As nice digital cameras become easier and easier to purchase, and with the readiness for online image sharing, the fine line between professional and hobbyist becomes blurred. Along with losing weddings to “uncle Bob” photographers are also having to fiercely protect their copyright from other businesses.
There is still so much confusion about photographer copyrights, so I thought I’d address some basic issues for easy understanding.
First and foremost, I am the first to say that photographers are very lucky to have their images copy written…other industries, like fashion design, do not have any rights to their creative outlet at all. We are truly fortunate to have our industry protected the way it is.
Even if they give you a disk of your photographs, the copyright is still the photographer’s unless they sell it or sign the copyright away in a contract. So how do you work with a photographer to make sure copyright isn’t violated but you still get to use your images?
It is now pretty much standard to have a disk of images included in your wedding package. Photographers used to make their income on prints, and now they are generally giving away that income on a disk for their clients to have. This is a bitter sweet situation. Photographers lament that clients can print their beautiful images at a big box retailer (where the images won’t look as good due to inferior printing), yet we all understand that the client wants to own the memories that have been photographed. Some photographers still hold on to those negatives because it is considered a full service to have your photographer retouch and print each image for ultimate quality control. Obviously, this is the ideal for photographers, but many of us know that the disk is the main thing clients want in their wedding package.
How does this affect the client? Make sure that if you’ve purchased a disk of images for reprint, that your photographer gives you written permission to print your images. The big box retailers will not print images without written permission if the images look professional. Also make sure that the images you’ve purchased are high resolution. Some photographers will give you a disk of low resolution images for facebook postings and clients think they can make prints of these, but the prints turn out pixelated.
On facebook, make sure there is an image credit in the subject of each image. Some photographers like you to include both their name and website so potential clients can find them. And you should always double check with the photographer before posting your images. Discuss the restrictions of copyright BEFORE you sign a contract so you can be an informed consumer.
If this still doesn’t make sense, think about the photographers who have their images stolen by other newby photographers that they use as a portfolio (it happens more than I would like to know). If we didn’t have copyrights, this would be perfectly legal. Copyright also prevents a corporatation from taking a picture they haven’t paid for and blowing it up on billboards…which has happened in the past many times as well. A photographer deserves to get paid especially if another company makes money off their image.
If you buy a DVD, you can’t show it to a large group of people without paying royalties. You technically own the DVD, but the movie industry has to protect their intellectual property, you can just set up your own movie theater. The same goes with music copyright. You can’t post a YouTube video of your cat doing tricks to your favorite Gorillaz song. Think of all the music copyright issues going on right now with iTunes, it is similar rights with photographs. The biggest bee in my bonnet are photographers that use mainstream music on their websites…we are so protective of our copyright, yet violate the music industry’s? I just don’t get it. Videographers, photographers and websites need to use royalty free music unless they paid the record companies to use mainstream music…that is the simple fact of the matter.
After all this do you still want full copyright of your wedding or family pictures? You can always purchase the copyright…this is what the 1% do when they get married. Prepare to spend quite a few thousand dollars.
I hope this helps answer any questions you may have!