One of the questions that we get asked most frequently by both clients and professional wedding photographers alike is "Who owns the copyright to my wedding photos?"
This is a great question because as we have now moved in to the digital age of wedding photography, the ability to effortlessly copy, share and print wedding photos has led to a situation where people want to be clear about what they can and can not do with their photos.
To answer the question "Who owns the copyright to my wedding photos?", Very simply, the copyright for wedding photos belong to the wedding photographer. As the copyright owner they can of course choose to sell or transfer the copyright to someone else. This, however, would be most unusual and indeed most unwisely as it would mean that the photographer would no longer have any rights to use the images whatsoever. So, for example, they would not be able to use them for their website to promote their business or even keep them on a disc in a drawer.
Transferring the copyright would also mean that the new copyright owner could charge for the use of the images, for example, selling them to the wedding venue or the florist. Indeed, if the photographer who took the images in the first place wanted to use them, they could even charge them too!
So what rights do you have to your wedding photos?
What is more usual today is for the wedding photographer to give the couple a DVD of their photos along with a usage license that allows them to print and use the images for their own personal use.
In terms of social media and sharing photos online the photographer will normally stipulate within the license that the images are not full resolution and that they must carry a watermark that credits the original photographer. In fact, some forward thinking wedding photographers are even providing a separate set of images that are already optimized in this way and can then instantly be used by the happy couple to share the occasion on Facebook with their friends and family.
Hopefully, this brief article has helped clarify the position regarding the ownership of copyright and wedding photos. Having said that, we still see many professional photographers advertising their services with the words "with full copyright". Do they really mean that? We do not believe so, but, it is a question worth asking when hiring a wedding photographer so that everyone is clear where they stand from the very start!