gwyneth colleen photography » portland, or wedding photographer

copyright? usage? printing release?

this post received a lot of comments saying it was helpful and easy to understand, so i thought i’d make it more permanently available.

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!)

[…] Good explanation of Copyright, Usage, etc. Mr. Smallwood | No comments […]

Aaron26 September 2013 - 16:54

Love this article! Great info 🙂 Very helpful. I’m also a stickler about how my images show up when people post online. Good tips.

sasha17 December 2013 - 00:41

Hello I so agree with you! I’m starting my own business with photography and well this lady recently was upset because she didn’t want my logo in the picture even though I told her it would be so now she’s saying she’s just going to crop out my logo when she prints it, but she can get into trouble doing that right? I mean I don’t want my logo cut out of it. If she just wanted regular pictures done she should have just got a friend to take them instead of someone professional right?

gwyneth2 May 2014 - 10:09

@sasha, I would only add your logo to a web-res file. If she chooses to print those, then the poor image quality is on her. As a client, I would be mad if I purchased full-res files, and they had the photographer’s logo on them, too!

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