Copyright releases and their significance.
YAY! You have had a session with a photographer and got pictures taken. Time to be excited. Once you actually see them you’re so happy! Now time to make a purchase(s) (if you haven’t already).
After reviewing your options you look at the copyright release and it’s different from your last photographer (or even session if you have the same photographer). Laws are constantly changing in regards to copyrights. So we (photographers) need/should update them every few years or less. There is no universal copyright release. They vary from one photographer to the next. Each photographer gets to choose the rights they give up. Some don’t care and sign their life away, so to speak, and hold on to no rights. And this maybe what you want (or at least, think you do initially). Doing this is not fair to the photographer, nor you as the client. The photographer cannot control the images and “looks” when they give up all rights. You as a client cannot hold them responsible for the quality of the image produced. Say something happens to the images and you don’t have a back up, you run the risk of being charged for those images all over again. I am not saying it will happen or the photographer won’t help/bend, but it is a possibility. When you get “full” copyrights you aren’t able to expect any assurance for mistakes, problems or the weird and unexplainable.
Some give only printing rights if you’re lucky. Controlling too much of what you can or can’t do with images that have your face and that of your family (possibly). This is more in case that models use (tfp = time for prints). It enables both parties to have the images without ‘payment’ because the images of the collaboration themselves are the payment for each party. This enables both the photographer and model to expand their portfolios. Allowing new ideas to be spread via Pintrest and other forms of social media. However these collaborations can be costly and most can’t afford to do this very often.
Most fall in-between. Any choice in release the photographer makes they’re giving pieces of their soul away. Many photographers, including myself, put these pieces of their soul in their work. It’s the way of an artist. This, in part, is why the copyright release is important for the photographer. It allows them to make sure credit for the work they do is not given to another party. It allows them to make sure images aren’t manipulated by a third party that could be harmful to both the subject(s) and the photographer. It keeps the parties involved safe and all on the same page.
Just because there is a release doesn’t mean that the photographer can’t keep their rights as well. I look at it as sharing and a way to ensure others know how my work is evolving and changing as I grow as a person. If you are willing to have open dialogue with your photographer about this subject, then you can get something amended possibly – or at the very least understand reasons your chosen photographer has their policies in place. But please be kind and understand that nothing may get changed; they may have had problems in the past that has brought a certain restriction about.
A good copyright release helps to protect both parties. It’s not meant to make anyone feel like they’re getting stiffed. And just because you get a release doesn’t mean the photographer can’t keep rights as well. They are truly to protect both parties. If you are curious or want to change something, just ask. Most are willing to negotiate. If that doesn’t work, find a new photographer.