Wedding Rings by Alison Buchanan 

Wedding Photography Copyright:

I have recently been in discussion with a client about copyright and realised that this is an often misunderstood aspect of wedding photography.  So I  thought that I would write a short blog to clarify a few points.  Now that clients can receive their images digitally on USB sticks or DVDs they often think they need the copyright to allow them to print them.  Many people confuse Copyright with the Rights of Use and there is a very important difference.  The Photographer holds the copyright but gives a License of Use to the client.

Put simply, under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988, legally the creator of the image holds the copyright.  Therefore, just as you own the copyright to any photos you might take, even on your iPhone, the Photographer owns the copyright of the images he or she takes at your wedding.

For a Professional Photographer it is important to hold the copyright and control over how the images are used. This protects their product.  The final edited images from your wedding are  his or her ‘brand’, the images that give the photographer their reputation and gain them more work.   These are the images you see when choosing your wedding photographer and the style of photography you are buying into.

If the photographer holds the copyright it ensures that their images cannot be manipulated or re-edited in a different style and posted online, and they cannot be sold commercially for other uses without the photographer’s permission.  Usually if someone wants to sell their images for commercial use they will have to contact their photographer and draw up a new contract/licence with them.

Do you actually need copyright?

The photographer may own the copyright but you own models rights, i.e if your photographer wishes to sell images of you from your wedding or portrait shoot, they must first ask your permission for them to do so.  In order for them to sell the images they will require a Model Release form,  so in effect you have control and can prevent those images being sold without holding the copyright to them.

License of Use:

What clients should really be looking for is a ‘Print Licence’ or ‘Licence of Use‘.  In Wedding Photography this usually allows them to crop images and to print for personal use.  To print for the purposes of album design and to share with their friends and relatives.  After all, this is exactly what most clients want and is particularly important now when many couples want their digital images along with, or instead of, an album.   On a practical note, your printer may question you walking in with a USB of professional photographs and challenge your right to print them.  I therefore issue all my clients with a Print Licence along with their digital images.

If you want to use the images for other purposes then do discuss this with your photographer and they may include it in the Licence of Use.  For example some photographers are happy for you to send images on to your suppliers and some would prefer to control that themselves so that they can ask for a credit or send a watermarked image.

If you don’t want your photographer to use any of your images on social media or on their website then make that clear so that that can be written into your contract.

 Why do some photographers say their images are ‘copyright free’?

A professional photographer will not just give you copyright to their images.  To hand over their copyright gives someone else the right to use and alter the images in any way and to sell them commercially world wide.  The term ‘copyright free’ should be a warning – some amateur photographers use this term very loosely – they may simply mean that they are giving you images without their watermark on them.   They probably just mean you can print them for friends and family.  Check the terms and conditions of the contract to see what they are really giving you.


A Professional Photographer values their work and by retaining their copyright they protect their brand and product, whilst ensuring their clients have the rights they require to print under the terms of their License.

I hope that helps shed some light on this issue…..