The Wedding Photographer Dilemma: To Share or Not To Share?

The Wedding Photographer Dilemma: To Share or Not To Share?

In my nine years as a wedding photographer, it was commonplace for other wedding vendors to request access to the entire wedding gallery. They often wanted to use my photos to showcase their work at the wedding. This practice has left me with mixed feelings, and I'm eager to hear your opinions.

A wedding day's magic is brought to life by a multitude of professionals, from the venue and florist to the planner and band, down to the perfect dress. Each vendor plays a crucial role in contributing to the overall success of the wedding day. But there's one person tasked with capturing how all these elements seamlessly come together to create the dream wedding day: the wedding photographer.

A wedding photographer typically spends 8-12 hours on a wedding day, artfully documenting every aspect of the event. From the intricate details like the invitation suite and floral arrangements to the dance party at the reception, the photographer is there to capture it all.

Lately, it’s not just the bride who is excited about getting the wedding photos back. Other wedding vendors involved in the event are increasingly enthusiastic about seeing the full gallery, sometimes even more so than the bride herself.

Sharing images with other wedding vendors for free has become a norm in the wedding industry, generating a myriad of feelings and opinions. Is this practice beneficial, or does it devalue the photography industry? Are photographers underestimating the worth of their work, or is it a valuable marketing tool?

Image courtesy of Jada and David Parrish |

My own frustration stems from the fact that sharing photos has transitioned from an act of kindness to an expectation. Most wedding vendors now expect photographers to share the entire gallery and can become annoyed if they do not.

There can indeed be value in sharing your photos with vendors. It can help you build relationships and lead to potential referrals in the future. It can also serve as a valuable marketing tool when popular wedding venues or planners share your images on their social media channels. However, you have to consider whether sharing images with every vendor involved truly adds value to your business. Will the florist send you free flowers because you shared photos with them? The reality is that most vendors expect photographers to share their work without offering reciprocity.

I know everyone has their own unique thoughts and opinions on this, and I want to hear them. That is why I wrote this article: to start a conversation about this. 

In my personal opinion, there are certain vendors, such as the venue or a wedding planner, who brides typically hire before their photographer and who are genuinely worth sharing your images with because these relationships can be mutually beneficial.

However, for the majority of vendors, it seems unreasonable for them to expect free images. I believe photographers are often taken advantage of and deserve to be compensated for sharing their hard work.

Next Time a Wedding Vendor Asks You for Free Photos, Consider These Questions:

  • Is there any potential value to my business by sharing images with them? If so, is it worth it?
  • Is this vendor willing to offer me any sort of support or trade in return?
  • Will these vendors commit to always crediting my work wherever they choose to use it, and can I ensure no filters will be applied to it?

Additionally, it's crucial to consider the consent of the bride and groom themselves. Are they comfortable with their images being shared and used by these other vendors?

So at the end of the day, do you think sharing full wedding galleries with wedding vendors is beneficial for photographers? Let me know your opinions in the comments below!

Jada Parrish's picture

Jada is a photographer and director specializing in conceptual portraits. Her work is known for its bold, colorful, and surreal style. Her creative style of portraiture lends itself nicely to work in both fashion and the music industry. She is one half of the creative duo Jada + David.

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I don’t shoot wedding anymore, but I don’t think sharing with another business is a major issue today. What I would do is control what I share. If I don’t have any prior relation with the business, they would get nothing beside what may be related to their services and only few top images. I would also watermark my images with my business name and phone number. And then I would have a different approach with clients who have contributed to give me work, one way or another. Case by case would be my suggestion, but I wouldn’t turn down a request unless they are rude, have bad worth ethic and are basically not fit for me to associate with. May be meet with that business another day that's not a wedding, if possible, would be a great learning experience.

Mostly retired now but here's what I did.

I asked the bride and groom if they were happy to share the images that they paid for. If they said yes, great. If they said no. Also great. We asked the clients which images or all and that was that. If the bride wasn't happy with one of her vendors than they didn't get photos. But it wasn't up to us.

I'd done the work and I'd been paid what I expected to be paid. And for that I provide a service to the clients. The bride and groom. I didn't spend my days looking for a few measly extra bucks because I hadn't priced my work properly to start with. I charged so I didn't need to think about extras from vendors, etc. It was far more useful and profitable to make the clients feel like you'd left nothing on the table for them, every time.

For my 20 years shooting weddings the best marketing was done by throwing everything into each job for the clients. I doubt a watermark on a shot at the florist ever got me a job but the florist would recommend us because we were so awesome to deal with. Plus who wants to spend hours watermarking another set of files for vendors. Lots of the vendors we worked with asked for cards and flyers. They did the work for us. Instead of squeezing the vendors maybe try building a relationship with them for mutual benefit?

Too many wedding photographers worried about squeezing every penny from every job rather than just doing the job well and getting the success that exemplary service brings.

Not a wedding photographer, but from a business perspective Gordon is absolutely correct. Your paying clients are the bride and groom and if they give approval to share images they paid for with other vendors that's fine. As in any other competitive business, building relationships with others that may help you at some point in the future is important. If I could not provide a service to a client but knew someone who could meet their needs, I would make that recommendation and hope the reverse would be true.

"My own frustration stems from the fact that sharing photos has transitioned from an act of kindness to an expectation. Most wedding vendors now expect photographers to share the entire gallery and can become annoyed if they do not." That is the real issue. It's one thing if you're going to build a relationship with that vendor, but when you're just sending photographs to someone that barely knows your name, it's probably not going to be of any benefit to you. I struggle with this as well -although I don't shoot weddings.

Agree and feel your advice is more-so relevant nowadays. It comes down to relationship and follow-up. Taking a sales-minded approach, if one is willing to follow-up without the promise of reciprocation (and assuming we agree the photos are yours to share), then perhaps it's worth sharing.

Yes! For me, that is what I see as the problem. I have had vendors care more about receiving the gallery of images than the bride did. It's become an expectation. There were even instances where I shared a few images with a vendor that highlighted their work, but that wasn't enough and they were frustrated they didn't receive a full gallery. It's weird when vendors put more pressure on you than your actual client. I really just wanted to start a conversation about this, because I do see it as an issue in the industry.

I guess the way they view it is that their product was used on your photos. They have however the option to take their own photos during the wedding. What happen when you ignore them? Also I am wondering what happen if they complain to the couple. Is that bad more for the vendor to get a referral or for you. Anyone who messes with a wedding to me is the negative side. I think that for the married couple, the memory of the cake, dress, decor... is the big deal but for the next couple, the cake has no value if the photographer is not up to the job. The future is what photographers sale until the big day is over. Ignore them because even if you did excellent, if they have a deal with another photographer to put his, her name up front, they'll probably not recommend you any way.

I was never a fan of shooting weddings, heres why. The bride and groom, and their parents were wonderful to deal with. The rest of the wedding party was usually the problem. They wanted copies of the wedding pictures cheaper than free, and made every excuse and demand to obtain your work. I have many friends who are successful wedding photographers, and love their work. Power to them.

We got tired of that early on. Solution was to factor in a charge for all that stuff up front. We didn't have an extra charge for high res images or a full set of files or vendor images or files for friends or a gallery link or downloadables. We just assumed that every couple wanted all those things already and built it into the upfront price. Every time a couple asked how much extra something might be we said, "nothing, it's included in your package". We had two fees. One for the wedding based on how many hours we were there and one for the album based on how many pages the couple wanted. That's it. We were a full service vendor. No add ons. No extras. Nothing was too much trouble. And we charged accordingly with no price negotiation. Literally the only thing you could add on was more time, which we often did if the reception ran late. But it was the couples choice.

Two things about having an extra charge for everything.
1. It just confuses the couple and pisses off the vendors you're trying to make relationships with.
2. It makes your business look like a budget airline and attracts the same type of clientele. Fine, if that's what you want.