Can I please have the copyright to my pictures!?

It’s not often that this happens, but it was brought up over drinks with some of our industry buddies the other night. The burning question was, “What do you do when a private client asks you to give them the copyright to their photos?” As we said, it doesn’t happen often, but the answer is always a resounding “no”. (Half the brides to be out there and every amateur photographer just gasped!) Let’s cut to the chase of it and explain why.

First of all, a “copyright” is exactly that. It let’s you be the the legal authority authorized to “make copies” of something. Print, music, photos, etc. The originator or creator of any such media is the copyright holder. Whether for hire or not, the first one to create such a work is the holder of the copyright on that media. From a bride’s vantage that means, if she hired us, Fotowerks has the copyright to her photos that she paid us to take for her. Now let’s explain the ins and outs of this agreement and how it benefits both the client and us.

Us retaining copyright SAVES YOU MONEY. Does it give us the right to print them, and sell them to you and make a profit on that too? Yes it does. So how does it save you money? Time is money. If you own the copyright it will be you personally responsible for filling the photo orders of friends and family who want pics from your wedding day. Trust us, this is harrowing and time/aspirin consuming. If you’re ordering cheap WalMart type prints, they are going to fade and wear our out. Most reputable photo labs expect archive/museum quality photos to be ordered by professional photographers and you probably don’t have the licenses and documentation to work with them. If you do find one, you’ll have to send in copies of your copyright ownership as well as do the digital media transmitting and then manage the ordering through them. This time dealing with a pro lab who speaks a language you don’t understand. The biggie here, especially the way Fotowerks works is that you can hire a big name like us for less than you’d ever imagine. We rarely ever sell a “packaged” wedding. You know… blah hours of wedding day coverage, blah couple session, blah blah prints a blah blah blah album, etc. We pioneered the idea of paying for services then buying the photos and such that you’d like after we’ve completed editing. This, along with our installment plan for services really allows you to stretch your budget. Otherwise, it’d be like a corporate or celebrity client. We don’t do their prints at all – but we do charge them to release the copyright allowing them to use it for advertising, catalog work, etc. In other words, we have no chance to be profitable after the job is done. We need you to buy prints and such. That’s the only way we make money. Doing it after the wedding FORCES us to do the best job we can in hopes that you’ll love it and purchase them. That incentive gets you lower prices and we believe better photos. Otherwise, like corporate, we’d double prices and let you fend for yourself.

Us retaining copyright can save your reputation. Ok, fine – you have your copyright. You’ve paid us, we shoot, edit your lovely wedding and deliver the finished product along with the release of copyright paperwork. We hug goodbye, thank you for letting us be part of something so special in your life and we part ways. Six months later, you see your wedding reception setup splayed across the cover of a magazine, being touted as a wedding photographed by another photographer or (maybe worst of all) posted on social media and you see yourself “defiled” after some clever editing by an ex! You can hold those images as close to your vest as possible – trust us, they can and do get loose. (take a bad selfie and see what happens) Now what do you do? Even if you get all lawyered up, you’re going to have a heck of a time chasing all that stupidity down and putting out those fires. Professionals like Fotowerks are members of photographic organizations with legal pools who eat, sleep and breathe the chance to crush idiots like these. You don’t have it, but we have the legal muscle and resources to obliterate anyone “borrowing” our work and or harming your image or reputation. We aggressively protect our clients and the work they hired us to do!

It works both ways too. This is why we insist on being the only photographers at the wedding. Often times a bride will have a bff or cousin or a “Mom’s friend” wanting to get into photography. They come to the wedding, lay low (if they are courteous – some aren’t), snap a zillion photos and post their “best” online for you and your friends to ooh and aah over. Well, that seems okay, unless they stink. Knowing that you hired Fotowerks (or any other professional) to be your photographer – just who do you think will get the bad reputation for the crummy work? Yep – it happens.

Lastly, understand this – we are (obviously) very liberal with our clients using their own work. Sure, we want to show you off to the world through promoting our own selves and we love posting to Facebook and such so you can show us off to all your friends! Awesome! But have you ever noticed that we don’t put “Fotowerks” on your pictures? A lot of folks imprint their logo on their work to promote their business. Nothing wrong with that, it’s been an industry practice since photography first came along. We just find that it detracts from you and your memories. We know we took them and you know we took them – if you love it enough to show them off we feel that we did our job. You have our consent and blessing to do so. But your guests who drug out a cell phone and took pics – they own the copyright to those images themselves. Yep, technically, you need their permission of copyright to show those photos or do anything else with them. They can post them and tag you. You can share that post too – as long as it goes back to the original creator of the image. Could your guests, technically, charge you for a print of the picture or make it into a t-shirt and sell them for profit? They sure could – with full force of the law behind them.

As you can see, this can get hairy really quick if you make a fuss over it. Keep it simple. We’ll keep and manage the copyright, You enjoy your photos both worry and hassle free!