You may not realise it but just because you paid someone to take photos of your day doesn’t mean you own the photos. Here’s why and what it means oh and what it has to do with a monkey…

Copyright

The first thing to touch on is copyright. We hear the term but don’t always understand it fully. Copyright is “the exclusive and assignable legal right, given to the originator for a fixed number of years, to print, publish, perform, film, or record literary, artistic, or musical material.” – Lexico.com

In the EU artwork is automatically copyrighted upon creation of the work. No registration is needed.

This means that because your wedding photographer pressed the button on the camera to take the photo, they automatically own the copyright to that picture.

(photo: © David Slater / Wildlife Personalities Ltd).

Monkeys

This is where an interesting case came up a few years ago. In 2011 a british photographer, David Slater, travelled to a national park in indonesia to take pictures of the wildlife.  He wanted pictures of monkeys, the monkeys were scared of him so he left his camera set up on a tripod and let the monkeys be curious and actually snap a few shots by themselves!

This picture went a bit viral. Problem is wikipedia tagged it as public domain (which essentially means something isn’t protected by copyright law) for the reason that as Mr Slater didn’t actually take the picture he didn’t own the copyright and monkeys cant own copyright. Mr Slater asked wikipedia to remove the picture, wikipedia didnt.  Then in 2015 PETA sued Mr Slater on behalf of the monkey. It got thrown out of court, PETA appealed it ending in an out of court settlement. Really this issue hasn’t been fully settled. 

As silly as it is, this story highlights how serious copyright is taken. So basically don’t let monkeys take your wedding photos, but on the other hand it would be cool to have monkeys take your wedding photos (they just probably won’t let you use them because of the copyright thing)

Faithlegg Hotel, Waterford, Ireland

What This Means For You

So what does this mean for you as the purchaser of a wedding photographer and your resulting photos?

This is down to the discretion of the photographer.  A wedding photographer should have terms and conditions regarding what you as the buyer can do and not do with your own wedding photos.

The wedding photographer should grant you a license to use the images for certain things. For example using on social media, sharing with friends and family and printing. Really within reason you should be able to do whatever you want with them. 

The only time a photographer would likely have a problem is if you edit and share them in a way that reflects their work in a negative way. Also most of the time the photographer won’t give you permission to sell on these photos for profit.  If you did want to sell the photos then approach the photographer and I’m sure you’ll be able to broker a deal.

What This Means For The Photographer

The photographer is likely going to want to use some of the photos they took of your wedding as promotion material.  Weddings aren’t a return business so new customers are always needed and new, fresh photos are a continual part of bringing in customers.

You do have a level of protection. The photographer needs a model release to use a photo from each individual in the photo.  I say level of protection because it’s not a black and white thing. It all depends on the use (is it commercial), whether it was taken in a private or public place, and who’s in the picture. For a more detailed insight into this side theres a good article at https://thelawtog.com/wedding-guests-need-sign-photography-model-release-form/

Rule of thumb would say that for a wedding, which would be considered a public place where photos would be expected, that the photographer can use the photos how they would deem fit.

If you would like your wedding photos kept private, then have a chat with the photographer, they should be willing to help you out and work with you to provide a solution that works for you both.

Conclusion

The wedding photographer is an artist you are commissioning to document your day.  Photographs are creative works, and the copyright law exists to protect the artist.

Any wedding photographer worth their salt should let you essentially do what you want, within reason, with the photos though.  It’s down to you to check what the photographer will licence you to do with your wedding photos and if you feel it’s not what you’re after, talk to them.  

Check out my terms and conditions for copyright licensing and model release info. If you’re not happy with it, talk to me, I’m a reasonable guy!