Should You Buy the Rights to Your Wedding Photos?
Photography contracts (which are filled with jargon about ownership, rights to photos, and more) can be a bit daunting to the untrained eye. What's more confusing is that every photographer has his/her own approach and no two wedding photography contracts are identical. To help you decode some of the lingo you're bound to see in your final contract, we're walking through some basic questions regarding photography terms.
What's standard practice regarding rights in the wedding industry?
Most wedding photographers maintain the rights to ownership, reproduction, and publication of your photos so that they can use the photography for their own portfolio, website, advertising, and marketing content. This means they own the copyright and can publish images on social media and submit your wedding to magazines and blogs for publication without your direct approval. The majority of photographers will contact you before they share your wedding or once a wedding has been approved for publication, but they're not always required to ask for your blessing first.
Why would a photographer not agree to give us the photo rights for free? Isn't that why we're paying them?
Photographers tend to lean toward maintaining the rights to your wedding photography so they can use the photos in their own advertising and social media, publish them to magazines or blogs, print the images for their portfolios, use the photos for instructional purposes at workshops and conferences, or use them to show prospective clients their work. This is how they obtain new clients and likely how they got your attention in the first place. This is of a very high value to photographers, as showing diversity in their portfolio is crucial to growing their business.
Is it worth negotiating photography ownership in the contract?
For some couples, privacy is a bigger concern than for others. Purchasing the copyright to your wedding photos may be a costly endeavor, depending on your photographer's preferred business practices. You might instead ask if they'd be willing to contact you for approval of imagery prior to publication, or ask if they'd agree to not publish photos of your wedding guests on social media. Keep in mind, your photographer has you looking your best as a top priority if they're using your photos to promote their work.
What do most couples agree to?
Most couples are aware that their wedding could end up on social media and are happy to agree to this. As well, they're comfortable with their wedding being published on a photographer's website and maybe published in a blog or magazine as well. For many couples, their wedding day is one of the best days of their lives and they're happy to share it publicly as inspiration to other couples and to support and champion the hard work of all of the vendors involved.
What does this mean for us in terms of getting prints of our wedding photography?
This is something you'll want to chat directly with your photographer about, as contracts can allow for some gray area around printing rights. Some photographers are happy to hand over a folder of high-res images you can print on your own, while others prefer to handle the printing with their approved printers. You should ask them directly about their process of delivering digital images, photo albums, and small or large prints.
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