This post is something a bit different for us as we usually post advice for couples. Today we’re posting a blog with advice for other wedding suppliers though. This post covers a topic which many non-photographers find confusing: copyright.
In short, copyright = ownership. When a photographer takes a photograph, the law automatically assigns full copyright (legal ownership) of that image to the person who took it. It is incredibly rare for a photographer to surrender copyright of a set of images so you must always assume that the photographer owns the image(s).
For many, it’s a strange concept. That a couple will have hired a photographer to shoot their wedding and yet, they don’t actually own any of the photographs at the end of it. Photographers often assign printing rights to their images, but retain the copyright themselves. There are plenty of great reasons for this- but that’s a topic for another day. It’s just important that you and understand that printing rights (which most couples are likely to have) do not give them the authority to share images with you. Nor do they have the authority to authorise you to use any of the photographs from the wedding.
Some friendly advice about copyright
If you are interested in using professional images from a wedding you have worked on, our first piece of advice is to ask the photographer directly. If you don’t know who the photographer was, you should be able to obtain their details from your couple. As above, legally, copyright (ownership) of the photographs belongs to the photographer. As such they are the only person who is able to authorise use of the photos. Getting an OK from the couple has no legal basis. For your own sake, to avoid being sued if you upset the wrong person, go direct.
Our second piece of advice is to be clear about how you’d like to use the photos. Some photographers may be happy for you to share on social media, or your own website. However they may not want you to use the images commercially or for anything that could see you make profit from use of the images. If you plan to use any professional photos on advertising flyers, banners or for editorials in magazines for example, you should always let the photographer know in advance. It’s not ok to just assume that it’s ok for you to use the photographs however and wherever you like.
A word of warning, copyright protects the photographers image as it is.
If you are given permission to use a photograph, or a collection of images, it is never OK to edit those photos. A photograph is like a digital business card for a photographer. That image, the editing, the composition, is all part of a photographers style and their brand. If you start cropping things or adding jazzy filters you are mis-representing the photographers work. You are also undermining the hours of work that will have gone into editing that photo- intentionally or not.
If you are given permission to use an image (especially for free) it’s polite and professional to include an image credit. On social media tag them, and if applicable also provide a link to their website. It’s not great to just say, for example, “Images: John Smith photography” as there could be several other businesses of that name.
If you are not given permission, it’s unfortunate, but as the legal owner for the photographs, the photographer does have the final say.
We’re not all dickheads
It’s worth remembering that a photographer wont always decline to provide an image because they’re not a very nice person. Sometimes it is about protecting their brand or representing it in the way they want it to be represented. From time to time we all work on a wedding that for one reason or another turns out not to be for us. It may not fit with our brand ethos, or it may not be the kind of wedding we would usually shoot. If a photographer says no please consider that it may be because they are trying to protect their brand identity. You may be happy to work on princessy weddings with huge tiaras and fabulous tans. You may love boho weddings with messy curls and moody grooms- the photographer however may specialise in something else.
Another reason that a photographer may decline to provide images is because sometimes couples request that no photos are shared from their day. It happens and it happens often. Teachers, military, police officers, government workers, or high profile couples very often request images aren’t shared.
Don’t sweat it
If you don’t ask you don’t get, right? But if you do ask, don’t assume that you will get.
Lots of suppliers behave like professional photographs are something they are entitled to. Just for showing up and doing their job. Like you, the photographer will have showed up, done their job and then gone home and spent hour upon hour perfecting those photos ready to deliver back to their client. Often, in the process various “mistakes” will have been corrected- cracks in icing for example is common. Smudges or tide lines in make up- bits of hair that have fallen out of place. It’s not the turn up, click a button and leave job that many seem to believe it is. A photographers work extends far beyond the day. Again, that’s a topic for another day though.
Therefore, understandably, some photographers feel that if another supplier wants to benefit from their hard work and the additional time spent serving you rather than their client or their own business, you– the supplier should pay for it.
“But you’ve already been paid for the photos”
Occasionally, when a photographer requests a fee in return for image use, the response will be “but you’ve already been paid for the photos.” Whilst that’s true, you are not the photographers client and therefore you’re not entitled to their product. You may feel that you’re not asking for much. Just a quick email with a photo or two attached. What’s the big deal? You’re going to credit them- what more do they want?…..But multiply that by several suppliers, across 30, 40, 50 weddings or more a year. “2 minutes” for your quick email with a couple of photos attached becomes several hours because I can promise you, you wont be the only supplier from that wedding asking the same thing.
Even for photos you’ve already edited and delivered, it takes an age.
Furthermore, presumably you too will have been paid for your role on the day. The argument of “why should you then benefit further in the form of free advertising materials or web/social media content” is a valid one.
If a photographer says no, please don’t be angry or rude. Image credits don’t pay the bills and you are not the only supplier asking for our time.
If you’re willing to offer a small fee in return for a photo, or would be interested in swapping services, it’s always worth extending the offer. Business relationships can be worth their weight in gold, but they are a two way street built on a mutual respect for someone else’s work.
Our over all message here is be excellent to each other. Respect each others product, service, skill and business. Niceness goes a long way 🙂