This is a bit of a new one for us. Usually our blogs are full of tips and advice to help you before the wedding. Today we’re talking about something which becomes relevant after your wedding. Providing your suppliers with copies of your wedding photographs.
This is a topic close to the hearts of every wedding photographer. Why? Because it’s become far more complicated than it needs to be really!
The chances are that after your wedding you’ll be approached by other suppliers involved in your wedding day and asked for copies of your wedding photographs. This seems like a fairly straightforward yes or no type scenario, but it’s actually a little more complicated than that.
Legally, copyright (ownership) of images is automatically assigned to the photographer. This means that although the wedding photographs are (usually) yours to use and enjoy, it’s the photographer who took them that actually owns them. Any photographer worth their salt does not include copyright with their photographs as standard. This is because handing over full legal ownership of your work leaves it open to all sorts of undesirable things. Things which can reflect badly on your business. Images being edited poorly, sold on for profit, stolen, used commercially and/or for advertising etc. Usually the latter is exactly what other suppliers want to use your wedding images for.
Many suppliers who ask for copies of your photos would like to obtain professional images to help showcase their work in the best possible light. Professional images not only show off work at it’s best, but also create a good impression with potential clients. Because of this, it is desirable to have professional images of your work. Doing so will potentially help to bring in more business and in turn make them more money. This is called using images commercially. I.e Ultimately for financial gain. A professional commercial shoot would set a business back hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. Not just for the shoot and right to use the images itself, but also in stock and products. For a commercial shoot you would need to make more products to have photographed. It is much cheaper and more convenient to ask a bride or groom to send over some photos from their wedding. In this case the work has already been done and is likely being photographed professionally anyway. It makes perfect business sense…for everyone but the photographer. UNLESS there are procedures in place to ensure that the photographer benefits too.
Often photographers will have spent many hours editing your wedding images. In the process sometimes doing things like correcting “mistakes” or inconsistencies. Erasing cracks from icing on wedding cakes, masking skin blemishes, makeup smudges or loose hairs. Even erasing things like fire exit signs. As such a final photograph may not always be a fair and wholly accurate representation of someone’s product, service or venue.
Because of all of these things, many photographers prefer that you do not pass images from your wedding on to other suppliers.
It’s always quite a shock to open a magazine, or be browsing the internet and see one of our photographs from a wedding crop up. Usually we had absolutely no idea it was being used. We are rarely told, let alone asked initially. What this means for us, is that we’ve missed out on an opportunity to forge a mutually beneficial business relationship with that venue or supplier. If we do not know that they are interested in our work, or have not been provided with their details it’s very unlikely that we’ll have the chance to network with them. It can be very difficult to approach this situation after the fact.
When a couple pass copies of their wedding photographs on to another business, this means that the supplier may use our work to help advertise theirs. This isn’t very fair. For a photographer, photographs are our product in the same way that a cake is the product of a cake maker. Sadly, no one offers us free cake. Still, we live in hope!
A comment that we hear often relating to this matter is “but the couple have already paid for the wedding photographs, so you’re not losing out” which is completely wrong.
Firstly, couples pay for our time, service and expertise. If we were charging per photo, wedding photography would be considerably more expensive! Consider how much it costs per photo when you have a professional shoot in a studio. Secondly, it’s not just revenue that’s the issue. It’s also the missed networking opportunities. It’s also the disregard for the legalities surrounding copyright. There’s an innate assumption that creative services are less valuable than tangible products. Some people therefore expect that they should be available for free to anyone who wants them.
Lastly, the couple have also paid the other supplier for their product or service already too. Why, therefore, should they additionally be provided with free promotional material for their business? Something which would otherwise set them back hundreds of pounds if they booked a commercial shoot with a professional photographer.
Business relationships should be mutually beneficial, not one sided. A florist would soon notice the dent in their wallet if they were expected to provide free flowers for every supplier involved in a wedding. Yet photographers are expected to provide free photographs.
It may seem like a non-issue, but the wedding photography world is increasingly competitive. Positive business relationships, referrals and recommendations are literally everything for some photographers. Wedding photographers are often keen to work with other suppliers and keen to share photographs, but it must be mutually beneficial. No one likes to feel like they are being taken advantage of and no one likes to feel that their product or service has no value.
If you are approached by another supplier asking for copies of your wedding photographs, it’s essential that you refer them back to your photographer. They are the only ones who can legally give permission for images to be used. Any good, experienced supplier should already know this. This also allows them the opportunity to forge a business relationship and outline any T&C’s relating to the image use. For example, your photographer may wish to inform the supplier that they must not edit the photo in any way.
Please respect your photographers legal rights and their business by giving them the opportunity to work with other small businesses. Bypassing your photographer and giving away their work is potentially taking food from their table further down the line. That is ultimately what it comes down to.