In the last 10 years or so the number of weddings captured on film has reduced dramatically. The vast majority of professional photographers now use a digital camera, and this means that instead of just photographic prints or a wedding album, couples also have the opportunity to receive digital files. This has led to more discussions on wedding photograph copyright than ever, and there is often a lot of confusion surrounding the subject.

Many clients have asked me about copyright. In most cases the confusion is about what the word copyright actually means in the context of wedding photographs.

Broken Copyright Symbol

The Difference Between Copyright and License to Print

Most of my couples want to know if they can print their wedding photographs as many times and for as long they need, but copyright is not required for this. All you need is a ‘License to Print’ that I (and most wedding photographers I know) issue with the couple’s high-resolution files.

With a License to Print you can…

  • Produce prints on a non-profit basis
  • Share the files with friends and family
  • Make your own albums etc.
  • Post on social media

What you don’t have permission to do is…

  • Re-sell the files or prints made from those files
  • Enter the images into competitions etc.
  • Sell for commercial gain

A good comparison is the music industry. If we buy and download an mp3 file of a song we like from iTunes or Amazon we have the right to play that song on our iPod, computer or in our car. We can copy it to all these different platforms to enjoy when and where we like. What we can’t do is copy the file and then sell those copies to other people or use the song to make money in other ways.

Few serious, professional wedding photographers will consider giving up their wedding photograph copyright unless there is a very good reason. I have agreed to it on only two occasions. Both times the client was a high profile personality who needed control of their image rights and was willing to pay suitable compensation to me as a photographer to obtain those rights.

If in doubt ask your wedding photographer to supply you with a copy of his or her terms and conditions relating to the use of the images.

Guest post by Lloyd Dobbie

Image from Flickr by Chris Potter (CC BY 2.0 License)