Wedding Photography and Copyright

“Can we get the copyright to the photos?”

Let’s say you hire a photographer to capture your wedding.

You are keen to know exactly what you are getting, and you want to ensure that you will get the copyright to the photos at the end. Perhaps you have heard that not all photographers will allow this.

Firstly you must understand that no professional wedding photographer will ever hand over the copyright to your photographs.

Secondly you must understand that copyright and licensing are two different things. A photographer almost always retains copyright, unless they have explicitly signed this away, for example if they are taking photographs under the banner of a company which owns the work of its employees. Or in some rare cases that the photographer signs a contract with a client such as an agency who requests ownership of copyright. (Many photographers will refuse to work for such agencies.)

Even if you have no formal written contract with your photographer, UK Intellectual Property law (specifically the Design and Patents Act 1988) states that when a photographer clicks the button, at the point the work is created, the photographer owns the copyright.

You don’t need to worry about that, though! Read on.

Instead, most photographers will provide you with a licence that allows specific things to be done with the photographs; for example they may allow you to keep low resolution copies on a DVD and print them for personal use.

Some photographers still prefer not to release digital versions of images – or to release versions with large watermarks that prevent printing by obscuring a large portion of the image – for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the photographer has a more old fashioned revenue model whereby the majority of profit comes from selling prints, alternatively the photographer may have exacting standards for photographic printing that most consumer print services do not allow for.

It is arguable that this practice is changing, and photographers are charging more and more for the photography time rather than prints of the images that are received at the end. In this sense, wedding photography has become more similar to corporate and commercial photography.

However it is also arguable that a photographer operating nearer the higher end of the market wants to maintain full artistic control and will therefore not allow for a situation where couples can make their own prints.

“So we’re not Victoria and David Beckham”

Either way, a professional photographer will always retain the copyright – except in extremely rare circumstances.

Of course, it is technically possible for a photographer to hand over the copyright, however this would allow you to sell the photographs for a large sum of money to an agency. Or worse still, put those photographs on Facebook; did you realise that a third party could legally sell those photos onto an agency without your knowledge?

You may be thinking “we aren’t exactly Angelina and Brad“, but if you think photos of your wedding might not be worth that much, think again. What if the photographer even so much as happens to snap an object quickly from the perfect angle with the perfect light, and there is a company out there who require that exact image for marketing purposes? A professional photographer is defined as someone who makes his/her money from taking photographs, and it therefore denies them the ability to continue making a living when other people get revenue from their works. That’s why pros don’t do it.

“But wait, these are photos of me!”

Secondly it helps to understand the word copyright and how this differs from intellectual property, licence, and goods.

Copyright doesn’t just mean the right to copy a photograph. The word copyright covers a whole host of things by inference: the right to email, publish online, upload to Facebook, sell, print the photograph out, even the right to crop a photograph!

The goods are the photographs themselves, in whatever form they happen to be; this could be on disc, as a download on the photographer’s website, in print, in a book.

Intellectual property (IP) is a term that describes the original idea of the work, and because it is unusual for a wedding photography idea to be capitalised on, this is something that is rarely discussed; IP is rarely transferred from one person to another in wedding photography. However it is still worth talking about, because it ties-in with copyright: the IP of a photograph is owned by the photographer. This means that even if a photograph doesn’t have a copyright notice on it, even if it has already been posted online, even if the IP is not protected in any other way (e.g. trademark), the IP by default belongs to the photographer. Even if the photograph is of someone famous, even it was taken by a freelance photographer and sold on to a newspaper, the IP belongs to the person who produced that image, the photographer. As long as there is no explicit transfer of copyright, the copyright will also remain with the photographer, even if a copyright notice is not written anywhere.

“So what does this mean?”

  1. If your wedding is shot by a professional photographer, intellectual property and copyright almost always remain with the photographer.
  2. When choosing a wedding photographer, ask what licence to the images they offer. Please respect those photographers who offer no licence at all, as this will be built into their revenue model and they will most likely charge a lot less for your wedding photography.
  3. Many photographers will assign a licence to the wedding couple that allows them to keep photo files on DVD and print for personal use. A licence needn’t be worded in legalese. A licence can be implicit upon an action: this means that if the photographer gives you a DVD with full size images, then you arguably have the licence to keep this DVD.
  4. A licence is usually specific. Assume that you are not allowed to do anything other than what is written or communicated to you in this licence. Therefore if you are given a licence to store images on DVD, disc, and print for personal use, this means you may not edit, crop, or change those photographs in any way. This would count as transforming or adapting the work. Furthermore you may not email photos or upload photos to Facebook, as this would count as publishing or distribution.
  5. Some photographers may provide a mechanism to allow for common modern usage. For example, they may provide a heavily watermarked version of the photographs for sharing with guests by email, and uploading to Facebook. Ask your photographer.

Mat Smith is a commercial, portrait, and wedding photographer based in London, UK. The above does not constitute legal advice. Always consult a member of the legal profession. Visit Mat’s portfolio here:

29 thoughts on “Wedding Photography and Copyright

  1. It’s very difficult to get the difference between copywrite and a licence to print over to couples. Hopefully they will read this beforehand. Nice one Mat

  2. Mat
    Thank you this has proved very enlightening. Our dilemma is such that whilst we provide our clients with a CD of images, once we have produced a graphistudio album for them , we now find that we are being inundated with requests for free images from other suppliers of wedding services to the bride and groom with the promise of a ‘link on our web site’ as payment. We have been giving images with a watermark for use on websites but now find that people are requesting free photographs for use on their advertising banners etc. Is it possible you could comment for me on this . My grateful thanks.

    • This is something I get all the time.

      I’m quite relaxed about allowing other wedding service providers to use my images, on the basis that if their site does get lots of traffic, I might benefit from an incoming link, and if it gets very little traffic, my image won’t get much exposure anyway.

      I do make an exception for images that are particularly special to me, and ones that I would be extremely upset about if they made it into the hands of a major publisher. Fact is, most images requested by other wedding service providers are pretty boring and I don’t really care.

      Here’s how I see it: I’m an artist, I shall continue to improve my work and get better and better commissions, and not look back. There was a time I watermarked everything that left the editing studio, and whilst it is a question of reputation, I don’t feel the need to do that any more.

      Your mileage may vary, of course…

  3. I think the photographer retaining full copyright on photographs of others, at functions paid for by others, in settings chosen by others – is just ridiculous frankly.

    Photography is a skill adn an art, there is no doubt, but it is no more so than that requried of a band or a DJ, yet a band playing covers does not obtain copyright to the original artists song and a DJ does not own the samples and songs that he uses to produce his art. So, when I find myself paying a huge amount of money for a lavish setting, car, band, meals, hotel, suits, dresses – these things being the objects of the photographs, in what sense does this world I created belong to the photographer? The photographs are simply capturing moments of space and time that I created.

    In a similar vein, how is it possible in law for a paparazzi to ‘own’ images of other people taken without their consent? There is no angle that makes it acceptable and it should be looked at. You are paying the photographer for a product – the images of YOUR wedding and nothing more.

    However, I will say that my wedding photographer handed over all the images I wanted, unmarked at a more than acceptable JPEG quality and resolution for my own needs and put no restrictions on us whatsoever. He bent over backwards to accomodate us – a really decent, courteous man and absolutely one of the best and most meticulous wedding photographers I have come across. So I am certainly glad we were lucky enough to meet him. I know he used images of my wedding to promote his business and I am happy for him to do so, but I also require my own secure copies of the digital images from MY wedding. If I didn’t receive them I would have been FUMING and I do know of many people who have been unable to get their own digital copies.

    • Joel, you make some really interesting points.

      But let me put this scenario to you. Someone takes a photo on a public street, where they are – by law, at least in the UK and the USA, perfectly entitled to do so without legal restriction.

      This photograph captures a number of different objects and people: buildings that were made by famous architects, beautiful gardens that were landscaped by a local company, the walls and windows of private homes, statues depicting historic figures and made by a contemporary artist, logos and brands advertised on a passing bus, and crucially, people. Men, women, and children, in the background of the shot.

      There is something magical about the light, the confluence of events, the motion. The image is put on the internet (Facebook), gets picked up by a news agency, quickly ‘goes viral’, and before you know it, Facebook have sold the rights to that image – which they are entitled to do under their terms and conditions – to an advertising agency which then makes millions of dollars out of the image.

      Tell me: who broke the law? Who should have got paid? Should the ‘models’ (the men, women, and children accidentally caught in the photo) be sought-out and given royalties for accidentally appearing in the photo? How much? Or what about the people who put everything there in the first place: the architects, the landscapers, the artist who made the statue, the families of the descendants of the historic figure depicted in that statue…

      My example is of course ridiculous. But perhaps you see the point I am making?

      Regarding your analogy of a band who are covering a tune. The band you cited in your example technically need a licence to perform music, as this is classed as a ‘derivative work’, and nobody would suggest that they own the copyright to the original piece of music. After all – popular songs are covered by hundreds and thousands of tribute bands across the globe; they can’t all suddenly magically acquire the copyright to the original conception.

      I wonder if you are confusing the idea of “copyright” with that of “licence”? This is something discussed in the article itself.

      That the intellectual property of a photograph belongs to the person who created that photograph in the first place is something that is recognised in IP law in the whole of Western civilisation, whether you like that or not.

      Is it possible you are talking about the right that you, as the person commissioning the photos, have to get a full resolution copy of those photos, without any embellishments, when you hand your money over?

      I concur that, if you have agreed this with your photographer, then they certainly should not withhold photos from you. You would be right to be fuming in this case. In this hypothetical case, the photographer would have essentially broken their contract with you.

      As for the person commissioning the photograph owning the copyright – I guess it depends on whether you see the photography as a ‘creation’ or not.

      Personally I think of a photographer similarly to a painter with regards to intellectual property – and so does Western law: the painter and the photographer are using their skill and art to capture something with their own eyes. The work therefore belongs to the creator of the work.

  4. Mat – I agree that a photographer is using skill to create something that is more than the sum of the subjects. However, I think wedding photographers are somewhat unique in expecting to keep the intellectual property for work produced during time that somebody else is paying for. Most people who are paid a flat fee for creative work have a clause in their contract that says that the person paying them will own the rights to that work – pharmaceutical companies just pay their drug designers a flat wage, they don’t pay them millions in royalties if they discover a miracle cancer treatment.

    If photographers want to keep the IP for their photos then they should only sell the prints and images, they shouldn’t charge for their time. If they make their product (images) in their own time and I only have to buy images I like then it’s fair enough that they own the copyright, but if I have to pay them upfront to be there then I am buying their time and not their product, so I should own anything and everything they make in that time.

  5. Ruth – thanks for joining the discussion.

    I liked your comparison with pharmaceutical companies who might pay a researcher or drug designer a flat fee.

    The problem is that the IP paradigm is quite different in the case of wedding photography. To extend your example, the person who buys the medicine is the ‘end user’, and the pharmaceutical company is the commissioning entity (i.e. they commissioned the drug design). Wedding photography is a different paradigm. The ‘end user’ (the recipient of the photos) *is* the commissioning entity.

    There’s an issue of legal liability here. The pharmaceutical company must take responsibility if something goes wrong, because they are selling the product on; they must therefore own the IP of the drug design. In the case of wedding photography, there’s a different type of liability – the potential loss of photos, or the potential that the photographer will mess-up the photos on the day. I don’t think the recipient of wedding photography services would be prepared to accept that liability on themselves.

    I don’t know what it’s like in the pharmaceutical industry but I certainly disagree that wedding photographers are unique in wanting to keep the IP. I have worked with a number of image/ad agencies on commercial (non-wedding) photography, and all of their contracts have conceded that the guy behind the lens keeps the IP and licenses the images. (Actually, there was one that had a buyout clause, but there was special financial provision for that.)

    Similarly in other arts and entertainment industries I don’t think it’s abnormal for the creator to retain copyright. Even in the pop music industry things are changing; whereas before artists were ‘signed’ to a label, and the label owned the copyright, more and more artists now sell directly through iTunes and Amazon and the middle-man no longer exists.

    Furthermore as a photographer, the service I provide extends beyond delivering the photos. If in 5 years time the client requires copies because photos were lost in a house fire, then they can come to me and get copies for no cost.

    On the other hand, if I were employed (i.e. on the payroll) by a company as a photographer, I’d expect them to own the IP of my work.

    The key difference is that, as a freelance photographer, I choose to take-on contracts where I can get to exhibit the work afterwards without fear my client might tell me not to use the photos. For me, this is critical in my being able to build-up a portfolio.

    Either way, I don’t think there’s anything inherently wrong or right about doing it a given way, as long as both parties are aware of the issues, and happy with the contract and fee. For example I’d be happy to shoot weddings on the basis of selling prints and images only, rather than being bound by a contractual agreement whereby I could be penalised if for some reason I didn’t get a certain shot. (I don’t know many couples who would be happy to take that risk.)

    Similarly I’d be happy to work purely on a “charge for my time” basis, but I’d also be charging for my equipment, and similarly would ensure I’m charging for editing and consultation.

    In reality I find most wedding couples want a hybrid of these two opposing scenarios.

    Surely it just depends how much the couple is willing to pay? If they want their wedding photography for a few hundred quid and aren’t fussed, then that’s fine but I’d be most unhappy if they had the rights to sell their images onto an agency for 4 or 5 times that. Likewise if their budget were limitless we’d certainly be having a discussion about copyright ownership.

  6. You definitely have a lot of good points there – one was the issue of liability, and that is something I hadn’t considered. While an employer generally has the rights to IP produced by employees unless a contract specifically states otherwise, wedding photographers are actually self employed. I didn’t think of that as relevant but it is because it means the photographer is taking responsibility for a lot more things including professional insurance etc.

    I also think you are right in that most couples want a hybrid arrangement and I suppose this is what is reflected in the current standard of various license types. My wedding photographer has been extremely relaxed about our photos, he provided us with the photos on DVD including the full images and a set of lower quality images with a small watermark in the corner for us to use on Facebook. I pointed out that some of my friends had taken images for their profile pictures etc and cropped out the watermarks and I asked if he wanted me to take them down, but he wasn’t bothered. He has said we can do anything with the photos as long as we don’t profit from them, he has let us make copies of the DVD for family and friends and they are allowed to make their own prints from it. I am really happy with this arrangement since I was not at all interested in selling the photos.

    I think I would have been very uncomfortable with an arrangement where the photographer held all the rights to printing the photographs – what if he went out of business in the future and I needed access to the photos and he wasn’t there, or if he didn’t like my Aunt Gertrude and wouldn’t sell her any pictures? I have also cropped quite a few of the photos I have printed and made some black and white, and I would have been upset if I couldn’t do that.

    For a photographer to have the sole right to commercial use of the photos is one thing but I wouldn’t want to work with a photographer who wanted exclusive use of the pictures, and although it is legally a caveat emptor situation, I would hope photographers who plan to be restrictive about use of their photos explain it clearly to their customers before hand, otherwise I think they are taking advantage of people.

    PS I also understand what you are saying about the portfolio, but I think that is not relevant because if you negotiated an agreement where the couple would own the copyright, you could incorporate a license for yourself to use the images for portfolio purposes, the same as you currently agree licenses for client use of the photos. If they didn’t agree upfront then don’t agree to sign over the copyright.

  7. Section 13(2) of the Copyright Act (Canada) concerning commissioned photographs:
    Where, in the case of an engraving, photograph or portrait, the plate or other original was ordered by some other person and was made for valuable consideration, and the consideration was paid, in pursuance of that order, in the absence of any agreement to the contrary, the person by whom the plate or other original was ordered shall be the first owner of the copyright.

    Simple, no?

  8. Sounds very simple.

    But if you look under the surface a little, surely the following questions come up:

    1/ What happens if the copyright owner, in this case the one commissioning the photography, decides to then licence his images to another entity with an exclusivity clause.

    Wouldn’t this prevent the photographer from ever using his own photos, e.g. in his own portfolio?

    2/ Should the above be miscommunicated, isn’t the potential upshot that the photographer could end up in court for image theft … theft of those images he shot himself?

    I don’t know, but to me, it sounds like a pretty dangerous thing for those first going into business as a photographer in Canada!

  9. I went to a photographer to use up a £20 family portrait coupon that had been issued by a retailer for being a loyal customer. It allowed me a 5×7 print.

    While there, I saw that the gentleman knew his art, so I decided to ask him to take an additional head-shot that would be my ‘branding’ on my blog and on the back of an upcoming book cover. He did, and I selected one. I offered £180 for the original portrait and digital hi-res images of the head-shot. He agreed but produced a very restrictive copyright contract that would not allow me to even put it up on my blog, much less use it on the upcoming book.

    He refused and advised me not to tell him how to run his business. I left politely.

    Who won? Did he deliberately tighten the contract when he heard I was going to use it commercially. Why could he not charge a one-time commercial fee? Who won? Who lost?

    Obviously, there has to be a better way. And looking for that better way brought me to this site 🙂

  10. How do we stand, our photographer never put them on cd, she sent them via email and some of them we are not happy with as some of my husbands family are all in Black and White and she never gave us a colored version. We have asked her for a cd with the originals on and she says she has misplaced the stick she put them on . We can have extras from what I have on my laptop but it will cost us extra. We are not happy, we want to do our album but my hubby wont until he has colored ones of his family;
    What can we do.

  11. Hi Mat,
    Beautifully explained, professional photographers are call pro for a reason, one will realise if they see how much work actually goes in to wedding photographs, what they see on the day may not even be 2% of the actual work n efforts goes in to it.
    People often compare a professional photographer or videographer with amatures, professional works speaks for it self.
    Ofcourse copyrights should belong to the photographers, its an art, no 2 photographers are the same.
    I ask all photographers to be proud of being a photographer and keep it professional, don’t allow your images get abused.
    There are about 20 pictures taken by me on the net that are being abused by others using for their marketting, i never authorised. One day i will sue them all.


  12. Quite happy for the photographer to retain copyright in my wedding/event photos, but I should get an unlimited distribution license for my images of my event. The memories are MINE. If you want to get some extra money from other folks if they use the photos commercially, I can live with that. But its just ‘nickel and dime’ irritating practice to say I cannot give Auntie Doris a scanned copy of her godson’s christening unless you say so and I pay the price of a small camera to you.

    And as for the ‘artistic professional’ argument, sorry but its all about points of view. I don’t want artistic professionalism. I want accurate focussed pictures of my event and those present. From my perspective you are EXACTLY the same as anyone else engaged for the event. Set an hourly rate and if I’m happy we’ll crack on. I am not organising a fashion shoot.

    As with the music and video industry, its time to adjust mindsets and practices before the market just walks off elsewhere. I can see a time of wedding selfies and 41 megapixel camera phones become so much easier as a solution than signing your life away to use a picture of you.

    • You seem palpably riled by my blog post; yet I actually agree with you.

      We agree that it’s okay for the photographer to retain copyright. We also agree that you should be able to give Auntie Doris (great name by the way) a scanned copy of her godson’s christening. That’s just a question of licensing, which is really something you need to discuss with your photographer before giving them money.

      On a separate note. A small camera for me, that would be one without a lens, costs a minimum of £2,000. I sincerely hope that your (hypothetical?) christening photographer wouldn’t ask for that kind of money to reproduce anything from such an event, let alone a scanned copy for Auntie Doris?

      I agree that the “artistic professional” argument is all about points of view. But it’s great that we all have different points of view, isn’t it? I know people who want classic images that document their day accurately, in much the same way you would. I also know people who want their photos to tell a story, to paint a picture; a picture which reflects their personalities more than the mundane proceedings of a legal wedding service in a town hall, for example.

      That’s why prospective wedding couples should be asking the right question of their photographer: is your style documentary or creative?

      I respect your preference for a wedding photographer who puts an emphasis on reliability and documentary over one who creates a narrative from his own perspective, indeed that would be the kind of wedding photographer I would want too. It just happens that I am not that kind of photographer myself. This isn’t an inconsistency, no more than if Monet were to dislike having impressionistic paintings around his home instead preferring clear walls. It’s just that what I do best might not be the same as what I’d want as a client myself.

      You seem very frustrated in your response (perhaps it’s directed more at the music and video industry than me?), but I honestly can’t find anything to disagree with you about in your comment!



  13. This is all, of course, incorrect.

    You do not own the copyright in a wedding photography scenario because it is a commissioned work and thus the employer owns the work and copyright.

    You can claim otherwise till the sun come ups, but you aren’t being honest with yourself nor with you clients. You are being paid for your skill and talent and should charge accordingly; otherwise, why wouldn’t we just take our own pictures? But to claim that just because you are the one behind the lens that you own the rights to the image is incredibly offensive – you did not invest the money for that moment to happen precisely as planned.

    As a concrete example, one of your commenter suggests that he may take a picture of a building, park, etc. which people have put money into making, yet he still owns the copyright for an image which he snaps in that scenario – and this is true…HE is the one taking pictures for his OWN use. Nobody has paid for him to do so – AND THAT is the crux of the matter.

    And if and when you include such a copyright agreement in the contract you are making, if you do not explain to the employer hiring you – especially a couple – that you will retain all the rights to the photo, and what exactly that means, you are being extremely unethical.

    • Dear anonymous poster,

      Which country do you come from? The reason I ask is that IP law does vary from country to country.

      With respect, I think you may not have realised that I am in the UK, where copyright is automatically vested in the image at the point it is made.

      Your third paragraph seems to suggest that you believe copyright depends on the intended use or commission of the photograph.

      This is the first rule of Intellectual Property in a cultured, artistically mature society: it does not depend on the commission, but rather on the creation.

      If you don’t believe me, you will see here on this government website that UK law states copyright belongs to the photographer who takes the photograph, whether you paid for it or not:

      The second point I have about your very first paragraph is this. A little primer on the rules of engagement in the industry, if you will permit me. When someone commissions a professional photographer to photograph their wedding, they are not “the employer”, as you suggest. They do not pay the photographer’s national insurance contributions, nor do they pay his pension, nor has he signed a document that states “intellectual property vested in anything you create during the tenure of you employment shall be deemed to be owned by the employer”.

      Sorry to get boring, but it matters.

      Rather there is a contractual relationship between the client and the photographer which is determined by the contract that is signed, or if no contract is signed then this is determined with respect to this subject by intellectual property law.

      And intellectual property law states that the person who makes the image owns the copyright.

      Please don’t blame me for that. It’s just the law.

  14. and as for your scenarios 1 & 2:

    1) if you plan on reusing a customers likeness, should YOU be the one asking THEM for permission?

    2) and if you do end up making money on their license WITHOUT their permission, how is it that you do not consider that theft?

    • To answer your final 2 points:

      1) publishing a photo is not “re-using their likeness”, but yes, I firmly agree it’s very good practice to check with previous clients before using images of them.

      Actually I had a situation recently where I did some work for someone who hired a model for some beauty shots of their product. The person who hired me was happy for me to use those shots in my portfolio.

      Months later, she emailed me asking if I could remove the photos because the model in question that she had commissioned herself had some personal image issues. Whilst I had the *right* to continue to use those photos, as a matter of good taste (not ethics, but good taste), I agreed to not use those photos.

      2) What do you mean by “on their license”? A licence (English spelling, mine) is where a photographer grants permission to the client, as part of the commission, to use the photos in certain way(s).

      If you mean using the image without the consent of all people depicted in a given photo, then no – that isn’t theft. I can imagine cases where it’s not a kind-hearted thing to do, but it’s certainly not theft.

  15. I have a a situation and would like some advice or your view on it please:

    Unfortunately we are going to small claims court against our wedding photographer we paid alot of money to get the album we wanted. we were happy with the photos. when album & smaller replica albums came back, a month after we were told so meant xmas pressies were late, it wasn’t what we asked for…..duplicate photos/very simlar photos, phoyos down the crease of the album so fold is right through best man, bridesmaids faces etc, some photos are tiny so when it is a large group photo, can’t make anyone out and some pages looks like the photos have been thrown in anyway. two photos we asked to be in the album were not and we asked for edit in a few photos of the bridesmaids bra showing to be removed. She put a small group photo in of my husbands family with his brothers eyes closed. she knew we wanted these sorted and it was added into the comments box before we submitted our photo choices online via her website. we have been to CAB as she refused to meet with us. we asked for a disc with photos in our album, plus the two missing, so we can get an album printed ourself but she said no. other photographers i have spoken to can’t believe the way she has acted and said they would make sure their client is happy for the sake of a disc with photos on for us to print for personal use. help!

    Yes this has been on going since 18th january 2013 sadly. we tried to be nice a bout it, went to see her about how we weren’t happy with the album..explained our issues and that when asked to see a ‘proof’ on her computer of our album layout to approve it before she sent it, answer was no. She is adamant that she has done nothing wrong and that it is tough, blame can’t be left at her door step and if we wanted a new album printed

  16. …we would have to pay more money. she has been very good at avoiding us and it turns out we aren’t the 1st people she has done this too. other wedding couples, folk with photos of their babies taken etc have all had excuses, late photos, no album after 2 years list is endless…i just wish some-one had told us about the bad bits before we booked her. her photos are fine… is her attitude after she gets the money from you. seems she is’nt in a rush or can’t be bothered to give good customer service.

    and also she has her photography business name then “copywrite” spelt like that <<<< on a water mark online…..yes i know a professional that can't spell does this affect the copyright?

    • Hi Lynsey

      I’m really sorry to hear about the poor service you received from your wedding photographer. I am not in the position to give legal advice, but if what you describe about your wedding album is true, then I would agree that this does amount to a poor professional standard of production.

      Unfortunately there are no regulations that protect you against such poor professional standards like these, and this is why I would say to others reading this: it is so important that you do some detective work, ask for references, and talk in depth to previous clients. This doesn’t help you, of course, but perhaps you can at least re-open dialogue with your photographer?

      In the interests of those reading this, can you tell us what you paid for your photographer, and for the album?

      The mis-spelling of the word “copyright” on a watermark has no legal ramifications whatsoever; the intellectual property vested in an image is inherent and any watermarks that photographers put on their photos have no bearing on this.

      Keep us updated, and I hope it works out for you.



  17. Hi there we are currently having a few issue with regarding our wedding album it is a printed album which has had a personal reading in it which is copywrited to ourselves and also some pictures that i personally have had done which are my copywrite which i have no problem being used where the problem starts is that a duplicate copy of the full album was made without our knowledge and was told when we found out we would have to pay for it and as we didnt belive it wouldnt be used by the photographer so we paid and i would like to know is this breach of copywrite as i didnt give permission for the reproduction and should we have paid for it i understand the copy wright with regards to the photos from the photographer but what about my reading and pics im very very upset as my wife is distraught with it all and i dont know what to do if you could offer any advice it would be much appreciated

  18. This debate has always angered me, sadly.

    Photographers should offer a higher rate for copyright transfer, a lower rate to retain.

    For my wedding, event and product photography I have tracked down good photographers willing to accept this, and the old schools of thought have lost my business. I have provided the payment, terms and subject matter. A good modern photographer will agree if the rate suits their hourly fee.

    I am commissioning a photographer to work on my behalf using the technical knowledge, training and experience on his/her CV. If he/she would like to retain copyright they can do so on work paid for and specified themselves.

    I work in the software business, it is very uncommon for a client to specify the creation of an application (which the coders involved do believe is an art form), and not retain the copyright. It just makes sense.

    But there is little point in drawing parallels with the practises of this profession and others. The contradictory list would be endless whilst the complimentary very short in deed.

    The misguided belief in the profession that copyright should automatically be retained, I believe was a bit of a last ditch grab from the days of negative retention.

    Sorry to be so inflammatory, but i find it very grating.

    • David

      This isn’t a subject that angers me; it’s just a question of business.

      If you asked a photographer to completely give-up the copyright (thus putting themselves at risk should they wish to publish the images they photographed – depending on the exact details of assignment of copyright), then I’m sure that they would agree if you paid the right price.

      If my client pays enough money, I’ll give them the copyright, sign an NDA, and never speak of it! But it would cost them dearly, given that my agreement not to show this image to future potential clients might end up costing me a few bob in the future!

      So doesn’t it just come down to what you think the right price actually is, vs. what the photographer thinks?

      And given it’s the photographer providing the service, don’t they get to choose that? Free market, and all…

  19. Very interesting read. I do have a question hoping someone can answer. Our Wedding photographer has now ceased trading doing weddings. She is still doing modelling shots etc. When we ordered additional prints for family members she stated they cannot find them in archive. Where do I stand. Surly she knows where her hard drive is. She has hundreds on archive so cannot just lose them over night.

    Kindest Regards


    • Hi Nick. Technically speaking I suspect it depends very heavily on the original agreement between you and the photographer. Did your photographer agree to retain copies of the photos for a specified period of time? Is this something you discussed with your photographer before commissioning them?

      Whilst you may feel a photographer should retain images in an archive, in most cases unless this is specified and agreed (in writing or verbally) then the photographer would not count this as part of his or her deliverable.

      As a wedding photographer myself I know that I do not make such guarantees to store images for my clients in perpetuity, in fact once the images have been delivered online to the client I consider that I have delivered on my side of the contract.

      That’s not to say I don’t keep every single photo I’ve ever taken for a commission – because I do! And I’ve never lost image files before because I’m a little obsessive about taking backups and I’ve never had any accidents, theft, or damage to my archives. However, that’s off-topic!

      If, on the other hand, your photographer guarantees that he or she will make photos available for future purchase then it sounds like this would indeed be a breach of that agreement.