Do I get the copyrights to my wedding photos? Copyright V. Print Release
Short answer? You’re likely, actually asking about a print release, but, YES, you DO get that.
As the photography world becomes almost completely digital, oftentimes there is confusion over the use of the terms ‘copyright release’ and ‘print release.’ Clients commonly ask if copyrights are included with their wedding packages, when 99.9% of the time they are really asking about a print release. This post is to help clarify some of the confusion between the two terms and help both photographers and clients understand why a print release is the best way to go.
Copyright and Copyright Release
A copyright, by default, is attached to any written or visual work a person creates. It’s just a legal right a person has when they create something, and it means they own all the rights to what they created. It doesn’t need to be applied for or formally given. A copyright release, then, is given when the creator—or photographer, in this case—releases exclusive ownership to someone else, like to a client or a business.
Portrait and Wedding Photographers typically do not do this (at least not on purpose), because doing so risks the integrity of the images themselves and of the photographer’s business image and branding. For example, if someone tells you that JMGant Photography photographed their wedding, but then shows you images that they processed inadequately or outlandishly, it would misrepresent the brand and style of imagery that JMGant Photography has been building for years.
And what about the photographer’s portfolio and marketing? Once the copyright is released, the photographer can no longer use the images for their portfolio, or to publish images on blogs, social media, websites, magazines, etc. They wouldn’t own the images and could no longer properly represent their work, as they would technically not be able to use the images they created without permission from the client.
Now, a print release, on the other hand, gives the client unlimited permission to use the images—to print and reproduce them for personal use, including for passing them along to family for printing as well. Not all photographers offer a print release, but we feel that doing so is one important way to make sure clients fully enjoy the images. This is one of the things that sets JMGant Photography apart from other photographers. However, the print release does prohibit using the images for commercial purposes. For example, if you were a client, and you were approached by an editor of a bridal blog or website who wanted to purchase one of your wedding images, you would need to decline or put the editor in contact with the photographer. Essentially, if you wanted to use the image to make any sort of profit, you would need extra permissions from the photographer.
With a print release, you CAN:
· Print unlimited photos, in any form (photo, canvas, album, etc.), for personal use or display
· Share them with your immediate family so they can do the same
· Post the images on social media, for non-commercial purposes
· Keep the digital files forever and show them to generations to come, but
· Edit or alter the images
· Claim the work as your own
· Use them for commercial gain
This is a win-win for both the photographer and the client! You want to print the images, and the photographer wants to maintain ownership of their hard work. Once I have explained the differences between copyright and print release with my clients, I have never had a single concern or complaint about the release.