As a couple, this can be a confusing aspect of a wedding photographer’s contract. Who owns rights to my wedding photos? Sometimes peoples’ biggest enemy are other people on discussion forums giving answers based on how they think it should work. Right here, I will discuss usage, ownership and what it means to the couple and professional wedding photographers. Not all wedding photographers work the same, so I will tell you how I do it, and what the average standard is for usage and ownership.
Read the contract, ask questions – What is ownership?
Regardless of anyone’s human logic, asking a photographer for sole ownership of wedding photos isn’t realistic or necessary. The wedding photographer is the creator and owner of the photos and copyrights. No photographer who knows what they’re doing offers transfer of copyright ownership, unless maybe it’s tens or hundreds of thousands, even then…. why? It can be harmful to their brand, and the only reason sole ownership takes place is for the copyright holder to sell the images commercially. No couple I know of would do that anyway. Nor is there any other advantage to you to “own” them. Ownership and shared usage are not the same thing. If you are wondering if the photographer sells images from a wedding, I’ve never heard of that and have never done it. What you see on commercials and magazines, billboards, etc. are not from an actual wedding. That type of usage would require a more stringent model release than what a wedding photography contract offers.
What is the standard – Who owns rights to my wedding photos?
The most common way (as I do it) is to grant the couple shared usage of the wedding photos. This means I still own image copyrights, and use photos for my own marketing such as website and blog content, PR and social media, studio sample albums and print goods, wedding expo displays, and advertising. The couple has rights to print from the high resolution files I provide them. I also provide web resolution versions for them to share on social media etc. THOSE 2 things are all most couples are after, and that’s all anyone really needs. That’s shared usage. The only thing the couple may not do is alter the images or sell them commercially. There again, if you’re hiring a professional wedding photographer for their vision and hard work, you wouldn’t do that anyway.
Given that scenario, who owns rights to my wedding photos? Take the word “own” out of the equation. The answer is both of you have the usage you need, all is right with the world, don’t complicate things for no reason. 🙂
BUT, what if I don’t want my wedding photos online or published anywhere? Do I need ownership for that?-
No. This is an NDA, non-disclosure agreement. Not all wedding photographers will offer this, others will, some charge a fee to do so. It’s not something I like to do often, but I honor their wishes personally. I’ve only done two in the past 8 years. But no one else besides them have seen photos from those events from me. Most couples love seeing their personal blog and enjoy the fame while it lasts.