It’s been too long since we had a new Bridal Business! I’ve recently received a few questions about whether or not I give my wedding & engagement clients the “copyright release” in my contract and thought it might be a good topic to cover!
Since I am a Washington, DC shoot & share photographer, my clients receive the high-resolution digital images from their sessions or wedding day in every package. Meaning that, upon delivery, they have a large selection of images (generally a wedding day yields 600+images) at their disposal instead of having to pick and choose which ones that they would like to print and order directly through me. (That is, of course, an option as some clients prefer to use some of my that are available only to industry professionals; however, it is not required in any way because how my contract is written grants them permission to print their images.) So when a client comes to me with this question about receiving the copyright to their images, 99% of the time they are actually just looking for a print release! Which is good, because we are on the same page — as the photographer, I want you to print your images just as much as you, the client, wants to be able to print your images!
Let’s get all technical for a second and break down some definitions:
A copyright is owned by the person who creates the work. From the second I snap an image, it legally belongs to me as the photographer, or “author”, unless I sign it away otherwise. Copyright essentially gives me the exclusive rights to determine how the image should be displayed and distributed. I am also the only person who can make alterations to my work. Since my name is associated with the images, I want to have complete control of how they look to ensure they are in line with my photography style that you are hiring me for! Images covered in filters or bad crops can grossly misrepresent my brand.
A print release is different in that it gives someone permission to reproduce my images for their own personal use. Personal use is the key term here. If a client wanted to make prints, canvases, albums, t-shirts, etc, they are more than welcome to do that for themselves and their entire family. They are, however, prohibited from using them for commercial reasons. For example, if you were approached by the Editor of Washingtonian Bride & Groom because they wanted to buy your brand new wedding profile picture for the cover of their next edition, you would have to decline as they are not yours to sell.
In short, with a print release:
+ Post them on all forms of social media.
+ Print an unlimited amount of them in any form (photo, canvas, album, t-shirt, etc.) .
+ Share them with your family so they can do the same!
+ Edit or alter the images in any way, including cropping and filters.
+ Claim the work as your own.
+ Use them for commercial gain.
Once it’s been explained, I haven’t had a single issue! Clients realize, in the end, that they truly only wanted the right to use their images for personal reasons and that is what they are getting!