Copyright and what can I do with the photographs?

Sligo Enniscrone Diamond Coast Wedding Vintage Style

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

You CAN….

  • Print copies
  • Share them with friends and family
  • Make your own wedding album
  • Put them on social media
  • Submit them to wedding magazines/blogs (you MUST give them the photographers details and the publication MUST get permission from the photographer)


  • Edit them
  • Give them to any business or supplier (sure show em, the the supplier MUST contact the photographer to ask to use them)
  • Sell them (!)

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,

computer programmes,

original databases.

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 that is not taken by them, 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. 

This is a big one for couples to remember when giving suppliers images from their wedding. The clients/couples don’t own the Copyright and they almost certainly don’t have permission to share images with suppliers.  Nothing wrong showing the suppliers your wedding pictures. BUT, if the supplier then takes those 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 a commercial 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. 

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. So here is another thing that is super important to check with your photographer. Almost all contracts will include a usage agreement for the photographer. The photographer will want to be able to share their work online/in print. Through their website, blog, social media, demo albums, suppliers publicity material etc. As part of their business model, as part of their pricing, they are basing everything on the ability to show potential clients their past work.

A photographer has Copyright, but that doesn’t give them the automatic right to publish your wedding images without permission from you, the client. You, the client, have a right to privacy. So check your wedding contract and have the conversation with the photographer about sharing images with you in them.

In my case, my contract includes the clause allowing me to self-promote my work and that the clients agree to this. However, if the client wishes for things to be completely private, then I’m happy to draw up a new contract or make an agreement not to share. Some photographers, particularly in the US, charge more if a wedding can’t be shared. I don’t, as I’ve already accounted for the 25% of clients who wish to remain private. 

So just check with your photographer. If they don’t have a specific usage clause, then watch out! 

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

Just remember that a photographers sole income is derived from the images they take. It doesn’t come from anywhere else so please respect Copyright.



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