The Great Photography Fight

While being engaged to my best friend has been a delightful and insanely happy time in my life, it’s also brought some really strange fights. Fighting is inevitable when planning a wedding as long as you a) are two different human beings b) have opinions c) care. My fiance and I hit all three marks, so some things have come up we disagree on. I’m basically 0 for 20 at guessing what these particular things will be, but The Great Photography Fight really caught me off guard.

Here are the basics: I really enjoy photojournalistic wedding photos, especially candids of real emotion. I love how talented photographers can capture the feel of an event, which is way more important to me than staged and posed portraits. My fiance? Doesn’t care. I thought it was promising when he turned up his nose at some of the cheesy wedding albums we saw when venue hunting, but it turns out: he doesn’t care.

What he does care about is copyright. Specifically, he cares about owning the copyright to our wedding photos.

Now, this is not anything that I have spent a great deal of time thinking about, but I did some research once he threw that gem at me. It turns out, the vast majority of professional photographers retain the copyrights to their images. This is in part because they created them and want to be able to protect their images from being stolen (from their website, for example) and credited to someone else. The other reason photographers retain copyright is because they accept clients (including weddings) with the hope that they can add some of those photos to their portfolio.

Lovely fiance, love of my life, cares about none of this. He feels that since we are paying photographers to shoot our day, we should own every bit of it. For the amount of money we’re paying (which, while more than we have ever paid for anything besides the venue, is reasonable for the market), we should own the photos and be able to do whatever we want with them. Turns out, this is a thing: it’s called work for hire. Some photographers who normally retain copyright will agree to work for hire…for an additional (large) fee. Lovely fiance was able to find a couple of photographers in the area who advertised working for hire, but frankly, the quality wasn’t anywhere near the ones I found who did not work for hire.

This whole argument strikes me as more than a little silly. I can see that he really has a problem with the idea of someone else owning something he pays for, but I have a problem with asking a photographer to give up their claim to something they created. This fight has technically been solved, by which I mean he has bowed out of this decision and allowed me to hire someone who I think will do an amazing job on our wedding day. However, something makes me think that this isn’t quite over…what do you think?

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4 thoughts on “The Great Photography Fight

  1. we had this discussion as well in planning our wedding. it was a tough one. we solved it by a parent offering to “purchase” the copyrights to the photos as a wedding present. Then, when about 1/4 of our wedding photos were lost by the photographers in a super fluke that was crazy an unpredictable (they got “the blue screen of death” when uploading one of the SD cards), we were GIVEN the remaining photos, instead of having to buy them! a really difficult situation ended up turning into a money-saver. I’ll be interested to hear if this issue comes up again for y’all. 🙂

  2. I understand where the photographers are coming from, I used to/still dabble in wedding videography and I want to use all of my previous work to show other prospective clients.

  3. our photographer gave us CDs of all our photos and we could do whatever we wanted with them with the appropriate credit (FB, print at CVS machines, etc.) but he also retained the rights to use them in his portfolio, etc. worked out well for both parties, and the price wasn’t too bad, comparatively. we were lucky!

  4. Steph, it sounds like you guys went the traditional route: you have the images, but the photographer retains the copyright. That’s what we’re ending up doing too, but in the feyonce’s mind, that’s not really OWNING the photos.

    Tempa, are you sure you own the copyright to your photos now? If that were the case, you wouldn’t have any watermarks on the images and wouldn’t have to credit the photographer any time you used them. It sounds like you got the digital files (the ones that weren’t lost, anyway), which usually are a separate charge, but don’t tend to come with the copyright.

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