Wedding Vendors Aren't Entitled to Pictures

Wedding Vendors Aren't Entitled to Pictures

In a typical wedding, dozens of vendors come together to make the bride's day special. All these vendors have one thing in common: the photographer doesn't owe them a single picture. 

Over the years, I have worked hundreds of weddings and maybe a thousand different vendors. Most are great, lovely people that I enjoy getting to see every Saturday. But just because you spent three hours getting every hair in place doesn't mean you are entitled to use all the photographer's photos of that hair. 

You are not entitled to my work. 

Build a Relationship, Earn Photos

Digging up old weddings and finding photos that make your work look good takes time. When I have a mutually beneficial relationship with a vendor, I am happy to do that, because I know this will help my business or personal life, too. When I get an email from someone that says something like "I know we've worked together a lot, can you make a gallery and send it to me," I'm not that apt to take time away from my family to look up what weddings we have worked at together. I may not even know what weddings you also worked. Don't expect me to do all the work so you can get pictures for advertising, especially if there is little to no benefit for me. 

But if a vendor fosters a mutually beneficial relationship, I am much more willing to take time out of my schedule to help them out. Scratch my back and I will scratch yours.

Are you a baker? I like cake. Are you a planner? I like more clients. Is your venue a hotel? A free night's stay would be rad. Are you a hair stylist? Can you cover up my bald spot?

Imagine if a wedding vendor approached me after an event and wrote: "I loved the work you did on Bride Z's wedding, would you mind if we listed you on our website as a preferred vendor and used a few pictures on our website and social media? How would you like to be credited and are there any special hashtags you use?" I would be flattered and eager to work together. 

Usage May Be out of My Control

Sometimes, I may really want to work with a vendor, but it is out of my hands. To use my pictures to advertise your business, you need permission from the photographer and permission from whomever is in the photos. 

Several times over the years, I have been put in the unenviable position of having a client mad at another vendor and not wanting me to share the images with them. I had a bride that washed all her makeup off after the hair and makeup artist left and redid everything. Then, I got an email from the hair and makeup artist looking for pics from the wedding for her portfolio. Do you want pics of her removing your makeup in her wedding dress? Because I have those. 

Other times, brides and grooms may be very private. I've had couples where one person had a security clearance and job that kept them from being on social media, so they didn't want us to use any images online. That goes for their other vendors, too. 

The bride also may be seeking to get published in a blog or magazine that has an exclusivity clause or other rule where they cannot be published anywhere before that article with pictures goes to print. 

Photographers, your images have value, which is why other vendors want them. Use your images to benefit yourself. Use your images to create relationships and make sure other vendors respect your work and your imagery. Vendors, respect photographers enough to offer something of value when asking to use our images to market your business. Don't act like you are entitled to our images. 

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Sung Lee's picture

Good article Thomas. Given similar situation, I do my best to explain my process and provide timeless value to the photos. I just try to take a deep breath when possible and not take it personally and realize it's their ignorance to our process.

lee arthur's picture

Do you feel the same when it comes time for you to eat a plate or two of the caterer's food? I know of one wedding photographer, that makes it a habit of taking a picture of all the free food he gets and post it social media.

Gabe McMullen's picture

It’s usually in a wedding photographers contract that they are given a meal. In which case the couple pays for the plate. While you may not appreciate what your friend does, your argument isn’t the same as what Thomas is talking about.

Braska Givens's picture

Clients pay the caterers additional money for all vendors to eat just as they pay us for their own Personal Print Release in the contract. Clients do not pay the much higher Marketing Relase Fee to have us release Marketing Rights for our images to be used for profit by others, not even themselves as clients.

Thomas Campbell's picture

I do not require my clients provide me with food, though I did in the past. I bring enough food and drinks to every wedding to make it through the day. If I eat during dinner time, it is because my clients were gracious enough to purchase a meal for me. If the client did not purchase a meal from me, I'll eat the nuts, protein bars, and other snacks I brought to the wedding. I don't demand or expect it of my clients or of other vendors.

Sharon Curia's picture

99% of the time the clients provide you a meal. And why shouldn't they? You're with them from morning till midnight. Its a rare couple that doesn't feed the vendors.

Braska Givens's picture

Excellent post Thomas! I always remind vendors that the Client paid them for the service they rendered, and only a much lower fee for a PERSONAL Print Release for themselves for me to document those services as part of their memories, as well as for myself to market my business (I offer a higher Privacy Collection for Clients wishing to not have their images publicized anywhere as that's income lost for my business given each wedding shared brings in 2-3 referrals).

They did not purchase a Marketing Release for their images to be used by others to profit from (though that's covered in my Model Release to allow me to do so so that I don't have to go back to the client's after the fact), and if vendors want to purchase or trade for a Marketing Release to utilize my Copywritten Work to profit off of it then I'm more than happy to provide them a Marketing Release along with High-Res, unwatermarked, file(s)...but they're not entitled to them under any circumstances as the only people who paid for the images are the Clients who paid for their services and our images.

Entitlement has spread so far and wide in this country that it only gets worse, and it's sad we even have to have pieces like this written in the first place🙏🏻

michael andrew's picture

Its business, make is simple.

"Hi can i have access to your photos"? - Vendor A

"Absolutely, what is your typical budget for photography? How would you like to use the photos? Are you familiar with creative works and and licensing? I would love to chat when are you free?"

If they dont have a budget and dont want to pay then tell them the free photo happy hour is closed this year try again next time.

Rob McDonagh's picture

Just for balance does everyone agree with the other vendors that use can use images of their work for marketing your photography business, they could just as easily contend that the food, cake, flowers etc were for the guests enjoyment, not as props in a photographer's marketing materials

Sharon Curia's picture

The other vendors are capable of taking out their own cell phones, or, purchasing their own professional grade equipment and lenses and taking their own photos. Its not necessary to bother the photographer for pictures unless they themselves lack the skills to capture their own work. If they need MY skills, well- its not free. And that is what this article is about- the "entitlement" that vendors feel toward another vendor's work.

Deleted Account's picture

Just to throw in a curve ball.A good article by the way.But do you continue to use wedding photos in your portfolio when you know the marriage has since broken up? You might own the copyright but do you have some sensitivity to these situations?

michael andrew's picture

Would you continue to use a portrait of someone who has passed? A photo of architecture that has been demolished? A landscape that has been burned?

Nothing lasts forever.

Sharon Curia's picture

It is about the quality of the photograph and your skill, not about the people or places or things. We do this just as much for ourselves as we... wait, we do this for ourselves. It is not done as a favor. If a contractor remodeled a bathroom, he can show his work, even if new people move in and have it done over again.

Thomas Campbell's picture

Not related at all to this, but if a past client contacts us to have their pictures taken down, we have no problem in doing so. Luckily, it has only happened a couple times.

Michelle Maani's picture

I am not a wedding photographer, but if I were a customer I would be pretty pissed if the photographer used photos I paid for in his or her portfolio. I don't know if this is common. I know a photographer used pics of my daughter in his portfolio of graduation pictures. He didn't even have my permission to take the pictures in the first place, and I had to pay him for a job that my daughter sneaked behind my back. I told him to take them out, and he did. I probably would have been flattered if he had asked.

Thomas Campbell's picture

Online usage is always discussed before signing a contract and an agreement is put in writing.

In general, a photographer has the right to use images they took in their portfolio. Some states such as New York have codified that into their laws. However, they cannot use it in an advertisement for their services without permission.

Sharon Curia's picture

My contract contains a model release. Even if a photographer takes a photo because you pay them, the photo belongs to the photographer, not you, unless you made other arrangements. Its copyright law. You are approaching a professional to create for you, and they keep the rights to that creation when done, unless you've agreed on other arrangements. If a photographer enters into an agreement to not use it, often a photographer will charge more for the work because it is now a loss to not be able to use one's own work to gain more work. It is a financial detriment to not have access to your own creations. Some refuse to work with clients like that.

Aaron B.'s picture

For vendors

It depends on the contract with my client. Do I have permission to use these for my portfolio? May I use some to advertise? Can I release these to other vendors?

Often times (and it can be a nuissance) a vendor may get the pictures from the client themselves. I like to make sure all my clients are aware of my intentions so there are no misunderstandings.