gwyneth colleen photography » portland, or wedding photographer

copyright? usage? printing release? HUH?|dover, nh wedding photographer

i just read this discussion trying to educate brides on what is kosher for them to do with photos of themselves after their weddings.  i’ve seen photographers new to the industry not really understand what is common practice or what the laws are, so it makes total sense to me that it could be confusing for a bride (or groom.)

so, here are a few bullet points to hopefully help anyone who’s wondering.  (unnecessary disclaimer:  except where i say “this is the law” i am, of course, referring to how *i* do things.  if you’re looking at other photographers, you should ask candid questions during your communication.)

*copyright:  © rests with whoever took the photo.  as the discussion above points out…it doesn’t matter if it was on your camera and is of you, if someone else pressed the shutter, they created the work, and the copyright belongs to that person.  this is not a grey area; it’s black and white, and misusing an image (especially for personal gain) CAN be cause for legal action.

*usage:  well, generally, the term is pretty obvious.  😀  what gets tricky is when you start considering the various ways to use images that you may be in possession of.  more on this in a bit.

*printing release:  clients of mine who purchase the disc of images from their wedding also receive a limited printing release.  it allows them to make an unlimited number of prints for personal use.  they can make 400 copies of their ceremony kiss and send them to anyone and everyone they know…they can make scrapbooks full of images and give them as gifts to their grandparents, they can make proof prints and give a set to their mothers…as long as they are the only ones using the images for print, and they are not profiting…it’s pretty much all good.  (one sticky area other photographers i know have encountered is if someone requests them to design an album with images taken by another photographer, or if clients ask someone else to design an album using images that one of my friends holds the copyright to.  because it’s a “derivative work” and they’re paying for someone else’s services, that’s not cool.)  i think i’m starting to get sort of weird and technical, so a good philosophy to have is:  if it seems weird, ask!  i will not mind at all answering an honest question, and if it’s not something i’m comfortable with, i will try to come up with a solution that works for everyone involved!
some photographers DO offer a full rights release…this entitles clients to edit, make derivative works, use the images for a billboard…whatever.  if your photographer does not offer this, it’s NOT cool to do any editing or use the images in any way that is not allowed in your release paperwork.

back to usage:  one thing that many of the women in that discussion seemed to wonder about was using images online.  i can totally understand this, and for this reason, i include low-res, watermarked images on every disc that anyone purchases.  the copyright release states that if images are going to be used online, the client MUST use these low-res, watermarked versions.  there are a few reasons for this:

1.  it helps me out!  your friends see them, (hopefully) love them, and think of me next time they need a photographer
2. those images are already optimised for use on the web.  (without getting too technical and boring you–just trust me.  these smaller files will not only upload wayyyyy faster, they will also look waaaayyyy better than any of the larger, unwatermarked files.)
3. we artistic types get a little funny over how our creations are displayed; we put a lot of work into making sure those images look fantastic, and if they’re stretched or scrunched or compressed wrong…they look bad.  and if our names are attached to them, WE look bad.

hopefully this makes sense.  please feel free to leave a question in the comments if you’ve got one (or just email me!)

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Rachel6 July 2009 - 19:40

This is a great post, Gwyn. Informative and helpful. I am going to send people this way, as you’ve laid it out well.

Doug6 July 2009 - 19:58

well said. simple and easy to understand.

gwyn6 July 2009 - 20:15

thanks guys!

Chrissy6 July 2009 - 20:26

Absolutely great article….would you mind if I link your article from my Blog? It is so well written with a light hearted-tone….and easy to understand!!

tracylynnt7 July 2009 - 20:25

gwyn-this is FANTASTIC..thank you for this. You have put this so professionally and still to the point and direct without getting over wordy or technical thank you. would you mind if I post a blog about this referencing your article with a link back to you?

gwyn7 July 2009 - 20:27

consider this comment blanket approval for anyone who would like to to link back to this post. 😀

dj30 October 2009 - 20:46

I’m new at this…I started doing senior photos for friends who needed a price break. This may be dumb question, but I’ll ask anyway. In order to get the low res files as well as high resolutions for printing/enlarging…do you just change settings on the camera…I guess I’m thinking that the client may like one of the low res that they would want to enlarge….or can you change the files some other way? Please excuse my ignorance.

gwyn30 October 2009 - 21:06


I shoot in RAW and then process everything in adobe lightroom. The program then gives me the option so I can export images twice…I do two batches. Once in low-res with my watermark for use on the web, then I also export high-res for printing purposes.

dj31 October 2009 - 19:56

oh I see! ok, thank you so much! I keep thinking about getting lightroom….but so far I’m using the free-be “Picnik”…it may be time for a change! I’ve entertained shooting in raw also…just didn’t know enough about it….
Thank you for your help…I’m definitely ready to try what you suggested. Thank you!

melissa oholendt3 December 2009 - 15:24

I’m a bit late to the game but AWESOME post. I have a friend who just encountered an irate (think raging bull) client when the client tried to right-click-save the images from the blog preview and print them. Your description of the copyright is perfect – it’s not the camera, it’s not the equipment, it is the person who presses the shutter who puts her/his heart and soul into creating pieces of art.

Excellent! (Off to look at your work! Thank you Google for random fun blog finds!)

Christina Vawter27 April 2010 - 12:25

Thanks so much, Gwyn! I am going to link to your post – it’s laid out perfectly without sounding harsh! 🙂 THANK YOU!! 🙂

Shelby Finkelstein3 May 2010 - 09:39

Thank you so much for your discussion! I am struggling with the language for a usage certificate (of course we as photographers retain the copyright) but for those who buy the digital files or CD, do you have one that I could look at for some sample language? I would be so grateful! I love the idea of also including a small lo-res watermarked image!

Melissa24 October 2012 - 13:00

Very helpful! Thanks!!

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