There’s no doubt that you can find dozens upon dozens of threads in various Facebook groups that consist of non-photography vendors asking “Why do some photographers not share photos with vendors?” and once that question is answered there can be hundreds of responses that are something along the lines of “I know right? It’s just a picture – it’s easy to email” or “Ugh, tell me about it” and thus, vendors have a spot to commiserate on the internet. Unfortunately when the discussion of why some photographers don’t share photos arises, actual facts are rarely discussed, instead it is an emotionally based conversation that leads only to trigger strong emotions from others.
But what about the facts? Well… that’s what I’m here to talk about today.
It’s always in the best interest of any professional to be courteous, kind and respectful of each other. Establishing genuine, positive and mutually beneficial relationships with wedding vendors is always a good thing – but when a relationship isn’t mutually beneficial or verges on one-sided, it stops being positive and starts being toxic and a photographer may base their actions on their previous experiences with previous vendors. Unfortunately this can sometimes create a viscous circle of photos never being shared; but in most cases there’s a specific reason why a photographer isn’t sharing photos and here they are.
Why do Some Photographers Not Share Photos with Vendors?
You don’t have to like these reasons but these are all valid and true reasons why a photographer may not want to share photos with you. While you might initially feel defensive if a photographer tells you they aren’t sharing (or simply doesn’t email you back), take a moment to reflect on the situation and consider the following:
- The wedding is not one that reflects strongly of the photographers brand, abilities or preferred esthetics. This is pretty self explanatory. Depending on how a photographer is choosing to brand and market their business, they may not want certain images being circulated – not because they aren’t beautiful but because they don’t reflect their brand or what they want to shoot in the future. An example of this would be a photographer who is typically “light and airy” shoots a wedding for a client who originally had an outdoor venue who ends up in a historic castle-like building. We’re talking daaaaark. The photographer still produced lovely images but they aren’t the photographers strongest work nor does the photographer want to acquire future commissions in locations where they don’t feel they can produce their strongest work so they opt to not have said images used in any promotion because they want to limit the visibility of that particular wedding.
- They actually are intending to share… when they are ready to. A photographer needs time to do their job after the wedding. They need time to edit, design albums, provide galleries and use the images themselves. Once they do that they typically share. If you’re asking for photos before the client even gets them or before you see the photographer blog the wedding, you’re almost always going to get a “no” because you’re not letting the photographer do what they need and want to do with their product. Respect the timeline they have for themselves and let the clients and the photographer enjoy their work first. Why do some photographers not share photos with vendors? They will!! Just be patient – please.
- They don’t have time. If you’re a non-photographer think of it from our perspective for a moment. You have 1 photographer to contact from each wedding you do – but as photographers, we end up with an average of 4-5 vendors contacting us per wedding wanting galleries of photos for themselves. Planners, venues, hair artists, makeup artists, decor companies, florists, officiants and live musicians almost always reach out – and sometimes they even reach out publicly via Instagram stories on the day of the freaking wedding. Seriously… chill. We make galleries for you in our own time – but when we have 30 weddings a year and 100-120+ different vendors who request each and every year, that is a lot of our own time to give to others. Please think of the big picture. (Oh, and if you’re thinking that us sending you the clients full gallery is a solution then you need to read the second-last point.)
- They are sending for publication. There are many publications who clearly state that no other publication can happen before they get a chance to display. As a means of keeping the images safe from vendors may choose to submit on their own, a photographer will refrain from sharing until the publication process is complete. (And if you’re wondering, yes – it happens frequently where other vendors get a hold of images and submit to blogs without the permission of the photographer so it’s very much a real concern for many photographers.)
- They have been turned off by wording that exists in other vendors contracts regarding usage. Some photographers do not share their images because they feel bullied before they even meet the other vendors. The amount of times my clients have brought another potential vendors contract to me to share concerns over wording over photos is alarming. A lot of vendors include in their contract that they have the “right” to acquire and display any of the photographers images. THIS. IS. NOT. LEAGAL…and any vendor that has this in their contract can still be held responsible for copyright infringement. You cannot demand permission for photo usage from your clients when they don’t have the legal right to authorize permission. Working with a vendor with whom we know have clauses that “demand” photo usage is incredibly off-putting. It doesn’t even give us the chance to share with them; they’ve already decided they’re going to take what they want before even establishing a relationship with us.
- They waived the model release with the client. Not all photographers have permission to display a clients photos – so if they don’t have it, then other vendors can’t display either.
- The client did not waive the model release BUT asked for photo usage to be restricted. Some clients understand that while a photographer needs to maintain some kind of portfolio, they don’t want their private wedding broadcasted to the public for an infinite amount of time so they and the photographer agree on restricted terms. This may mean that while you see a photographer sharing on their own social, the client has requested that images not be shared.
- The client had a sub-par experience with a vendor. Sometimes clients will message us in private, post-wedding, explaining that they really didn’t enjoy an experience with a certain vendor and that they don’t want said vendor to have any photos. We respect their wishes. It’s not our place to tell the vendor why, but we will politely refrain from sharing.
- The client doesn’t love the photos. Despite our best efforts, sometimes we have clients who just don’t love their photos as much as we love them. When this happens, our of respect, most photographers will limit how images are used on their own platform and especially by vendors. This is, after all, a customer service based business.
- The photographer had a bad experience with the client. Sometimes you may think a client is a great fit for you… sometimes you realize after the wedding that they may have been better served by a photographer who has a different style or approach. The client may still like their photos but the experience of working with them may have been more challenging. In these cases, photographers may choose to limit the number of photos from said wedding that they even display on their own platform and refrain from sharing with vendors. Sometimes it’s best to simply keep images a bit more private – again, we’re in a customer service industry.
- The photographer had a bad experience with someone on the vendor team. If a photographer had a difficult experience with someone on the vendor team or even with the venue, they may not wish to extend the olive branch to them for image use and thus not share images post wedding. If a photographer feels undermined, disrespected or (yes, this happened) harassed by another vendor they are under no obligation to look past that behavior and still provide images.
- The photographer knows that crediting images will be an issue based on vendors existing websites and social media platforms. This is where a lot of vendors – honestly – kind of shoot themselves in the foot. The first thing a lot of photographers do when they get the “Can you send me the gallery link? I’ll provide credit for sure.” email is check out the vendors social and website. If their public platforms are filled with un-credited, re-edited/filtered images then it’s a telling sign to the photographer that the promise of credit is likely an empty one. Seriously other vendors: do you not think we don’t look? If I get an email from a vendor who I can see is clearly using pro photos from real weddings on social media and I see zero credit on any photos, I’m not going to share.
The photographer has decided against it because a vendor pushed their limits (expectations + entitlement). No one is ever entitled to full gallery access other than the couple who hired. Often times couples don’t even show a full gallery to their families – they create a favorites list and share that. There are many intimate moments in a wedding day that are for the couples eyes only. If a vendors approaches a photographer and asks for full gallery access or in a way that makes it seem like they expect images, expect certain usage rights, expect certain specs, etc, it may turn the photographer off so much that “no” is all you’re going to hear in the future. You’ve over asked and possibly with a sense of entitlement. You burned the bridge before even crossing it.
- They are sharing; but they have limitations that you feel are unfair. Most photographers will share; but it’s increasingly common for photographer to put restrictions on the images they share. Social media only; or blog use but not static images or branding images, etc. No photographer is ever obliged to turn over a whole gallery of images to any vendor, no matter how many referrals may be promised.
- The photographer just doesn’t want to. Some folks just don’t want to – and that’s okay. Their business, their rules.
So why do some photographers not share photos with vendors? Because of all the reasons above and likely more that are unique to specific situations and individuals.
The “community over competition” movement in the industry has created a monster. It’s created a culture where the sharing of intangible products is not only under valued but expected. It’s created a culture where a photographer has become responsible for not only capturing a wedding day for a couple but for producing social media, website, and marketing content for a whole vendor team because that’s what “community” means. It’s created a culture where a wedding day is no longer about the couple, but about what “bloggable moments” or “possibly viral images” can be created and grabbed up by each and every vendor. It’s create a culture where you could once enjoy the development of a relationship with a vendor and provide them a surprise gallery of photos that were appreciated rather than expected and it’s created a culture where the joy of giving has been taken from us and replaced with expectations and entitlement.
As photographers, we need to recognize and take back the value of our product.
As photographers, we need to put in place reasonable and professional boundaries for how our products are disseminated and used by others.
As photographers, we need to see a return of the establishment of genuine relationships with other vendors and not relationships that are created simply to acquire images and then get ghosted.
As photographers, we need to take back the joy of giving.