We’ve heard this line before, and the unfortunate answer is no, we cannot give away copyright of the images. But before you dismiss this and just say that we’re grouchy photographers, let us explain why we won’t do that, and why you don’t really need it.
1) What are you looking for with a copyright?
Most of the time, when our clients ask for the copyright on an image, they want the ability to download the photos, print them, share them, stick ‘em in a book, put them on their wall, give them to their grandmother… all the good stuff. And guess what? You can totally do that. What you’re asking for is License for Personal Use, which almost all photographers will give! After all, they’re images of you!
2) So what’s the difference between this and a copyright?
If we gave you the copyright, that would mean we could not do a single thing with the image. We couldn’t submit it to magazines, use it on our blogs, make an album for you, make a canvas for you, submit a print to a competition, show other clients the art we made with you – you get the gist. Giving away our copyright gives away our ability to do anything except look at the image. Legally speaking, the copyright of an image happens the split second that the shutter button clicks, so we couldn’t even edit it. Think of it like listening to a CD. Just because you bought the CD and can listen to the music, or download it, or put it on your iPod doesn’t mean that you own the copyright to the music.
3) But I don’t want you to use my images for any of those things, I just want them to be with me and me only.
And that’s fine! This part of the contract is known as the “model release”. That gives us the ability to duplicate the images for any promotional or marketing material, and if it’s something you don’t want, just tell your photographer. They may be able to work something out with you, so be sure to bring it up! In the end, it’s your choice, but you are making an investment for art to be made to capture something beautiful, and why not share it and make others as happy as you were when you saw the images as well?
So go forth and make those wallet sized pictures of you standing with your fiancée or new spouse, go forth and feel free to send grandma some images in an email! You don’t need a copyright to do any of that 🙂