Copyright vs. Print Rights

One of the more common questions I have heard from my clients lately is, “Do I get the copyrights to these pictures”? The answer is no, but I don’t think my clients really want the copyrights to their pictures. Here's why! What they are likely referring to are the print rights! There is a lot of confusion between the terms print release and copyright release and they are sometimes used interchangeably even though they have different meanings. Below, I attempt to explain the difference. Copyright release:   Copyright means owning the images. Photographers typically don’t sign away the copyright to clients because they risk their work being misrepresented among other reasons. These releases aren’t withheld to be stingy with photographs, but to protect the photographer and their work. For example, if someone says Jana Sobel at 205 Photography shot their wedding, but shows them a photo that was not edited/processed by me it misrepresents the brand and style I have worked years to build. Plus, unedited images won’t look like the images you have seen in a photographer’s portfolio. This may disappoint you since you were expecting to receive images like the edited versions from that photographer when deciding to hire that photographer. The photographer edits their images during post-processing in a way that they think is most flattering. This is a unique touch created by that photographer and it reflects their style of photography. If you love my style and my photographs, then you want me to edit them to look the way you see them.

Also, if the photographer signed away the copyright to the client, then the photographer would have no rights to publish their images on blogs, on social media, in magazine, etc. I want to make you famous!

There are projects where a copyright release is acceptable. I have provided copyrights to clients before, but only for specific commercial client.  In this situation, it is necessary because their company requires images to be further manipulated by a specific department or designer in order to fit their company’s style without affiliation to a particular photographer.

Print release:  Print rights/release means that you can print for your own use, but you don't own the images and can’t resell, edit or alter them. Some photographers do provide print releases. I am one of them. I do want you to own professionally printed images from your session so I require a print minimum to be met before you can purchase the print release to the images. This ensures that you see my work the way it was intended by both of us; printed in high quality and hanging on your wall! I do highly recommend that any prints you order through a consumer lab be made through I have no affiliation with them, but they provide better quality printing than you will find at local labs and drug stores.

As I was writing this blog post, I got a call from my sister-in-law asking if I could edit some images that she was planning to purchase from an out of state photographer on her vacation. First, I told her thanks for the invite:) Then, I explained to her what I was writing here. She thought that since the photographer was giving her the digital files, that those would be unedited. Always ask your photographer if the images you receive will be edited (I expect yes) and high resolution. That is just what I told her to do;)

I hope this is helpful to you! If it is, please say hello in the comments below:)