What clients don't know about copyright and why it matters...

What clients don't know about copyright and why it matters...

Helping clients navigate Copyright vs Print Release

Selecting a photographer for your wedding is one of the most important -- and often complicated -- decisions in your planning process.  It can be made even more difficult when comparing the different packages photographers offer if you aren’t entirely sure what print options and use privileges are included.  

I want you to know exactly what you do (and do not) get when you do sign a contract, whether you’re making an investment with me or another photographer.

So, today I’m delving into the technical (if not thrilling) topic of copyrights, print releases, what they mean for you as a potential client on the verge of a huge decision, and what questions you should ask a potential photographer.

The nitty-gritty technical stuff


A copyright is owned by the person who creates the work. From the moment I take a picture, the image legally belongs to me, the photographer, unless I grant ownership to another individual or entity. Copyright gives me the exclusive rights to determine how the image should be displayed and distributed.  Only I can make alterations to my work. Since my name is associated with the images as author and owner, it is important that I maintain complete control of how they look to ensure they remain consistent with the style and feel that drew you to my work in the first place.  Filtered or cropped images can inadvertently  misrepresent my brand, which I work very hard to craft and maintain.

A print release is different from a copyright in that the release gives a client permission to reproduce my images for her own personal use. Clients can make prints, cards, calendars, canvases, posters, coaster, t-shirts and even pillowcases with their wedding day images for themselves, friends, and family. They are, however, prohibited from using them for commercial purposes. For example, if an editor of Southern Weddings asked one of my brides to sell her gorgeous wedding day profile picture (taken and distributed by me), the bride would not have the authority to do so because the image is not hers to sell.  


With a print release you CAN

  • Post the images I deliver to you on all forms of social media

  • Print an unlimited amount of them in any form (photo, card, planner, canvas, coaster, etc.)

  • Share them with your family and friends so they can do the same!


  • Edit the images in any way, including cropping and - yes- Instagram filters!

  • Claim the work as your own

  • Use them for commercial profit or gain

So what about you, Stef?

 Image from https://heirloombindery.com/. We're excited to offer albums from the Heirloom Bindery this Fall!

Image from https://heirloombindery.com/. We're excited to offer albums from the Heirloom Bindery this Fall!

I offer my clients the digital images from their sessions or wedding day in every package. This means that upon delivery my clients have a large selection of edited images available for them to view, download, and share, with print releases for every image.  While they always have the option of selecting specific images to order and print directly through me, my clients are not required to do so. My contract allows you to print the images once I have delivered them to you.  I want you to print your images.  My goal is to present you with photographs so beautiful, so touching, so tender, so meaningful that you can’t wait to print them.  I want you to frame them.  To wake up every day seeing images of your grandmother’s pride, your sister’s flushed toastmaking, your soul mate’s nervous anticipation.  To send them to your bridesmaids, your mother-in-law, your friend who missed the wedding because her beautiful baby was born the same day!

What does this mean for me when comparing photographers and their packages?

Ask the photographer about print releases and what image use permission you will be granted.  Some photographers require that their clients order and print images through them.  Others, like me, allow clients to download and print images at will.  

Consider your wants and those of your family.  // Do you want individual prints?  A bound album?  An alternative display option?  

Think about what you want to do with the images from your wedding day and review the different photographers’ offerings.  Some packages may include display options.  Others require album purchases; some don’t offer albums at all.  

Ultimately, knowledge is power.  If you aren’t sure what rights or permissions are included in an investment option, ask!

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