Printing Rights VS Copyrights

FAQ, Tips

August 20, 2014

Questions about image rights are always frequently asked questions for us, as well as probably most photographers. There are “helpful” wedding websites out there with tips on working with photographers that tell couples they need the copyrights to the images. I’m never quite sure where they get the questions on those lists! For 9.9 out of 10 couples, owning the copyright actually isn’t necessary. Most photographers, like us, provide a release for usage rights to their clients, which grants them the right to use the photos in pretty much all of the ways they’d ever need to. Here’s a little breakdown on the difference between copyright and usage rights.

Copyright is created by the photographer as soon as he or she clicks the shutter and creates the image. The person who created the image automatically owns the copyright, unless they give it to someone else. Most professional photographers wouldn’t part with image copyrights unless they’re being paid a pretty hefty sum in addition to their normal fees. Why it that? Protection is the main reason. Photographers retain the copyright to the images they photograph to protect their businesses. If a photographer gave away their copyright, they would have zero rights to the images. They couldn’t use them on their website, promote their business with the images, share samples of their work with potential new clients, or even say that they took the images. The person with the copyright would own the rights to the images and could even potentially open a business with them saying they took them or use them in ways that could be potentially damaging to the photographer’s business. For these reasons, despite what wedding websites might tell you, photographers retain the copyright to the images 99.9 percent of the time.

Usage rights/printing rights
Many photographers who offer digital files like we do offer usage/printing rights with them. This isn’t the copyright to the images, but it is a release saying you can print them or use them according to the terms set forth in the usage agreement. It’s kind of like when you buy a copy of the Hunger Games (which, I totally just bought). When you buy a blu ray, you have the right to use it and watch it at home for your personal use. You can’t alter the movie (I don’t even know how you would do that), say you filmed it, or make money off of it. The usage rights are all a typical client will need to enjoy their photos.



With a print release you can:

  • Print your images
  • Share them online (with proper credit)
  • Enjoy them at home!

You can’t

  • Edit or alter the images
  • Submit them or enter into contests without the photographer’s permission
  • Sell them
  • Say you took them

I am actually pretty liberal about my images…I love for my clients to print them and enjoy them. If you want to print 1000 of your images, that’s fine! If you want to make 60 coffee mugs with your favorite engagement photo on it, that’s awesome…(and would it be weird if you gave me one?). The main things we ask are for our protection as a business…mainly please do not alter or edit the images (including adding filters and stuff…because it can misrepresent our editing style, which is part of the service we provide) and please ask us before you submit or enter into a contest!

Questions about rights? Leave it in the comments below, or shoot me an email!

Leave a Comment

  1. Copyright vs. Print Release | Alicia Lacey Photography | Washington, DC Wedding Photographer

    April 21st, 2015 at 9:02 am

    […] love how my friend and fellow photographer, Katie, summed this up in her post on this topic. In short, with a print […]

  2. Laura Reznick

    March 23rd, 2018 at 1:49 pm

    I am sorry, but I can’t get behind the “no editing” policy. Part of the reason I want wedding photos is so that I can make collages or other artwork with them. I really can’t see shelling out thousands for a photographer if I am not allowed to do what I want with my photos. Do all good wedding photographers have this policy?

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