Advice for Wedding Vendors
This is mostly meant for wedding vendors who need images from a wedding photographer, but wedding clients should absolutely read this because it contains some really useful information that might prevent an awkward situation.
I've been shooting for over 12 years. The formative years were spent assisting, taking classes, working in a film processing lab, as a student journalist for a university newspaper, and a digital tech (photo tech) for a city newspaper. In other words, I was an apprentice. I have only been comfortable calling myself a professional for roughly half my career. I define myself as a professional photographer and distinguish myself from an amateur (who may be every bit as skilled-- or more) by owning a business from which I make a living. I belong to a professional trade organization for my industry and spend time educating and receiving education from fellow pros.
Ok, big deal. You're a "professional". Whoop-de-do. So what? Well, if I didn't see this come up from people who want to be professionals, I wouldn't be a very good team player if I didn't educate them, would I? Eh? The topic I'm covering is confusing, nuanced and even counter-intuitive at times, but here's me setting the record straight.
When you hire a professional to shoot your wedding...
...the images you receive, whether they are print or digital, are for your personal use only. A professional wedding photographer often has a contract that outlines their services, as well as any limitations on image use. They almost never transfer ownership of the image itself to a client.
Wait, but don't I get the images? What are we paying you for?
You are paying for the right to reprint an image. You are not paying for the entire copyright.
For example... if you rent an apartment, you may live in it, but you do not own it. You cannot alter or renovate it without permission. You can't sublet it without permission. You can't run a business out of it without permission (and likely a license from your local government).
Think of your wedding photos as an apartment. You are not buying the photo. You are buying the right to use it. You cannot alter that photo from its original form just like you can't knock down walls in your apartment. You can't even sell that photo to someone else, because-- just like an apartment, you do not own it. You're just allowed to use it. Am I being repetitive? Yes. Does repetition work? Yes. Will I continue being repetitive?
The apartment analogy is exactly how copyright works, and how as a photographer, I can deliver images to you to use for personal use, but you can't sell it or change it. What you receive is a digital copy or print reproduction of that image. The image itself belongs to the photographer for as long as they live.
Now for the Vendors!
A photographer shared a photo for you to use on your Facebook page. (Further down, I share tips on how to best acquire those "vendor photos"). You share it on your Facebook page and then decide, "this would be perfect for my upcoming ad in Colorado Bride Magazines!"
BZZZZZ. Pump the breaks there, sport. Copyright is not an "on/off" switch. There are many layers of it, and just because a photographer gives you permission to use the image on Facebook, that does not mean you can take the image and use it for a bona-fide ad campaign.
What's the difference?
If I were an attorney, which I'm not, I would say that Facebook use (not Facebook Ads) are a form of Fair Use since it constitutes commentary. This is why it's perfectly fine for me to reference a quote from a book and not be slapped with plagiarism. If the use is commentary, your Facebook post would look like this:
"SO thrilled to be a part of Mrs. and Mr. Burgundy's *amazing* wedding day! I designed a special Star-Wars themed cake since they are both total nerds! What do y'all think? Oh, and special thanks to Wes Ryan Photography for taking the best photo of me that I've ever seen in my life!
It's not a bona-fide advertisement because the post is just stating facts and using the image as a reference. As long as the photographer gave you permission to put it on Facebook, you're golden!
But suppose you want to take that same image, write some text over it and use it as targeted ad? Or use it in a magazine to feature your cake on a full page advertisement? Or as a sponsored post on Instagram? Such use is well within the realm of commercial use, and if you're using an image you don't own to generate more revenue, then a whole new set of actions needs to occur. Don't freak out. Think of it as an investment. If you believe this image is perfect for displaying your talent and cake baking skills, then it should be worth it to you. Approach the photographer and ask to license the image for commercial use.
Put another way, commentary vs commercial is similar to when a musician writes a song. If you like it, you can sing it as much as you want at home, but you can't play it to attract customers to your business without paying a royalty or license fee.
An Important Note on Client Vendor/Contracts
Side note to vendors!!! If your client contract includes a clause claiming entitlement of any number of photos taken by the wedding photographer, it is 100% not enforceable. The client does not own the copyright, therefore they do not have the authority to grant you the use of the image. Only the photographer has that authority.
Even when the client agrees and signs your vendor contract, it does not constitute a proxy agreement with a third party (the photographer), unless they also sign your vendor contract.
What's the big deal? For starters, you don't want to begin a relationship with a fellow vendor by claiming to be entitled to whatever images might help your business.
Of course, quid pro quo, you're expected to take certain duties on board - Scar, The Lion King - 1994
How do I get the dang photos from the Photographer??
99.9% of working professional wedding photographers are not in the business to be stingy. In fact, we fully realize the benefit of networking and helping vendors in our industry. In 2017, social media is our marketplace, and we want to give you images to use for your marketing. Having a relationship with our fellow vendors can result in more bookings for all involved, greases the wheels for collaborations and is just generally good for business.
Brides: On the wild chance that your vendor hasn't read this blog (absurd, I know), and asks you for images. Simply refer them to your photographer. If they mentioned that you agreed to give them photos as per your contract, very politely inform them that their contract can only be applied to images in which you own the copyright, and your photographer did not transfer ownership of the images to you. Be *super* sweet to them, and say, "I'm sure Wes would be glad to send you what you need. Here's his e-mail address."
Vendors: If you are seeking photos from the wedding to showcase your beautiful work, please do not approach the client. I do not speak for all photographers, but I'm willing to bet that the vast majority of us are happy to trade social media mentions. For me, that means I'm expanding the audience on an image I've posted simply by tagging you where you're featured. And quid pro quo, you can tag us as the photographer on the images that we give you. So that should be your approach.
Asking for images with the explicit intent of crediting the photographer is a really great way to prioritize your request. Keep in mind that a professional must be in perpetual motion to stay in business, therefore paying clients should always be our priority. That automatically moves you down the list. When you ask for images of your booth, the cake, or the place settings, you have to realize the majority of those photos are not in the final images we edit and deliver. The bride will probably get 3 really nice photos of the cake, tops. I mean, details shots are great, but no bride wants 40 photos of napkins.
That means to give you more than a few good ones (and we will not give you unedited photos) we'll have to hunt them down in an archive of thousands of images from that day, edit them to our style (since it's a reflection of our business) and that takes time. So bear with us.
Do's for Vendors
- Be nice.
- Introduce yourself as XYZ Vendors from Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so's wedding.
- Request, don't demand. See "be nice". Remember, you're not the client and we don't owe you anything.
- State what the images will be used for, and be honest. If we find out you are adding wedding photography to your DJ services, we're gonna be real pissed.
- Express gratitude. They are working on the client's time, not yours. If you get photos before the clients do, consider it a sign of deep and solemn trust and graciousness.
Now that you have received some images, here are some
Don'ts for Vendors
- Act entitled. Be impatient. Tell us what the "industry standard" has been for the last 87 years.
- Do not alter the image beyond reason when you do receive them.
- If there is a watermark, do not crop it out. Just ask for one without a watermark and swear upon all that you hold dear and holy that you will add a hyperlinked credit underneath the photo.
- Put the photo on your social media without a hyperlinked credit to the photographer.
I make this all sound a lot more intense than it really is. Most of the time, you're not going to have issues getting photos from a photographer. Most of the time, the photographer will be thrilled to share their images with you and have their work featured by a fellow vendor. But sometimes, you're just gonna have to be real nice and real patient with us.
For the record, I love IPA beers and coffee. I'm just saying.
Wes Ryan is a Wedding and Portrait Photographer based in Denver. If you would like to syndicate this article, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.