Working with a professional wedding photographer should be a fun experience. But as the world comes closer to normal following the height of COVID-19, planning an event comes with so many more questions. Finding a photographer whose styling you love and who makes you feel comfortable in front of her camera is exciting. Nonetheless, all of those contractual obligations might have you stressed out. And if you are like most people I work with, you may never have hired a photographer before. You might not have a clue what to expect, what to ask, and how to advocate for yourself. That is what this post is all about!
Below, I have outlined what you should know about your rights when it comes to the copyright of your wedding photos, printing, and sharing of your images online. I’ve also shared an overview of what you should see in your contract given the new, post-pandemic climate we live in.
Ownership + Sharing Your Images
As you can imagine, as a professional wedding photographer, it is important to share examples of our work in order to promote ourselves. This makes some people incredibly uncomfortable. Not everyone wants to have their images shared on social media due to personal privacy preferences. Some are completely comfortable with it. This is a topic which can create some friction, so it is important to communicate directly with your photographer about it. But before you do, let’s look at what the Canadian Copyright Act says about who owns your wedding photos.
Who Owns The Copyright
Who owns the copyright to your wedding photos? This is a topic that often confuses couples at first. And it’s no surprise that you might be confused.
Prior to 2012, a couple who commissioned a photographer and paid in full was considered the joint authors of their photos and owned the copyright to them. However, this changed in November of 2012 when the Canadian Copyright Act was updated to assign the photographer as the sole copyright holder to all commissioned photographs. This means that your photographer legally owns your photos and can use them however she likes, even after she delivers your prints and digital files.
While some photographers choose to enforce this right without regard, I prefer to take the comfort of my clients into consideration. If my clients communicate with me that they would like to keep their photos private, I do not share them online. And I am not the only one. So if this is something you are concerned about, speak with your photographer about it.
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Your Rights To Your Photos
Now that you know that your photographer owns the copyright to your images, let’s look at your rights. Can you share your images? Can you even take your photos to a print lab to get prints for yourself? Yes! While the Canadian Copyright Act assigns the copyright to your photographer, it also outlines that you may print and share your photos however you would like. The only thing you can’t do is sell them.
Printing Your Photos
You should be aware that some print labs will require a print release form prior to printing your photos. This document will simply state that you did commission the photographer and have the right to print your photos. Not all photographers provide this document up-front. If this is the case for you, just ask your photographer for one.
That said, when it comes to printing your photos, there are a few things that you should consider. Professional wedding photographers like myself often provide full printing services. If yours does too, I highly recommend that you take advantage of it.
I work with professional print labs which only provide their services to professionals like myself. While this luxury is more costly, there are a few reasons to take advantage of it. First, the quality and longevity of these prints are noticeably higher. Second, your photographer will not be able to fix print issues or replace prints you purchase from a third-party print lab. And third, photographers like myself will replace printed artwork which does not meet our quality standards when purchased from us. So if you are looking for the highest quality prints without the headache, work with your photographer rather than ordering prints on your own.
What Happened During COVID-19
My couples and I got through COVID-19 really comfortably. While we heard all sorts of horror stories of venues and vendors cancelling coverage and not refunding deposits, my couples were all able to go ahead with their original date or work with me on their rescheduled date. They incurred no additional fees, and anyone who had to modify their plans received extras from me to equal the value of their original wedding package.
My wedding contracts didn’t specifically cover a pandemic-type event. However they did include the following three circumstances which may have applied to my couples in 2020:
- If my clients cancelled their wedding, they would not receive a refund.
- If my clients rescheduled their wedding and I was not available for the new date, they would not receive a refund.
- If my clients rescheduled their wedding and I was available for the new date, we would apply the contract to the new wedding date at no additional cost.
Ultimately, my couples who rescheduled their weddings checked in with me on the new dates to be sure I was available. Everyone who rescheduled received their full wedding coverage at no additional cost for their new wedding date. But what about the couples who kept their original wedding date and scaled back the festivities? I photographed their wedding and provided an additional couple’s or family session on another date to make up for any missing family who couldn’t be at the wedding.
COVID-19 Contract Updates
A global pandemic wasn’t something that couples or vendors were thinking about prior to 2020. Now that we’ve lived through it, though, it might be something you want to explore in more detail with your photographer and other wedding vendors.
To make things a bit more clear, I have made updates to my wedding, portrait, and personal branding photography contracts. They each state the following:
In the event of unforeseeable events such as, but not limited to extreme weather or government action or legislation which makes fulfilling this contract impossible or significantly different, this contract may be terminated. As with COVID-19, I will do everything in my power to work with you to come up with a new plan. If we are successful in creating a new plan, this contract will apply to the new plan. If we are unable to create a new plan together, no payments will be refunded.
A clause like this is referred to as ‘force majeure.’ These clauses excuse your service provider from being responsible for fulfilling a contract that can no longer be fulfilled due to circumstances beyond their control (often listed as an ‘act of God’). While a clause like this might at first be scary, you shouldn’t be afraid of it. Instead, ask your vendor to explain cases in the past when they have had to use this clause, or how they have handled situations in which they may have had to use it if things went differently. In my case, for example, I wouldn’t have had to use this clause even if it was in my contracts in 2020. Instead, all of my couples and I were able to come up with plans that worked for everyone. Like any relationship, communication is key.
Working With Your Professional Wedding Photographer
When it comes to photography for your wedding, I urge you to work with a professional. A professional not only has experience photographing weddings, but they have put significant thought into the structure of their business and the service they provide you. You benefit from all of this hard work with contracts that protect you and your investment and with expertise and flexibility that will make you feel comfortable throughout the process. If you’re not sure how to find your photographer, I have just the resource for you: Our Dream Photographer Workbook: Wedding Edition.
Just fill out the form below to grab your copy and to find your dream wedding photographer. I promise it will make your entire wedding that much better.
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