If you need digital copies from your wedding photographer, these 7 secrets can help you avoid a lot of confusion and hassle.
What every bride should know about digital files.
1. You don't "own" the files
Unless the photographer signed copyright ownership to you and registered the images in your name at the U.S. Copyright Office, you don't own the files and you have no natural rights to them.
Instead, you possess copies of the work, usually with a license to use them for personal purposes, like you do with a Blu-ray movie or iTunes song. Each photographer has different terms, so check with yours.
2. "Edited," "retouched" and "color corrected," oh my!
"Edited" and "retouched" are terms thrown around pretty loosely, so let's look at what they should mean. Standards vary per photographer.
Most photographers deliver wedding images in the form of digital (or print) proofs. A proof has been developed like film for proper exposure, color, contrast, cropping, sharpness and noise reduction -- but sometimes not developed at all.
By comparison, a retouched photo should be "wall ready" and goes beyond basic editing to skin retouching, distraction removal as well as artistic enhancements.
Find out what your photographer means by "edited" or "retouched" to be sure what you're getting.
3. If you want to lose your pictures, keep them digital
Have you ever seen a birth certificate? The reason they don't write those in sand or email you a copy is because it's important and people generally want to keep them for a while.
So why would your birth certificate be in print but your entire wedding and family history not?
I don't care if your parents own Shutterfly or you think you can save money. All of my collections include printed art and it's a requirement for hiring me because I care.
4. What's your license?
You need to show some sort of release from the photographer to make prints at stores, and even some online labs. They will ask. Some photographers' licenses block you from making prints at certain locations, or any location.
5. You don't want ownership
Realistically, the only wedding clients who obtain copyright ownership of the files are celebrities or high-profile clients who don't want anyone else to see or have the images and can afford to pay the photographer for ownership.
Getting copyright ownership means you become fully responsible for those pictures, including storage, backup, retouching and printing, as if you had shot the wedding yourself. The photographer literally can't possess a copy without a license from you.
If you're willing to put up with all of that, most photographers would be happy to sign the rights over to you as long as they get a big paycheck. Otherwise, be happy with a license to use the files personally and respect the photographer's need to support his family or household.
6. You don't get all the images
Do you really want the one where you half-blinked, or where you're taking a big, sloppy bite of salad?
Forget it. Nobody could stand looking at all those, not even you. Professional photographers cull out images that don't make the cut in their judgement, so you won't get every image taken.
7. It's not OK to screen-rip
Nope, not even a little, even if you paid a lot for the photographer. Unless you have a license from your photographer, you can't just rip online previews from your screen and post them on Facebook or make prints. Enforcement varies per photographer.
Hey, I said they were dirty secrets!
Joel Nisleit Self PortraitSelf portrait of studio owner Joel Nisleit. Joel's skills enable him to capture portraits like this in any location, from home to a parking garage.
Joel Nisleit is a Wisconsin wedding photographer looking to tell a romantic story you'll want to showcase. Want more help? Contact me today and I'll be happy to help in your quest for dream wedding photography.