Copyright and the Cost of Photography

Copyright and why it’s important.

Copyright has been a very hot topic not only for photographers but wedding clients as well.  As a photographer, having learned my craft with slide film and and traditional film, I originally found the topic of copyright to be a minor concern.  Throughout the photography industry clients understood if they wanted an image reprinted that it needed to be done through the photographer and the commercial printing lab.  Back then, it was rare that an image was scanned or reproduced. That has all changed with the introduction of digital photography and because of that technological change copyright has become a much larger issue.  These days clients routinely request the rights for all the images taken at their weddings or portrait, in an effort to present the photographers side of copyright debate I submit the following:

A little on the cost of photography and copyright.

I am a full time professional photographer. I derive my living from my business and consider myself fortunate to work in an industry I have a passion for and enjoy.  Now the REALITY. Owning a business comes with costs; no great big revelation there.  Many potential clients do not realize what goes into producing even a single image. Every wedding comes with time spent on phone calls, contract preparation and signing, meetings, emails, engagement sessions, travel time and all this occurs prior to the actual event. After all the planning is done my ability to be successful as a photographer is determined by my ability to see and create on the day of the event. After the wedding there are technical skills required to properly prepare and present images to my clients. Editing to ensure proper color and crisp images often takes many hours of preparation after the event depending on the size of the wedding. Loading images into viewing galleries also takes countless hours of preparation. Photographers are protected by copyright law as soon as our image is created. Created as in the moment the artistic vision happens when arranging a group, child, family or individual bride and groom in a certain manner.  Our creativity, vision and technical abilities are our skill set.  Just as an artist creates a painting, we create an image to market and sell.  How well we are able to do this determines our success.

For a wedding photographer, copyright is extremely important so selling the copyright also has ramifications.  As are most professional photographers, I am also a stickler for proper color and exposure.  The image is my work so when I sell the copyright I am in effect relinquishing control of how my work will be represented and for what purpose the images will be used ( Facebook, printing, albums or just to have as memories.)  If for print,images reprinted in non commercial printing labs will not be anywhere near the same quality as those reproduced at my printing lab. These completed images can often be poor in density and color and it is simply not the way most photographers, myself included, want their work represented.  Our name and business reputation is attached to the images we create and produce.  When a professional lab is used, every image will be printed properly.  The machines are calibrated multiple times a day and the lab is typically owned and staffed by other professional photographers.

So, personally, do I sell my copyright? Yes, I do.  Does it always concern me?  Yes, it does.  I am looking into alternative ways to present images to clients for keeps while still maintaining the image quality and integrity of my name and business.  For example to accommodate the desire of many of my clients I have begun to offer CD rights as an option within my pricing packages. I am constantly re evaluating my offerings.  Do I look for ways to cut costs?  Absolutely.  I have an in home office and studio, do much of my own marketing and website design.  This saves on overhead. Those savings are passed along directly to my clients. I keep my pricing structure as affordable as possible; this economy demands it.

My hope is this blog generates an awareness and educates clients as to some of the hidden costs and issues involved in running a successful photography business.



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