Like most photographers, I retain all copyright to the photographs I take, whether in a Lifestyle Portrait Session, wedding or event. There are many reasons photographer's retain their copyright, and there are no ulterior motives behind in, I assure you. (Scroll to the bottom of this article for why almost all photographer's do this.)
However, you will be provided with a high resolution disk of your personal images, along with a photographer's print release for limited personal printed use, of the photos from your session or event. You will also have the ability to post discreetly watermarked web resolution images online, which we will provide you, to share with family and friends.
High Resolution CD/DVD of Images
The CD/DVD I provide of finished high resolution images, after your session is shot, is intended for personal print use only, and includes a photographer's release for such use, to be used when taking your images to a photo lab for printing (most will require this release, so hold onto it with your CD). Proper use of these photos includes:
~ Printing from your own computer or at your favorite print lab
~ Use in a printed portfolio, for models or actors (for online portfolios)
~ Use in printed marketing materials, in the case of corporate or business headshots
The high resolution images from your CD/DVD may not be:
~ Shared online (we provide you web resolution images that have been optimized for this
~ Entered in contests by you or anyone representing you, without the photographer's express permission
~ Used in a commercial fashion
~ Sold for financial gain of any sort
If you intend to use your images in a fashion that is different than for personal use, please let me know before we agree on a session price, so the proper pricing and paperwork for such use can be put in place to protect both you, as the client, and me, as the photographer.
Web Resolution Images
I absolutely do allow you to use the web resolution watermarked images from your online gallery, in fact I encourage it, to share with family and friends on Facebook, MySpace, emails, blogs or other online social sharing sites.
When using these images online, the watermark must remain intact (it cannot be removed or "cropped" out), and you must give proper photography credit when displaying them. We do make our photographer's watermark very discreet, so as not to impede the quality of your photographs in any way.
Actors and models may also use these web resolution images in their online portfolio sites, on their personal and professional acting/modeling websites, and on Model Mayhem, or any professional networking site similar to this, as long as the photographer's watermark remains intact and is not cropped in any fashion, the image is not manipulated or changed in any way from the original file that was provided to you by me (i.e. no additional editing), and proper photography credit is given.
Please do NOT upload high resolution photos from your hi-resolution disk of your session.
There are companies that are just waiting for you to put your photos online, so they can make money off them, and before you know it your photos are being sold and displayed on commercial boards all over the world. This is harmful to you and your personal privacy, and breaks copyright laws. We provide low-res web ready images, with our discreet watermark, for use online. Please make sure those are what you are posting when using them online.
Why Do I Retain Copyright?
To protect my work.
Generally photographers retain copyright to protect our work. Unfortunately, there are "photographers" out there who happy steal a professional's work, post it to their site, and claim it as their own. If the original photographer doesn't own the copyright, they can't prosecute or take action against such theft.
For self promotion.
I also retain copyright for self promotion. In order to use your photograph on my website, to show others the type of work I do, I need to have copyright. You wouldn't hire a photographer without seeing their work and in order for them to show their work to others, whether published on their website or in advertising, they need copyright.
Copyright is needed for self promotion in advertising, such as newspaper ads, yellow book pages, magazines, books, etc.
To protect my clients.
If I didn't maintain copyright, a client, or anyone acting on that client's behalf, could turn around and sell my photos to anyone -- literally, anyone! Or even worse, an anonymous person could download an image of you from the web and use it in any manner they wish (this is why we request our watermark remain in place on web images -- it shows a potential thief who has copyright). Modern software is a pretty powerful thing and would you really want to find your face superimposed on someone else's body, perhaps in an unsavory fashion, because someone uploaded your image to a stock photo site for monetary gain? My guess is most clients would not! I am protective of my images and my clients.
To use in contests and competitions.
To build their brand name and recognition, photographers will often enter photography contests and competitions. In order to enter such competitions, we must prove that we have full copyright to our images.
For use in photography or wedding magazines.
Another tool photographers use to build their brand name and recognition is to have their work featured/published in wedding magazines, photography magazines, etc. In order to do so, we must have copyright to our images. Of course, when this happens my clients are always the first to know and I make sure they get a copy of the issue! :)
To maintain my brand.
I am very protective of the brand and image my work portrays. Each photographer has their own style, from the way their shoot their photos, to the way they edit and process them. I need to protect the quality of an image that is taken by me, therefore I do not release RAW or unedited files to clients, or anyone else, nor do I allow additional editing of images that have been already processed and released to the client by me. It is a copyrighted image when it is released, as it reflects the style of my brand, which is generally the reason a client hires me.
Generally a client would have no need to retain full copyright to the images from their photo shoot. They are free to print images from their provided CD/DVD, since a photographer's print release is included, and to share those images or prints with family and friends.
While it is always possible to negotiate copyright terms with your photographer (this is called "work for hire"), be prepared for a very hefty bill from a photographer, in order to do so. This type of thing is often done by celebrities, who don't want photographers to use images on their websites or in self promotional works, because they are protective of their privacy, etc. This is understandable, however it does come at a price. For the average person it is generally not necessary.
To calm any fears about how I use my work, I never sell any of my Lifestyle Portrait Session images or Wedding images to stock photography houses!