February 23, 2017

Clarification of Copyright Release Vs Print Release for Wedding Photos

As someone who does a lot of reading about the wedding industry, I’m often quite dismayed at the advice wedding blogs give brides and grooms. The best advice for brides often comes from the actual experienced professionals who have worked many weddings and have the background and knowledge to be giving the best insight to couples. In this post, I’m setting the record straight on the matter of copyright release for wedding photography.

Many wedding blogs will tell brides to ask about copyright release, which isn’t even remotely the same thing as a print release (what most brides actually want). Today I’m explaining the differences in both and why unless you’re a celebrity, you probably don’t need copyright release for your wedding photos.

Owning the Copyright

To put it very simply, owning the copyright to an image allows the copyright holder to protect their work from being used by third parties without permission, to use the images to market their business within the agreed upon confines of the model release, and to produce albums and prints – to name a few. 

It’s industry standard for photographers to keep the copyright to their images. The client can use their images for personal use and print the images with a print release (more on that in a bit) and personal usage rights, though they cannot sell the images to anyone. Unless you’re an A-list celebrity, you likely aren’t planning on doing so. Typically, celebrities are the only people who tend to purchase a copyright release from their wedding photographer, which will run them thousands of dollars more than not doing so. 

Bride and groom luxury wedding portrait in San Diego at a BRICK wedding, Cavin Elizabeth Photography

Having a Print Release

Despite wedding blogs telling brides to ask about the copyright release, it’s really a print release that I think they are actually discussing. A print release and personal usage rights will allow the couple to print their images wherever they’d like, use on social media (hopefully with image credit to the photographer), and share with friends and family*.

Most likely, that’s what couples really want when I hear them asking about copyright release. A quick clarification on my part clears this issue up for all of my couples.

Still a little confused?

Think about whenever you purchase a song from iTunes. You have a copy of the song in your music library and are able to listen to it on your computer, iPhone, etc. You cannot sell that song without a copyright release, but why would you need to? You don’t! You have everything you need with the simple usage rights, which is quite similar to having the print release and social media sharing rights from your wedding photographer. 

Indian Wells sunset bride and groom portraits, Cavin Elizabeth Photography

*Ask Your Photographer

Every photographer has different policies and practices, so be sure to ask yours what your rights are as a wedding client with the images captured on your day. If you feel as though you need the copyright release for some reason, do be prepared to pay a few extra thousand dollars for it from reputable photographers.