After your wedding it’s likely that you’ll be approached by some of the suppliers involved in your wedding day. They may ask you to send over some of your wedding photographs. It’s a simple yes or no situation right? In reality it’s actually a little more complicated than that.
Before we get into the thick of it, i’m not suggesting that photographers should not allow other businesses to use their photographs. This post was written to help educate couples. It aims to explain why it is best if suppliers are directed on to the photographer to discuss the use of professional images VS the couple sending them on to the suppliers themselves. It discusses the legalities of doing so along with some of the moral and social reasons why your photographer may not want you to pass along images yourself. It may also help couples (and other suppliers) understand why some photographers opt to charge a fee for use of their work.
Printing rights vs Copyright
As a couple, if you receive an email from a supplier asking you to send them some images, it’s not necessarily the simple “yes” or “no” situation you may expect. This is because legally you don’t actually own your wedding photographs. Your photographer does. Whilst they are yours to use and enjoy, legal ownership remains with the photographer. This means that you are not within your legal rights to share images with suppliers and authorise their use by another business.
Many photographers grant their couples “printing rights” or similar. Printing rights usually allow couples to obtain their own prints or albums without having to purchase them directly from the photographer. You’ll usually also be able to do things like make your own copies of USBs or discs to pass on to your loved ones. Rarely does this extend to allowing you to share photos with other businesses.
Any photographer worth their salt will not include copyright with their photographs as standard. This is because handing over full legal ownership of your work leaves you open to all sorts of undesirable things. Things which can reflect badly on your business. For example images being edited poorly by a third party or sold on for profit. It also leaves you open to having your work stolen, or used commercially, for profit by a third party.
Using images commercially, for financial gain
It’s easy to understand why suppliers approach couples for photographs. As a supplier, any supplier, you put your heart and soul into your product or service. You want to see that reflected in beautiful photographs. You’re proud of your work and what you do. It’s understandable that you’d want to share it. Therefore many suppliers ask for photos so they can use them on their websites and social media channels. Professional images help to showcase their work in the best possible light. They also help create a good first impression. Websites and social media pages using professional photographs always look more trustworthy and presentable.
Because of this, it is desirable to have professional images of your work. From a business point it’s a no brainer. Great photos will encourage more engagement on your social media posts. This will boost your online presence and help to generate more enquires. Eventually it should help to bring in more business. This is called using images commercially. I.e Ultimately for financial gain.
If a supplier was looking to book a commercial photoshoot with a professional photographer, it would cost hundreds, if not thousands of pounds. But expenses do not stop at the cost of the shoot itself. There’s also the associated costs such as stock and location hire. There may be payment required for models. Additionally there’s a time element for some suppliers. For some, it would most likely take a significant amount of time to create new products just for a shoot. This can be wasteful, especially if you have a perishable product or a skill that cannot be sold on.
It is therefore cheaper and much more convenient to ask a couple to send photographs from their wedding. The work has already been done, the stock has been paid for and there are professional photographs of the product already. It makes perfect business sense…for everyone but the photographer.
Everyone benefits but the photographer
Often photographers will have spent many hours editing your wedding images. In the process sometimes doing things like correcting “mistakes” or inconsistencies. Masking skin blemishes, makeup smudges or loose hairs. Even erasing things like fire exit signs. As such a final photograph may not always be a fair and wholly accurate representation of someone’s product, service or venue. Editing to this extent is done for our clients benefit. We do it so that they aren’t stuck with the ever lasting memory that their beautiful cake was actually cracked to high heaven. We do it so they don’t look through their album and think to themselves, “that’d be a lovely photo if that bit of hair wasn’t falling down.”
It’s not done so that a hobbyist cake maker can post an image of cake perfection and in turn sell more mediocre cakes to unsuspecting couples.
Now that is not to suggest in any way that other suppliers seek images so they can misrepresent their work. Not at all. The point we’re making is that once an image is out of our hands, our hands are tied. We don’t know who those images have been sent to, or what will be done with them. At least if you refer a supplier on to us we’ll have an idea of who is using them and how.
It’s always quite a shock to open a magazine or website and notice one of our photographs. More often than not, until that moment we had absolutely no idea that it was being used. With these surprise images, it’s rare that we’ve been asked if they can be used and as a result we’re rarely credited. Because of this, many photographers prefer that you do not pass images from your wedding on to other suppliers. They ask that you put your supplier directly in contact with your photographer instead. At least that way we have some idea of where and how photographs are being used. This is as much for your privacy and security as it is ours. No one wants to see their images popping up on rogue websites.
When a couple pass copies of their wedding photographs on to another business, this means that the supplier may use our work to help advertise theirs. This isn’t very fair. It’s a very one sided arrangement.
For a photographer, photographs are our product in the same way that a cake is the product of a cake maker. A wedding bouquet is that of a florist. We’ve been shooting weddings for 9 years now and not once in 9 years have we been offered cake in exchange for photos. Nor have we been offered flowers in exchange for photos. In fact, I don’t think we’ve ever been offered anything. There is simply the expectation that our product is available for free. Just for asking. It’s wrong. It’s actually quite disrespectful and things need to change.
“You’ve already been paid”
If a photographer is ever reluctant to share their work for any reason, it’s not uncommon for it to be met with some hostility. Sometimes the clap back is “but the wedding photographs have already been paid for, so you’re not losing out” which is completely wrong. In most cases, when images have been sent directly, we’ve actually missed out on an opportunity to forge a mutually beneficial business relationship. (And that’s the real crux of the matter)
But just to clarify and expand on the above, as it’s a common response: Yes the photographer has already been paid for their work. The couple has paid for our time, service and expertise. The couple have paid pay for access to the professional images that we’ve taken for them. Other suppliers have presumably already been paid for their product or service too. So on a like for like basis alone, why should they benefit further from free advertising materials?
Photographers: The inconvenient middle man
It’s not even revenue that’s the issue for a lot of photographers. It’s the innate assumption that creative services are less valuable than tangible products. For many it’s the assumption that their work must be given up for free simply because someone has asked or offered to credit the photo in return. It’s also the disregard for the legalities surrounding copyright and the conscious choice to bypass photographers altogether- like we’re the inconvenient middle man. In our experience, the majority of suppliers who’ve worked in the wedding industry for more than 5 minutes know that permission from the photographer is also needed, but many choose to ignore this. We therefore rely on our couples to pass along our details when asked. And that’s why we’ve written this piece, to help couples understand both the legalities of supplying images and the context as to why photographers would love you to pass along their details.
If you scratch my back, i’ll scratch yours
The key point really is that passing photographs directly to another supplier denies us the opportunity to form a healthy business relationship with another small business. If you put a supplier in touch with us, we become aware of them and their interest in our work and vice versa. We can go on to forge relationships with them, network, share recommendations etc. If you pass the photographs on directly, we may have no idea that they ever liked our work. If they tag us, great, but often businesses don’t and a potentially very valuable connection is lost. So many small businesses rely on word of mouth and personal recommendations. It’s a real shame when we’re denied this opportunity.
Business relationships should be mutually beneficial.
To summarise, business relationships should be mutually beneficial. Small businesses should encourage and support one another. It’s great when our couples are our biggest cheerleader and help us to achieve this. Together, the whole industry benefits. And when the industry benefits and improves, couples get the very best from all of their suppliers. We rely on you though. We rely on our couples to pass on our details when a supplier asks. Please afford us the opportunity to network and to see who is sharing our work.
A final word to couples
If you are approached by another supplier asking for copies of your wedding photographs, it’s essential that you refer them back to your photographer. They are the only ones who can legally give permission for images to be used. Any good, experienced supplier should already know this, but it’s not foolproof. If in doubt, ask your wedding photographer.