It’s normal to ask yourself, either as a bride or a vendor, “Can I use that image online?”  After all, the fun-tastic world of social media is ever present and image sharing is a major component of the online social world.  Image usage rights online is such a loaded question, but it’s one that I’m asked frequently by new photographers.  I’ve been deliberating blogging it for a while and truthfully, I’m not sure why I’ve been hesitating.  But here we go… let’s take a deep breath and we’ll chat about vendor use of images post wedding.

Here’s the situation that causes this question to arise again and again…

A photographer shoots a wedding and shares images online (via blog, facebook, etc.) only to find out a few days or weeks later that other vendors from that wedding have taken those images and re-shared (or worse, re-cropped and/or re-edited them), blogged them without the photographer knowing or even receiving proper credit.  The worst is when you see these images now permanently living in a vendors portfolio without a whisper to you regarding image use.  Just because photos are put online does it mean that all other vendors are entitled to using them?

The short answer… Nope.

No vendor is ever entitled to the use a photographer’s images.  With laws regarding intellectual property and differences between personal and commercial image use agreements, wedding vendors are never entitled to images.  Luckily, the vast, VAST majority of wedding photographers are friendly and kind people who love to network and have a great respect for the wedding vendor community to opening a conversation with them in regards to image use is the way to go.

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How to approach a photographer about image use:

If you’re interested in obtaining images from a photographer post-wedding, start by ball rolling before the walk down the aisle.  Ask your client who their photographer is and make sure to follow them online as well as send an introductory email to them.  It’s not the photographers responsibility, come the wedding day, to go around collecting business cards and making lists of who to send images to.  If you want to benefit from receiving images, you should be making the initial contact with the photographer at the appropriate time.

When asking a photographer about image use, first off… ASK!  Never assume they are okay to share and never simply submit a list of images you expect to have.  It is possible that the particular clients you’re inquiring about have asked the photographer to waive their model release or have requested that the photographer not share the images for privacy reasons.  Every photographer handles these requests differently so it’s a really good idea to ask the photographer about image use instead of starting off the conversation with which images you want.

When posting the photographer’s images, make sure to post the images exactly as you have been given them.  Do not crop, do not re-edit and do not remove any logos.  When posting to social media, if you’re forced to use a square image instead of a rectangular one, use an app like SquareReady to add the white borders to the image so that they post whole.  Remember: the way a photographer has chosen to crop and compose their image reflects their style – by re-cropping the image, you’re taking away the photographer’s style and intended feel of the image.  Always, always credit the photographer in the images – especially on social media, and make sure to use the images for the purposes you asked for and not anything else.  (If you asked for images for your blog, do not print them on banners and business cards for your next wedding show)

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Sharing on Social Media:

The best way to share a photographers image on social media is by using the “share” button.  This will ensure those interested in learning more about the photographer have an easy link back to their page and it will help ensure credit is in the appropriate places.  Saving images and adding them to your own album is the “Oh, that’s not cool” way to do things.  Even though the image was already online you’re using it for commercial purposes and the laws are ever changing on this subject as social media continues to grow – be a dear and out of respect for the community, share – don’t take.  If you do insist on the “Oh, that’s not cool” method you do have to site the original source for each and every image as it’s considered plagiarism otherwise.  You also need to display all images as a whole (as mentioned above) and not re-crop or change regardless of social media platform.

It’s all about Respect:

The wedding industry is small.  Yes, I’m aware I live in a giant city of several million people and yes, I still think the wedding industry is small.  If you’ve made it through your first few years of business, your name will become familiar in the industry and people may not know you personally but will know of you.  Professional behaviour and respect for fellow vendors has a huge impact in how you’re seen in the wedding community and those who want to establish themselves as leaders and professionals will always treat other vendors with the utmost respect, especially when they are benefiting from that vendors in terms of photo sharing and usage.

Still not sure?  Lifehacker has an awesome chat to follow – it can help you understand whether or not you can use the image.  Take a peek at the lifehacker image here.

So to all those out there wondering how to ask photographers about using their images, take the plunge and send out an email!  We love people, we love hearing from our fellow wedding community pros and we love, love, LOVE that you respect us enough to ask for photo usage.