Copyright and Using Photographs
Some useful information for clients, for the suppliers and business.
What can I do with the photographs?
In almost all circumstances, when supplied with digital copies of wedding photographs, you will be able to do a lot! I’ve put some common CAN’s and CANNOT’s below
- Print copies
- Share them with friends and family
- Make your own wedding album
- Put them on social media (tag your suppliers and photographer, always nice to be nice!).
- Submit them to wedding magazines/blogs (you MUST give them the photographers details and the publication MUST get permission from the photographer)
- Edit them. Altering a photographers work (even an instagram filter!) is a breach of copyright law.
- Give them to any business or supplier (sure show em, the the supplier MUST contact the photographer to ask to use them)
- Sell them (!)
What can the photographer do with the photographs?
The photographer (as I outline below), owns the copyright automatically. The photographer will almost always want to use some of the images they’ve shot for promoting their work and to gain more business. They price their work based on the fact that past weddings can be used to gain more wedding bookings. The photographer may also want to use some images commercially (for example letting a venue use them, suppliers using them or for stock etc.). Photographers will almost always have a term in their contract that covers this.
However there is Privacy!
An individuals right to privacy is paramount. A photographer can’t just take a picture of someone at a wedding and use it without permission. A line in a contract is part of that permission, but an individuals right to privacy must be respected at all times and they have a right to withdraw consent at any time (with the exception of a specific commercial arrangement).
So how does that work? Well, as an individual has a right to know where their image is being used and give specific consent, then it is best practice for the photographer to seek specific permission from the individuals. Usually after the images have been seen and before they are used. So even if there is a line in a contract saying images may be used, it is best practice for the photographer to ask specifically get permission on this matter. The photographer should also have a clear process for an individual to query where images are being used to withdraw consent.
Things YOU, the client must know:
- Privacy only applies to images where you or someone else can be identified. Pictures of details, locations, flowers, shoes etc. are all the property of the photographer and they can use them.
- You and your wedding guests can request information on their image use at any time. They can also request their image not be used. You do not need to seek permission from everyone attending to take their photograph, as there is a reasonable expectation that their photograph will be taken anyway. But the same privacy rules on use of the image apply to them in regard requesting information and for their image not to be used.
- When a supplier, venue, florist, dress maker etc. would like to use any of the images clearly identifying anyone, then they MUST have two things. Permission from the copyright folder (the photographer) AND your permission. If the image does not contain an identifiable person then the supplier MUST get the permission from the copyright owner (the photographer). You can’t give a supplier images to use. Only the photographer can do this. You just have to give your permission in regard to your privacy.
- If a photographer requests permission to share an image, bear in mind that there is then an investment in marketing. While you can request images are not used, there may be some impact on the photographers business. For example, imagine you gave permission for an image to be used in a hotel brochure? Permission is given to the photographer and the hotel, the photographer comes to an arrangement with the hotel, 10 thousand brochures are printed. If you requested your image not be used, there will be a huge financial impact. So just be sure to think things through before giving permission and understand where it will be used and how. Always ASK your photographer – it’s your right to know.
Who owns the Copyright on the photographs?
First off, we need to just run over what Copyright actually is. Below is an extract from the Irish Government Patent Office:
Copyright is the legal term, which describes the rights given to authors/creators of certain categories of work. Copyright protection extends to the following works:
original literary, dramatic, musical or artistic works,
sound recordings, films, photography
broadcasts, cable programmes,
the typographical arrangement of published editions,
The owner of copyright is the author, meaning the person who creates the work. For example a photographer is the owner in the case of a photograph. However, as copyright is a form of property, the right may be transferred to someone else, for example, to a publisher.
Copyright is a property right and the owner of the work can control the use of the work, subject to certain exceptions. The owner has the exclusive right to prohibit or authorise others to undertake the following:
copy the work
perform the work
make the work available to the public through broadcasting or recordings
make an adaptation of the work.
Copyright takes effect as soon as the work is put on paper, film, or other fixed medium.
I hired the photographer, do I not own the Copyright?
It is important to understand, when hiring a photographer, you are commissioning them to document your day and to produce a body of artistic work. Photographs are creative works, not the results of someone just pressing a button. Yes, you’ve hired a photographer to photograph your wedding, but that doesn’t mean the images are automatically yours.
Before the advent of digital photography, photographers would be commissioned to record the wedding and produce the album. This was a much more tangible product, easier to understand. But with the supply of electronic copies of the images included, the whole area of Copyright/ownership has become a lot less clear.
When you receive the digital images, you are being given a reproducible copy of the work, with a ‘license’ usually to print them, reproduce them for friends and family, share them online (for your personal use) etc. The actual terms of the license that you, the client, have for those images is very important. It is your responsibility to check the contract with your photographer so that you understand what you can and CANNOT do with the image. Why would you check this? Well, because, according to the Copyright laws in Ireland and the EU, if you copy/reproduce any Copyrighted work without permission/license, then you are breaking the law. This applies as much to a wedding client as as it does for a business/suppliers. So just make sure you know what you agreed with your photographer.
Sharing Pictures with Suppliers
Actually, my last point above, regarding businesses using images is something to really watch out for. ANYONE reproducing an image MUST be sure they have permission to reproduce that image from the Copyright owner. It doesn’t matter where the pictures came from, you must know whose image it is. This applies to members of the public, it applies to businesses. If you reproduce a Copyrighted image without permission then you’re breaking the law.
When a supplier, venue, florist, dress maker etc. would like to use any of the images clearly identifying anyone, then they MUST have two things. Permission from the copyright folder (the photographer) AND your permission. If the image does not contain an identifiable person then the supplier MUST get the permission from the copyright owner (the photographer). You can’t give a supplier images to use. Only the photographer can do this. You just have to give your permission in regard to your privacy.
If the supplier uses, without permission from the photographer, the wedding images and shares them online, prints them in a brochure, puts them on their website etc. then the SUPPLIER has just broken the law. It’s as simple as that. So the clients need to be careful handing over images to suppliers as they could get them in trouble. Suppliers, especially, also need to be careful because they could be breaking the law. It is not enough for the supplier to say “the couple have given me the images to use”, the clients aren’t the Copyright holder, the photographer is.
Do photographers not want their images shared? Of course they do! But this is now a business transaction. The supplier is using something belonging to someone else, for free. That image is of commercial value. It is up to the photographer and the supplier to negotiate an agreement for the use of the image. It doesn’t have to be money, often an exchange of services can be negotiated so that everyone benefits. All photographers want to work together with suppliers and businesses to make things better for everyone. But the photographs are the photographers ‘product’, it what they use to earn their living.
Can the supplier/business just put the photographers name on the picture?
All photographers would love to be credited for their work. Sadly ‘Credits’ can’t be used as currency anywhere else. If a supplier would like to credit/link to the photographer, the photographer will be super grateful. It’s nice to be nice, which is why a lot of photographers will link-to, mention, promote suppliers too. But the photographer would rather be given the courtesy of making an arrangement with the supplier, for the use of the image(s). To sum that one up. No, they can’t just use an image, stick the photographers name on it and think that they are covered.
As I detailed above. A supplier wanting to use an image must have the permission from the photographer first, then satisfy the privacy laws secondly. If the image doesn’t contain an identifiable person then the supplier MUST get permission from the photographer FIRST.
We are in the images. Therefore we automatically own the Copyright!
Being the person in an image doesn’t make you the Copyright owner. Just in the same way that being the client/commissioner of the photographer doesn’t automatically give you the Copyright.
HOWEVER, people do have a right to privacy as I detailed above
Editing Images – Don’t
Don’t! If there is a watermark on the images, don’t edit/crop it out. Don’t put an Instagram filter on it (yes, that includes those face retouching/skin smooth apps!). Don’t photoshop a Dinosaur into the background. No editing. Copyright Law specifically extends it’s protection to the editing of creative works. If you want anything editing, contact the photographer.
The photographer has gone to a lot of effort to create a photograph, so respect it