Wedding Photography - Tutorials for Wedding Photographers

Wedding Photography – Tutorials for Wedding Photographers



One of the topics we get asked to write about a lot here at Digital Photography School is wedding photography. As a result, we’ve covered wedding photography quite a bit.

Following are some of our more popular wedding photography tutorials and tips – all in the one place. Happy Shooting!

Wedding Photography Tutorials

As we continue to write on the topic of weddings we’ll add to this list of tutorials so bookmark it and keep checking back!

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

Some Older Comments

  • Lisa December 9, 2012 11:52 pm

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  • Mike September 20, 2012 05:00 am

    Diplomine the printing usually gets done wrong when you give out digital files. Did some portraits one timewas MORTIFIED when I saw the print! Images on a cd are generally available but cost extra. The photographer knows that is usually the end of sales when they do this.

  • Mike September 20, 2012 04:58 am

    Diplomine the printing usually gets done wrong when you give out digital files. Did some portraits one timewas MORTIFIED when I saw the print!

  • janet August 17, 2012 05:56 am

    So here's the other side. My wedding photographer allowed a trainee (street kid he found in front of his shop) to shoot most of our wedding pictures. We have trees growing out of our heads, purses and trucks coming out of our backs, entire bouquets from bridesmaids being held out in front of the bride (in every single shot). So we asked the photographer to fix what he could and reshoot what he could of the key pictures (10-15) He said he doesn't photoshop, it takes too much time, and if we wanted anything reshot, we would have to give him another 1500 dollars on top of the 4000 we already paid him. (he had promised verbally to reshoot for free anything that needed to be.
    So we have contacted other photographers who said they could fix our wedding party pictures, the purses, arms and trees in the wrong place, etc. But... only if the photographer gives written permission. Which we can't get from him (maybe if we sue him...)
    So what do we do? We really can't recreate most of the photos that are bad. And we have been told that the ones we have can actually be fixed. So, how is this situation right? We right now, have no wedding pictures that we can even look at without being disgusted.

  • Terence April 26, 2012 06:54 pm

    I think after reading all the posts the Most IMPORTANT lesson for professionals if you wish to generate more work from referrals and therefore continue working is to not mislead or hoodwink your clients.Be upfront and crystal clear in the content of your contract. The same applies to the client. Work out what it is you expect and indeed require from your photographer and then talk to them until you are happy with the service and fee and only then sign the contract. If you can not agree on services thank them and go elsewhere.

  • nexx August 28, 2010 05:03 am

    I realize that this topic spans over 2 years but i have to write a comment for anyone seeing this long after (like me).

    What I Want
    - Professional photographs of my wedding.
    - Pay an honest rate for those services.
    - Permission to do whatever I want with pictures of my (and wife’s) very intimate ceremony.
    - Right to say where / when my images end up and how often they appear.
    - A photographer who is willing to negotiate a rate to grant me the rights.
    - Keep the images private and share with who I want to share them with

    What I Don’t Want
    - I’m not interested in claiming the photographers.
    - I'm not interested in giving credit to anyone but the photographer.
    - I'm not interested in selling your work to a magazine, website, yadda yadda
    - I'm not interested in hearing that selling the copyright is just not done. That is BULL.

    I'm sure that when magazines, newspapers, movie studios, and the music industry commissions an image, their first reaction is to buy all rights to that image. If they cannot buy it, say because the image itself is highly valuable, then a license to use is their best route. Photographers are willing to negotiate with these industries but not with a couple who is about to get married. Why? I think its a mix of outdated culture, arrogance and greed. If you don't want to give your rights for no additional cost? Fine! No one reasonable would demand that you give it up for free. But at the very least, if you are asked for this by a couple that is getting married then you should offer it at a fair price. Photos of celebrities aren't leaked by their photographers.

    Now, I kept on reading that if you buy a painting, you own that physical painting but you don't own the design bla bla bla. That is not a fair comparison!!! A third party buying a painting is not the same as subject of the painting wanting to own the copyright to the painting. What a lot of you photographers don't understand is that buying the copyright is not the same thing as buying the creative credit. If you sell the creative credit, (i don't even know if thats possible) then you should shoot yourself because that is bad business.

    When you photograph a model you or the commissioning company can do whatever you want without getting permission from the model. You don't need her permission because you paid her to model. If you want to do the same with the pictures you are taking at my wedding then you better be paying us. I'm not interested in getting paid for that so just let me outright buy it.

    A wedding party gets in contact with the photographer because they love your work and want to capture an intimate moment not because they want to screw you over. Let's work together PLEASE.

    I hope that makes some sense because I been going crazy thinking about this.

  • nexx August 28, 2010 04:40 am

    I realize that this topic spans over 2 years but i have to write a comment for anyone seeing this long after (like me).

    What I Want
    - Professional photographs of my wedding.
    - Pay an honest rate for those services.
    - Permission to do whatever I want with pictures of my (and wife's) very intimate ceremony.
    - Right to say where / when my images end up and how often they appear.
    - A photographer who is willing to negotiate a rate to grant me the rights.

    What I Don't Want

    - I'm not interested in claiming your work.
    I will not give credit to anyone but the photographer.

  • Minneapolis Wedding Photographer February 19, 2010 01:02 pm

    @Ryan - since you made that comment I think our industry has changed quite a bit.
    Todays' photographers realize they need to have a pricing structure that pays their mortgage and heating bills while still giving the clients high resolution digital files (or at least have it as an option).

    For instance in all of my wedding packages except my entry level package includes 250 digitally retouched images. I spend a ton of time perfecting them, and my couples really appreciate it.

    If you weren't able to get the image files from your photographer, I'd recommend taking a look at your contract. It should have detailed everything you were getting. If he said you would receive them, then threaten a lawsuit. If he didn't include them for what you paid, then see if you can purchase them separate. Expect to pay $500-2500 for the files though - hopefully you can get the files :)

  • Pink Pixel Photography December 7, 2009 09:29 am

    @ JENNY

    I hope you're sill reading this thread, because you may indeed have legal recourse against your photographer, and you can demand he remove your images.

    It is illegal in the UK (not to mention unethical) to use a person's image for marketing unless that person has expressly signed away her rights in a contract called a "model release." Since you described yourself as a very private person, it seems doubtful you would have signed such a release.

    Check your contract. If you didn't sign a model release, the photographer has no legal rights to use your image in the ways you described, regardless of who owns the copyright.

    Even if you did sign a release, it is only valid if you gave informed consent. That is, the photographer must clearly state the types of things he will use your image for. If he did not, or mislead you to get a signature, the release may be invalid.

    Stanford Copyright and Fair Use website has some useful information about the issue, although it is directed more toward professionals rather than customers.

    I hope it works out, and good luck.

  • A Photog October 20, 2009 07:57 am

    In Canada, current copyright law states that the client who commissioned a photographer does own the copyright automatically, unless the contract explicitly states otherwise.

  • JerBear May 27, 2009 01:15 pm

    I need more the cd full of low resolution digital photos with the word "Proof" across the each photo?

    If so, then I would ask the photog to supply one with out the layover.

    It does sound like a bait and switch, which is too bad. If that is how a anyone works to get business, then that does not say good about their character.

    Let us know what comes of this.


  • sue May 27, 2009 06:00 am

    i have a question? if a photographer advertises that a package includes a CD of all pictures what does that technically mean? I received the CD with proofs only. Very nice pictures but with the words proof incorporated into them. To me a CD of all pictures even if not the highest resolution means a CD of all pictures not proofs. To me it seems like a bait and switch deal. As photographers do you bellieve that is accurate advertising? or should he of said proofs?

  • Newbee March 12, 2009 05:55 am

    Can anyone advise on the following. Our wedding photographer has not taken the pictures we asked for (we gave him a list weeks before the event and even asked on the day). We also asked that pictures were not taken from a certain angle where possible, however most of his pictures are from this angle! We now don't have enough quality images for our wedding album and were wondering if it is possible to request the photographer allow another photographer to have the images and take more and do an album for us. We would have asked the original photographer to do extra images but he keeps putting us of (our wedding was over 3 months ago and still have not had a meeting with him). Any help would be great.

  • Jenny March 5, 2009 09:39 am

    Thank you very much for your reply and advice, I don't know why but I was desperately looking for some magic solution to this situation. I think you are right the best thing to do is to bite my lip and walk away.I don't know why he's taken so long with our album, we approved everything back in October. He told us that he was unable to touch up any of our images, I guess I should have done some more research into his abilitiies and qualifications before I hired him. I have spoken to another photographer and met with them this evening and they are already proving to be far more professional and sensitive. I know he's only used our images in this way as we held our wedding at quite an exclusive venue and our wedding was the first he has shot there.

    You summed him up in a nutshell and no doubt he will eventually do this to someone else. I certainly won't recommend him. I have established a very good relationship with the wedding venue and planners and they are disgusted by this guy, so I guess in the end he's shot himself in the foot. After all reputation is everything.

    Thanks again for all advice provided.

    Kindest regards


  • JerBear March 5, 2009 08:53 am

    Without going over all that you have been through and how you feel, it is strange that your photographer is brushing you off. If that is so, then I would sever all ties with him and move on to a real pro. The fact that your album is still not done, what is he doing? Is he spending a lot of time with each image enhancing them? That is not uncommon and that could be the reason for the time. My main concern is that he does not seem to be communicating with you, either you two have clashed and he is avoiding you or he is just being a jerk.

    Before you cancel your album, make sure you are not losing your deposit or are responsible for any more money. If so, you might just want to bite your lip and see the results. If they are not to your liking, then you at least have a cause for a refund, otherwise you could end up paying for nothing.

    To find a pro in your area that can help you, I would check with your friends and family to see if there are any that they would recommend. Other than that, I would visit a couple of studios and view there products, finished and bound. Sit with the staff and share your story and what you would like to end up with. If they can retouch your photos that you have concerns with and what examples of retouching can they show you.

    A lot of folks don't realize that picking the photos that are to put into the album is just the start. The photos you start with are not "finished" A pro will spend a lot of time going over each photo, enhancing, retouching and cropping were needed. Big difference if done correctly. Then they need to design a album that flows and creates a story of that special day. From there it is sent off to printing, the prints are sometimes sent back for the photographer to evaluate and give thumbs up or down, then they are sent back to be pressed into a book and all.

    Good Luck


  • Jenny March 4, 2009 06:39 pm

    Thank you very much for your replies. I know I do not have a legal leg to stand on, I just wondered if this was common practice.
    My main concern is the fact i was not consulted or even informed that so many images of my day would be used. My confidence on my wedding day was rock bottom, I was involved in a car accident two weeks before and had to have 34 stitchs on my forehead and into my hair line needless to say I did not look my best. I think the thing that hurts the most is that there are pics in photographers album before my hair and makeup lady had worked wonders where you can can obviously see the cut and Ioss of hair. There are also pics of me getting dressed which I am not including in my own photo album as I do not want even my friends or family to see them. On the day i can't even remember the photographer being present taking these pics all of which are reportage in style. I thought he was present at that point to take pics of my bridesmaids and mum.

    I can appreciate that the photographer may feel that his pics have photographical merit but I feel these pics are very private and sensitive. I know that I may be perceived as vain, but I thought if you employed someone to do a job and you trusted them to take pics of your special day you should be able to trust them to request your permission or at least consult you before displaying such sensitive photographs.

    I have approached my photographer about this and he has refused to remove the images of me, I'm guessing he has spent alot of money on the album he has on display which is a graphi studio one. We haven't received ours yet so I am cancelling our order and going to ask another photographer to put our album together. I know we'll lose alot of money by doing this but I don't want to consult with him any further. When I bought the copyright i naively thought I was buying the copyright in the whole sense of the word, however I suppose with digital technology you never completely own images of yourself, I just paid £500 for the privilage of copying photos from my own wedding!!

    I really appreciate any comments posted in reply and if anyone has any suggestions for a good photographer to put my album together who will not exploit our images I would be much obliged to hear from you.

    Thank you in advance.

  • JerBear March 4, 2009 01:12 pm

    Maybe it's me, but something does not smell right about Jenny's post above.

    I have over 1500 weddings shot and that post has me thinking we are missing something. I read the post twice to be sure, but something does not sound right......and .....if it doesn't sound right, it usually is not.

    From the post, if I understand you hired a photographer for your wedding to be held last May. After that you paid extra in July for the "rights" to the images that you did not like, except for a few. Then you spent a lot of time selecting photos for the photographer to create a album with even though you could have had someone else do it. Ok, maybe that was in you original package, but still seems odd.

    Maybe it is just me, but I would love to hear "the rest of the story".

    Most Pro photographers have in their contracts, a release that allows them to use the photos for marketing, etc. and if they are good, will update their albums at least once a year. We rotate our albums out for show, but retain them for use just in case the wedding is at a venue that a prospective bride is using.

    For a pro to spend the time and money creating photos for the walls of his studio, albums and such for wedding fairs, tells me that "they" thought the images were great and that was what they wanted to show future clients of their quality, style and mood.

    I usually will make up a album that is different from the brides album because I am not constrained to using photos of people or things that a bride might feel compelled to do. While the bride might take a long time to pick her photos and I understand that, I can go through and whip one out in a short time. Nothing worse for a photographer to show than DATED work.

    When copyrights are sold, they are conditional and have several states of power. Some give the rights for personal use only, some for a limited time, etc.. Of course, each has its own value and are priced accordingly. You should read the terms of your contract before agreeing to it and if your not sure about the not sign until you do.

    Honestly, I think that you just were not happy with the photographer and or their work. I understand that, sometimes that happens, you might be justifiably mad, but what ever contract you signed is what you have to live with.

    Brings to mind one of my clients that thought they should be compensated for us using "their" photos for marketing..........hmmmmmmm


  • David Terry March 4, 2009 09:20 am


    I certainly feel for you. But ...

    I don't know of any photographers that actually "sell" the copyright to the images. The person or company that creates the images owns the images. It is more likely that you purchased the right to print the images and/or duplicate them in as you see fit.

    I know that I have used, for presentation and sales purposes, many of the images that I have created for customers. After all, that's how potential customers can see what my real work is like!. In some cases (where I felt the images were sensitive in nature) I have asked permission first even though legally that may not be required. In other cases, especially where the event (such as a wedding) is really quite public in nature, with numerous guests invited who have all witnessed the events, I have had no qualms using the images without talking to the customer first.

    What is sad to me ... is that you found the images to be of such poor quality as to be embarrassed by them. I hope that none of my customers are ever embarrassed by the images that I capture and present. Overwhelmingly, every time I have asked a customer if I could use their images, the response has been a resounding yes, almost as if flattered or honored to have been asked.

    Case in point, last Saturday I took some fairly intimate maternity pictures of a lady and her family. I went out of my way to not only ask permission, but to show the pictures to her *before* asking so that she would know exactly what I was going to share. She not only told me yes, but she even suggested that I take those pictures (in brochure form) to the doctor's office she visits because she'd love to help me drum up more business and she's just really happy to have such wonderful images to share.

    I wish that paying someone for their services was sufficient to guarantee a quality product, but it just isn't so. You probably needed to go to your photographer's place of business ahead of time to see what images were on his wall, and what his albums looked like, before deciding to go with him. If he's willing to show what you consider to be bad images of your wedding as "now" representative of his work, then I shudder to think what the quality of the images he was showing before your wedding were like.

    I also share your pain in that he has his own album before you have yours. That's dumbfounding. I have never done that. The customer's needs come first. There have been times when ordering two copies of something was cheaper than ordering one ... in those cases I ordered a 2nd copy of the customer's album and kept it for display purposes. But at no time have I ever had an album on display that the customer had not yet received.

    Anyway, talk around (as you are doing now) and get a feel for what your recourses really are. Good luck to you.

  • Jenny March 4, 2009 05:43 am

    Hi I'm writing as a bride and I just wanted to ask a question. I hired a photographer for our wedding last May. I then purchased the copyright to our photos in the July. I liked some of the photos but there are alot that I am not at all happy with. I have ordered an album from my photographer after spending alot of time picking out the best shots.

    One of my friends recently attended a wedding fair and told me that she had seen our wedding album. I was surprised as we had been told that our wedding album had not been completed. I then attended our photographers studio and was horrified to see photos of our wedding all over the wall and a very large A3 photo album of our wedding out on display. The photographer at no point asked our permission to use these images, which I would have refused as I am a very private person.

    When i confronted the photographer about this, he told me that he owned the images and there was nothing I could do about it if he wanted to use those pics for his marketing purposes. When I asked what had I purchased when I had paid an extra £500 for copyright, I was told I had only paid for permission to print extra prints. I am horrified that images of my wedding can be used in this way. I thought that by paying a professional they would have to behave ethically. Does anyone have any advice? I am mortified and really don't want my wedding images in the public domain.

    Many thanks in advance.

  • JerBear January 29, 2009 06:18 am

    When I started shooting, it was a cardinal rule that you NEVER gave up your negatives. You owned them and if they wanted a photo made, they must come through you. You gave them a lot of reasons and that was that.

    Well after a thousand weddings, my studio had a problem with storage of all those negs. So I started a policy of if the client wanted the negs, they could purchase them after their one year anniversary. That went over better with the clients, but still had a lot that did not purchase.

    Well I shut down my brick and mortar studio and ended up trashing all of the negatives of clients I could not get hold of. Those clients I could get hold of, I just charged them a hdl/ship fee to cover my costs. As for the rest, I gotta tell you, I felt bad. I felt that because of my greed, that I just trashed a lot of memories that could have been passed down through the families.

    Now that I have gone digital, I now include the files with all of my packages for events (I keep them also with all rights). I factor in the price of what I think I should make on "re-sales, extras, etc.up front. If they just have me shoot the event and then have Uncle Charlie make them a album, so be it.

    I show them that with my post production talent, that I can create a much better album than they will ever get from Uncle Charlie. If money is a issue, they can always come back to me and have a album created later.

    ONLY on commercial work do I still retain the files. If those clients want them, then there is a stiff fee.

    So, what do you think? I know that my competition here hates my guts for this.

  • Neelesh January 16, 2009 02:49 am

    Hi, great to read the blog, real useful tips, thanks

  • Summer December 13, 2008 04:08 am

    I am not a person who likes to have conflict with anyone especially my clients, however, at some point in your career you have to realize that you are the one in control of your business not the other way around. If you are not comfortable giving out a CD of all images, you have every right to say no. If you consider yourself a professional & you pride yourself in your work it will show & your clients won't think twice about complaining about the "rules" of your business. Your clients are paying you for your experience & knowledge & artistic abilities & they should understand the fact that this is your livelyhood. In fact I had a client tell me the other day, "I am paying you to take my pictures because I simply don't want to do it, don't know how to do it & that's why I'm coming to you." I grew a backbone after that conversation & decided to take complete control over my new business or how would I make ever make it. I also called a professional business that's been around for about 20 years & asked if they gave out the CD to do a "self survey" & what I heard on the other end was.....nothing...a complete pause & then finally a "mam, this is what we do to make a living" no, we do not hand out our work, you will have to buy your prints." How can you argue with that.

  • sandy December 8, 2008 03:09 pm


    better you write your cell number along with copy write, so any one can contact you directly..

    before you jump into business of photographer, you have to follow some professional photographer.

  • Ryan October 1, 2008 05:42 pm

    @Rosh / David,

    Great stuff guys. I didn't think my response would get that many detailed responses but I can see your viewpoint. I do see too that in this day and age of digital vs. film and the processing that goes into it that it does take time beyond the click.

    I'm even guilty of this with amatuer photography that I'm doing. I rarely use the original that I've shot without post processing in Photoshop or Lightroom.

    However if you're concerned about not making enough money from the wedding alone and you're relying on the major income coming from the post ceremony orders I think you need to up your initial prices. Afterall I'm paying you for your time and experience right.

    I like Scott's method where he does all the editing of all the pictures he takes therefore he doesn't have to worry about a crappy image getting out and tarnishing his name or image.

    Granted this would take a lot of time with some 500+ images from each wedding and two weddings a weekend. But that would be something that would cause me to recommend him over some other photographer for it shows he understands his customer and not baiting the wedding couple and their family and friends to buy overpriced pictures after the fact.

    I would think your time should be priced out at the agreed upon price that is in the initial contract for your time and processing that it takes for each image. I think a lot of people (me included) wanted the images so that I wouldnt' have to pay 8x as much to get them developed as it cost from the photographer. Thats what bent me the wrong way and it's partially my fault for not understanding it better (not that it was brought up by the photographer we hired either, for good reason on his part).

    Its almost like a bait and switch where the services are low to get the clients but the real money comes in the orders post ceremony. And maybe they do, but as someone that has been blocked from getting my images based on the fact that I "didn't hit $5000 in post order sales to get your free CD of proof level picture", I just think that sucks.

    Personal experience of course.

    Thanks for the great feedback from everyone.


  • David September 27, 2008 10:21 pm


    I think you need to look up "work for hire".

    Whenever I have shot for someone else (the other photographer being the hired gun), I am basically working for that photographer. The pictures are essentially his - not mine. It is his copyright that belongs on the images - not mine - to do as you said, avoid confusion, because the wedding couple hired him - not me - to take the pictures.

    Your first step should be to talk with your friend and find out what he wants to do. If he allows you to copyright your images, that's great. If not, you should respect his wishes.

    For what it's worth, when I've had other photographers shoot with me, they give me their images and, although they all have my copyright on them, I name the images such that it is easy to tell (when looking at my proofing site) which images were shot by them. I don't explain this to the customer, only to the other photographer. I want them to know that I am happy with their work and even go out of my way to let them know when their images are purchased. But it all cases, they are working for me and the customer sees "us" as a single entity.

    Hope that makes sense.

  • Kate September 27, 2008 12:39 am

    I am getting ready to help shoot a wedding with a friend of mine. He was the one hired, I am just there to do some candids and some other shots that might be fun. I know that with my software, I can add a copyright to the image when I edit it that is embedded in the file. What would be the best way to word it? I am not sure how my friend is giving them the pictures, and I want to make sure that my name is on the shots that I take, so that there is no confusion to the client. Any help is greatly appreciated.

  • Rosh September 19, 2008 10:37 pm

    Yes, photographers do have to wake up and realize that just because people think they need all the images and copyrights, they don't have to give them up. Photographers need to be in control of their work.

    Their is nothing wrong with negotiating a price for all the images or making it part of a package. But, photographers need to consider the real time involved when pricing. If the answer is "very little time", I just put them on a CD and give them to the client.

    Than I say buyer be ware.

    The digital age has forced photographers to up their game. Average photographers will have a hard time making a living. But, when a photographer gets to the point where the average can not compete, they are in control of their business again.

    David is right. We are the lab now and with our training we can do exciting things with images. Yes, the only thing that has changed in photography is the transfer of a chemical process to a digital process. Photography is more accessible today, but the basic rules of photography are the same and a professional can take images to a level beyond the average.


  • David September 19, 2008 10:23 am


    Why do you feel that art stops at the press of the button?

    I know it's almost cliché, but Ansel Adams' art didn't stop at the press of a button. His art required hours of darkroom work. The obvious analogy is the work we, as wedding photographers, do today on the computer.

    In the pre-digital days, amateurs took their photos to the local 24-hour store to develop their "snapshots" while the professionals took their images to labs where all of the professional touch-up work was done.

    What has changed in this digital world? Nothing really ... except that the photographer is often also the lab worker.

    Just because your snapshots are "ready for display" immediately on your computer, doesn't mean that the professionals "art" is also ready just as quickly.

    Do photographers have to wake up to a new world?

    Or do people need to realize that there is more to taking a picture than pressing a button?

    Perhaps a little of both. But you cannot ignore either side of the equation.

  • diplomine September 19, 2008 08:46 am

    I think photographers have to wake up to the change in the consumer environment. Everyone has a digital camera these days - they are truly mainstream. Your average customer has taken thousands of pictures. People are used to playing about with their photos, producing photo books, canvasses etc. When I employ a photographer, I am paying for the professional eye for composition and artistic talent. And I do expect to get all the digital files on a CD.
    I think if you truly have the skill to compose a great photo, surely even a bad printer can't ruin this.

  • cody September 18, 2008 06:38 am

    this photography is awesome mine is better lol

  • digital photography tips September 16, 2008 04:42 pm

    Yes!! Wedding is one of the most important days in our life, and everyone wants to make sure that wedding day is captured in the most beautiful way possible!! Digital Cameras these days can make the most ordinary photos looks absolutely stunning. My best advice to anyone is to hire a professional photographer for your wedding day.The most expensive does not guarantee great digital photos and the cheapest doesn't always mean a great bargain. Perform the research tips and see that your Digital Wedding Photography should come out great!

    Thanks for your article and viewing our posts!!

  • Rosh September 15, 2008 02:09 pm


    So what you are saying is if your client really likes your work they can resell their beautiful wedding images for stock or sell reprints to the rest of the family to cover costs? It's happened.

    No, you should offer the images for personal use.

    You are correct, once you turn the CD over you loose control. That is why many pro's do not. Don't give anyone anything that you are not comfortable with, the photographs do represent you. That is why you edit.

    Unfortunately, many people take their wedding photos to crappy printers and happily share the name of the photographer. If you set up a good system ahead of time, you should never have to argue with a client.

    Every photographer has choices to make. Every photographer has to choose their battles. Most important, every photographer should explore and understand the rules and consequences before jumping into the game.

    If you are going to be a photographer that chases prospects with desperation and will do anything ... give it all a way or be the cheapest photographer. You will ultimately fail or forever have to keep the day job.


  • Scott Zetlan September 14, 2008 11:55 pm

    Contracts aside, what matters most is reality, and the reality is this: once you give someone a digital file, you lose all control over it. Photographers are not in the business of suing their clients. As a photographer, I asked to be compensated for my time -- all of my time, including post-processing. Weddings are work for hire, and so the customer has the right to use whatever images I produce at the wedding.

    That said, I follow two strict rules:
    1. I always edit, and never deliver a shot I'm not happy with.
    2. I don't sell the rights; I still own the rights. But my client receives a permanent, royalty-free, non-exclusive license to the photos I deliver. They can use their photos for whatever they want. So can I (although rules about model releases still apply).

    #1 means I don't worry about whether my name is on a crappy image. These are my client's wedding photos; they don't want to take them to a crappy printer. #2 means I don't ever have to argue with a client.

  • Rosh September 14, 2008 11:48 am

    @David and Ryan

    David thank you. Great comments!

    Many people really only see the surface. Look, the copyright issue is not about the photographers being mean, rude or greedy. It's the law.

    When you hire a photographer, artists, writer etc. you are commissioning them to create the images, but the creator always automatically owns the rights.

    Ryan, You are correct, you're paying for the photographers time, experience (and style). That is why you pay all the money. That does not qualify you to own the rights to the images.

    The bottom line is if the copyrights are not valuable, than why is everyone working so hard to get them?

    Amanda makes a great point about the dress. You many own the physical dress. You can use it for personal use, but you can't not make more and/ or resell that design. It is the same issue.

    Yes, paradigm has shifted, it is now easier for clients to scan, copy or make images from files and cut the photographer out the equation. Preventing a photographer form earning money for her family. That is wrong.

    Photographers need to protect their livelihood.

    When it was film, the clients wondered why they couldn't have all the negatives. They "paid for them"

    You see the big price tag, but how many weddings do you think a photographer has to do to make a good living? I'd say the average wedding photographer shoots 25 weddings a year making an average of $1000 profit. Some shoot twice that number and make more and many more make much less.


  • amanda September 14, 2008 05:45 am

    That would be also like saying that since you paid the wedding dress people so much money that you should own the rights to the dress. You own the dress now but not the design. I am a wedding photographer, i have shot 6 now and would highly pissed off if someone took my photos to have them reprinted or whatever without asking me. Their choice of printers may print them in a way that they look horrible and can reflect on me. One example is that about 3 weddings back a customer of mine's friend took some of my photos and edited them the way they thought would look good and the girl actually uploaded them next to the ones she uploaded of mine. there were no names on them to say who edited what so it looked like i gave her that horrible horrible,,, HORRIBLE photoshopped, filtered, degraded image! I put a lot, and i do mean A LOT of time and effort into each shot and i think i deserve to say whether or not the image will remain mine.

  • piterwall September 13, 2008 10:13 pm

    hii...glad to meet this blog...i have a simple image here..successs

  • Chris Oquist September 13, 2008 02:59 pm

    I'm shooting my first wedding in a week and this post came just in time - thanks for compiling these great resources.

  • David September 13, 2008 02:30 pm


    When you pay a photographer to shoot your wedding the only thing you are buying (or owning) is that which you and the photographer have contractually agreed. Nothing more. Nothing less.

    So if you have found a photographer that does a wonderful job of shooting weddings whose contract does not stipulate that you will "own the images" at the end, then you will not own them. You have not paid for them. The only thing you have paid for is the services that the photographer contractually agreed to provide you for the money you were willing to pay.

    So if this is important to you, then you should shop around to find a photographer that is willing to sell you the images. In most cases you will find that providing images costs additional money - which points to the fact that the original money was paying only for the service of taking the pictures (and there is a LOT of behind-the-scenes work, much more than simply pressing the shutter button).

    Having said that, I know a lot of photographers that sell images, I know even more photographers who do not.

    My own policy sits right in the middle of the two camps. I sell a CD with "proof quality" images (ALL of their proofs) at a 4x6" size (1200x1800 pixels) with permission to print at that size and no larger. If a customer wants a full resolution image, then they purchase a fully edited full resolution image in the same way that they would purchase a 16x20" print (with a similar cost per image).

    Here's my rationale:
    1) At a 4x6" size, the images are going into a scrap book or shoe box or some place where the couple is likely the only ones who will view the images.

    2) At a table top or wall hanging size, then everyone who visits their home is likely to see the image.

    So at the larger sizes, I want to put my best foot forward. I want to be known for the quality of work that I produce as an "end product", not for how well my camera can take a snapshot.

    Therefore, I do NOT want a customer printing 5x7s, 8x10s, 11x14s or heaven forbid, 16x20s and larger of my "proofs" without having edited the image to my satisfaction. And yet, there is not enough time (and I don't charge enough money) to edit every-single-image that I take. So when I sell the customer "all of their images" at proof quality, I let them know that's what they are getting... not a finished product, but only "proof quality" worthy of a 4x6" print and that for anything larger they should come back to me to allow me to finish the image and give them the high quality finished products that I have shown them before they agreed to hire me.

    It aggravates me when the amateur shutter bugs that take a hundred pictures and upload them to flikr think that's all there is to wedding photography and that a wedding photographer who charges for prints is somehow raking them over the coals.

    When we hit the shutter button, that's just the tiniest portion of the work and costs involved. There are also:

    1) Store front costs
    2) Employee costs
    3) Equipment costs (cameras, lenses, flashes, strobes, backdrops, computers, monitors, printers, ink, etc, etc)
    4) Maintenance costs (we use our equipment a lot, it wears out, some things get dropped and broken, all of it needs service and replacement from time to time)
    5) Storage costs (you have no idea how many terabytes of storage I have used this year!), each photo takes up storage in at least three locations: local storage for editing, backup storage and off site storage
    6) Websites (setting them up, maintaining them)
    7) Paying labs to do our printing

    Every time I push the shutter button there is a certain amount of "time" that is going to be necessary, to view the file, to process it (I call it "developing it" because now instead of a lab, I'm the one setting the various exposure / contrast / saturation settings before "developing" the image), store it to disk, upload it to the web site for proofing, back it up to the local back up and send it to the off site backup. And I haven't even started editing images yet.

    Wedding photography is *so* much more than just pressing the button and burning the images to a CD.

    I just wish the Average Joe understood that.

    Thanks for reading.

  • Ryan September 13, 2008 02:39 am

    @Rosh -

    Having just gone through the wedding thing recently and trying to get the images from the photographer...I have to disagree as an end consumer.

    I agree that the photographs are your work. However if I'm a client and I'm paying you to take these images for me I expect to own these images when you're done. I'm paying you for your time and experience (and not relying on a friend with a point and shoot).

    If you want to keep your images because of your it when two peoples most important day is not involved or take up architectural photography where the subject can't help but enjoy you snapping pictures away. As a wedding photographer, you're already getting paid good money for your time and experience as a photographer doing something I (the client) am paying you for.

    If the pictures turn out bad, the photographer did a bad job, and if there is no color correction, they did an even worse job.

    I don't think there are customers out there that are going to question the photographer for something they are taking responsibility for the reproduction. Your proof images are what you are displaying as your work. Any other customer generated print outs is taking the responsibility on the customer. I understand your name is on the image but your proofs are what your name is riding on.

    I would much rather prefer it as the contact be written that any picture taken can be used at the photographers will (on your website as a sample, in a commercial, on a brochure, etc.) since technically it is your copyright anyway. But in today's digital world it should be a standard to have a CD of the "Best" of your work given to the customers as I'm paying for those images not your print outs....or if not all the pictures from that special day, the ones that were selected for the album. It's just a nice touch and really puts icing on the cake when they're supplied.

    Rather than arguing with the photographer that I don't "OWN" my own pictures of MY special day that I paid insane money for.

    This of course is my opinion, and as a amateur photographer I can certainly understand and appreciate getting paid for my work / images. Maybe in a film world this was the norm. But as easily as it is to burn images to discs or posting online, I can't help but think this paradigm has to shift in the relative future as more people demand their images.


  • Rosh September 13, 2008 01:29 am

    I often recommend the tri-angle method. Shoot wide and work your way in to the details and then back out. This allows the photographer to create a large variety of images. Helping the photographer to tell the story. And yes, look for the details.

    Keep control of your images. Don't get caught in the game of giving the client all the images on CD. One, you are losing money. Two, they really don't want all, just the best. Three, if you give in to giving them "all" the images, at least edit well.

    Remember these images represent your work. If the client prints technically bad images or uses a bad lab or printer YOUR name is still the one they will mention.

    Never give your copyright away.