Have you ever been photographed by a professional wedding photographer? Not just a wedding photographer in fact, but any professional photographer. If so, you may have come across a clause in their contract which states that you must not edit the photographs that they deliver to you.
To many people this can come across as strange, given that they have purchased the photographs, so surely they are yours to do with as you please? This isn’t quite the case, as it’s actually the photographer who retains copyright for the images (that’s legal ownership of the photographs, in laymen’s terms.) But copyright is another topic for another day. You can read about that in another advice blog about copyright.
So why do photographers state that you must not edit the photographs? The simple reason for this is that it misrepresents what they do. When your business is a visual one, you rely on people booking you based on what they can see of your work. If they like the quality and the style they may book you. Your photographs are your product and therefore pretty much every one you put out there is your business card. It’s essential that your work sells you and what you do, or you’ll soon be out of a job.
Therefore when you edit a photograph you are changing someones product. This can negatively impact a photographer in a couple of ways.
Firstly, lets say for example that you upload one of your wedding photographs to instagram with a filter. Someone loves the look and style of the photo and asks you who the photographer is. You name your photographer, thinking that you’re doing a kind thing and spreading the word about them and their business.
Editing photos and not meeting expectations
This negatively impacts the photographer though because you are associating their name and business with a look and style of editing that is not their own. This can create problems by sending the wrong type of clients their way. Further down the line it can also cause problems with managing client expectations. If someone has booked that photographer because they’ve initially seen what they think is a lovely sepia photo on your instagram page, then they don’t get any themselves, they may be upset or disappointed with the photographers service, through no fault of the photographer. It’s just that their expectations were not met.
Ultimately, what you need to remember is that whilst you may love the look you’ve created, you always will because you have an emotional attachment to it. From a business perspective though a photographer is likely to be looking at that photo in a very different way. They will notice the colours being too saturated, the image being too contrasty. They’ll see blown highlights and dodgy white balances. What that photo may say to the world is that the photographer does not know how to professionally edit an image. It makes them seem like an amateur.
Not everyone will like the same style of editing
Along the same lines… if you post an edited image, there’s a chance that others will not like the style and discredit the photographer as a result. The photography market is hugely saturated, so if someone sees something they don’t like, they just move onto the next photographer. When you post an image that misrepresents your photographers style, you can literally be costing them business and work. And it’s not just potential clients, but other photographers and other suppliers too who may get that negative impression.
Photographers don’t ask you not to edit their work to be mean. They don’t do it to be precious or pretentious. They literally do it because that photo, any photo they take is their business card and it’s what puts food on their table. If you write professionally for a living and then an amateur rewrites your story it is no longer your work. There are traces of it, but the end product is different. It’s exactly the same for photographers when you edit a photo. Please let the world see the photographers original and not the rewritten version, for some it can be the difference between paying the rent that month or not.