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Alina Thomas Photography: Northern Virginia Wedding Photographer » Virginia Wedding Photographer


Disclaimer: This article is designed to provide information regarding the misconception between copyright and printing right, and help my customers understand the difference between the two.

“Do I get the copyrights to my wedding pictures?”

The term copyright is often misunderstood. I have realized that when most couples ask if they will receive the copyrights to their wedding images, they actually mean printing rights. As a bride, I know that I would like to be able to print my wedding pictures anytime and anywhere (of course, I would encourage you to invest in HIGH quality prints since you have already invested in HIGH quality photography, but more on that another time). As a photographer, I strongly believe in printing your images and keeping them as a legacy to show your children and grandchildren down the road. So, the answer is YES!, we always give our couples a print release form, that allows them to print their pictures, post them on social media and share them with family and friends, but they do not get the copyright to the images.

So, what is the difference between copyright and printing right?

Copyright — In easy terms, copyright means that you are the author of the work you produce and have ownership over the things you create (e.g. photographs, paintings, songs etc.). So, the author of a photo is the person that actually pressed the shutter on the camera to create the photo. Whoever creates the photo automatically owns the copyright to it. Anytime you take a photo, you own the copyright, and anytime a professional photographer takes a photo for you, they own the copyright. By law, they are the only ones that can make alterations to their work, like editing, cropping, and so on.
If you think about it, if someone showed you an image from their wedding after they applied some terrible Instagram filters over the editing job the photographer did in post processing, wouldn’t that misrepresent the photographer’s brand and style that they worked years to build? That is why photographers won’t sell their copyrights unless they get paid a considerably large amount of money.

Printing Rights — Having printing rights means you have the right to print unlimited images for personal use. We, as well as many other photographers, offer a print release form to all our couples.

With a print release you CAN:

  • print your images for personal use at a lab of your choice
  • post them on social media
  • share them with family and friends

With a print release you CANNOT:

  • alter, edit or crop the images in any way
  • enter competitions for money
  • sell them
Just like with renting a movie or downloading a song off iTunes, your sole intentions are to watch that movie at home or enjoy listening to that song on your iPod. You are not actually asking the producers to give you all rights to their movies and/or songs, right? Same goes with photography. The copyright law enables the photographer to share their work with future clients, display it on their website, and create marketing materials.


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  • February 6, 2015 - 1:43 pm

    Alicia - This is a great post that explains the difference between copyright and print release in very easy to understand terms.ReplyCancel

  • February 6, 2015 - 1:45 pm

    Corey - Fantastic blog post regarding printing rights and how it differs from copyright! Very informative!ReplyCancel

  • February 6, 2015 - 4:16 pm

    Alina Thomas - Thank you, Corey and Alicia! I am so happy that you found it informative. The main purpose of discussing the difference between copyrights and printing rights was to inform the couples that they are actually two different terms that have different meaning.ReplyCancel

  • February 7, 2015 - 5:14 pm

    Allison - Excellent post. You clients must appreciate this. Well done!ReplyCancel

  • May 4, 2016 - 4:56 pm

    Laurie P - Great useful info!!ReplyCancel

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