve barely scratched the surface of copyright. But we promise we’re not going to bore you. This are the basics. The bare-bones basics. The only basics that we feel like we’re qualified enough to talk about. Barely.
But if you want to know more and educate yourself more since you’re investing in professional photography? For real. Head to the PPA website and check out the page linked here. There’s ALL kinds of good information. And we promise it’s a reputable source. It’s the Professional Photographers Association of America for goodness sake.
We hope you’ve enjoyed looking at Logan and Ben’s gorgeous faces and their sweet puppies. These two cuties are getting married in February and we couldn’t be more excited for their wedding day.
Feel like you’re missing something? Check out Logan & Ben’s Sneak Peek here.