Who Owns Your Wedding Photographs?

from the who-owns-what-now? dept

A month ago, we wrote that the business model of the wedding photographer was changing thanks to technology. What we didn’t realize was that photo printing studios fear of copyright violations was holding it back. There’s been quite a discussion on a few blogs today concerning the fact that photo printing studios are refusing to make reprints of photos they think might be professional photographs for fear of breaking someone’s copyright. Apparently, the practice is quite common, and many people who have taken “professional looking” photos, can’t get them re-printed without showing some sort of proof that they own the rights to those photos. This leads to the very obvious question of why this should be an issue at all. If I hire someone to take photographs for me, shouldn’t I own the rights to those photos? That’s why I hired the person after all. It’s just a remnant of the old business model that photographers want to own the rights so they can demand exorbitant fees for reprints. What’s likely to happen, over time, though is that people will start demanding the full rights to the photos they’re paying for, or they’ll simply route around anyone who tries to block them. No, printing at home won’t match the overall quality, but for many people it’s going to be “good enough” as the technology gets better, and then those photo shops and photographers trying to squeeze customers will simply be squeezed right out of business. Those who see it coming will adjust their business models (some already have…). Those who don’t will end up suffering. Update: The NY Times just came out with an article supporting this, showing just how much competition is heating up in the photo printing world.

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Comments on “Who Owns Your Wedding Photographs?”

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Slugs says:

It's in the law

In common law countries (U.K., Commonwealth and to a certain extent, the U.S.) the photographer holds the copyright to the works (photos).

You can ask the chap to assign these rights to you, but that probably means feeding the photographer for a month or two.

The right holders make oodles of money off reprints. I remembered paying something that I could get a ripping game PC for prints which the relatives are going to shelf in a nook and throw away a year later.

eeyore says:

No Subject Given

A lot of photos will have the name of the company and/or photographer stamped on the back of all the pictures. If you take it to Wal Mart or somebody like that as soon as they see the stamp they’ll refuse to copy the photo. The simple solution is to scan the photo yourself and get the digital photo printed.

Quar says:

new trends

I’m getting married in Oct, and actually had to deal with specific issue. What’s interesting is all the different granularity there seems to be. Including both tradional photographers and digital photographers I found :
– Complete ownership by photographer. Couples copy was a licensed from them. All further prints were through them. This was most common with tradional photographers.
– Originals owned by photographers, web copies owned by couple. This seemed to be fairly common. All images take would be put up on a website at some resolution. You select which ones you want and they send the prints. However the resolution is ‘good enough’ for home printing.
– Originals owned by couple. This seems to be just done in the digital world, which makes sense to me, and the whole process becomes more a la carte. You pay thier time orginally, then per photo or groups of photos if you want top qualtiy printing. Typically you can work a deal with them to the photographer to liscence photos for use to promote thier business.
These are just the largest divisions. Each photographer is different and most are willing to negotiate some. I think there was about 1 out of 5 that were willing to give the negatives over initially.

Anonymous Coward says:

No Subject Given

US resident – got married in Scotland. Photographer was aware of this and had a simple offer: One price to shoot the wedding, he owned the photos (and reprints). A larger price for us to leave with Prints, Negatives and Rights. I chose the later.


And, when market forces adjust all of this, professional photos will shift from “Lower price – photog keeps the rights” to the “Higher price and you get the rights” by default.

Destri says:

copyright and photographers

I have heard many voices complaining about copyright laws and making photographers out to be the big villains trying to squeeze you for all you’ve got.

What people don’t seem to realize is that photographers keep a copyright on there images so that they can keep their shoot fees down. This way if you don’t like the job they have done then you don’t have to spend alot of money to find that out up front.

Photographers have gone through a great deal of expense to get that photo into your hand.

Hundreds and often thousands of dollars in equipment, insurance for equipment, usually a studio lease, insurance for studio (legally required), the cost of advertising (NOT CHEAP), cost of any assistance, cost of the film, cost of developing and often printing the film (NOT CHEAP); and often the cost of training and education in their field.

Many photographers base there shoot fees according to their experience and overhead. If you are hiring a cheap photographer, chances are the quality of the images you get will correspond.

To top all that off. The american thirst for ever cheaper everything has lead to small businesses needing to compete with businesses such as Walmart and other big box stores; that really have no interest in generating much profit (if any) from photography. Their main goal is to get you into their store to spend money on all the other general goods stuff they sell. This is where you find your min. wage kid with little to NO experience holding a camera (is this who you want shooting your wedding?).

Many photographers are forced to lower their shoot fees just to try and compete with these stores. This is why they need to make money from prints.

Incase you haven’t guessed, I am a photographer.
I make church mice look like rockefellers. I do high quality work and bust a gut for my clients. I do what I do because I have a passion for photography. I eat, breath and dream of it 24-7. Every chance I get I read litterature on how to improve my art. My clients benefit from this. Do you think that kid at Walmart really cares about what he has to do for $6 an hour (that is when he shows up for work). I have saved and slaved my whole life to open my own business, and have sunk every penny I have into equipment, training, etc…
There is no health plan for me, no retirement or 401k from an employer.

My camera, my drive and my passion to get my clients the best photo, is my entire future and I price my fees and prints accoringly.

If you want high quality photos, then stop whining.

If it’s not important what you end up with, then strap a dispossable camera to your nephew and let him run wild, this is probably just as good as what you can expect from those other guys.

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