Don’t Get Taken Advantage Of By Your Wedding Photographer!

The photographer your family hires to shoot your wedding photographs has an unfair advantage over you.  This is likely your first wedding, it is not his or her first shoot.  Rather, he or she is in the business of photographing weddings and is experienced; you’re not.  Thus, the experienced photographer knows that if nothing is said in the contract or if you haven’t taken the time to learn that digital rights are included under copyright law, the photographer will own the rights to your wedding photographs and you will own nothing.

Thus the photographer is free to sell your photos, publish them, photoshop them, and share them. You are not. And he or she can charge you unfair sums to get your digital rights.

The bridal couple and their families believe that because they are the subjects of the photos, or because they are the ones who hired the photographer, then they are the ones who hold the copyright to the photos. While that is the law in a number of other English speaking countries, it is, in fact, under our laws just the opposite. Those exclusive rights are the photographers, not yours.

Some wedding photographers give you in their contracts a license for you to make personal, non-commercial uses of your wedding photos.  You especially want this if you desire to have a CD or DVD containing the high-res files of all your pictures.  A license means you can print copies yourself, post your pictures on Facebook, and send them to your friends, without asking for permission and without violating your photographer's copyright.   You want this at a bare minimum.

If your photographer does not offer you these bare minimum rights up front in his or her contract, consider getting another photographer.

What you really want is for your photographer to agree to be an employee for-hire (with a fall back position of he or she giving you a full license ).  If you can’t get that in writing as part of the contract, then you want a Creative Commons.  A Creative Commons is a system that allows creators to attach a license to their work that gives certain permissions to the whole world. While there is more than one Creative Commons license, you want a license that merely requires that whoever uses the work must attribute the creator and provide a link back to the original.

                                                                            Thomas A. Leggette, J.D., Author:

                                                                            Consumer Contracts in Virginia

                                                                            Virginia Continuing Legal Education

This article is not provided for use or reliance by you or any third parties and does not purport to be exhaustive or to render legal advice for your particular situation or any other specific case. It is meant merely to assist you in sharpening the questions you might ask of your legal advisor in your particular case. Please give me a call should you have any questions. (See: Disclaimer)