Wedding Photography Copyright: Do I Own My Wedding Photos?

A question some brides and grooms might not have thought about, let alone asked. You may be thinking; it’s my wedding that’s being photographed so surely I own the wedding photography copyright – right? Well it’s not that simple.

Entrusting a professional to capture the magical moments that make up the bigger picture of your wedding day is a fantastic idea. No amount of disposable cameras or smart phone shots can compare to the artful images of an expert. That being said, find a photographer you click with and then read the contract.

wedding photography copyright

Find out more about the ins and outs of copyright and whether it’s something you need to consider when choosing your wedding photographer below.

What is copyright anyway?

We’ll keep in short and simple. Copyright is the legal right to own something, specifically the originator. It gives the owner control over the way something is used or distributed. Essentially copyright laws protect photographers against their images being use without their permission. The creator of the work has the exclusive legal rights to it for a number of years.

The type of work protected isn’t limited to photographs. Books, paintings, sculptures, music, films, television, and radio broadcasts, and even computer software is all protected. Basically copyright protects the creative sector and the creators themselves.

wedding photography copyright

Copyright protection is an automatic thing. As soon as your photographer snaps a photo of you on your big day, they technically own the legal rights to that image. Obviously this doesn’t mean that the images won’t be shared with you. Every photographer has their own way of allowing you access to the images.   

Check your contract

This leads us on to the next step. Once you have found the perfect photographer for you, it’s time to learn about your rights and requirements. As we mentioned, your photographer will own the legal copyright to your images unless they give the rights to you.

It’s extremely unusual for photographers to hand over the rights to their images. A photographer owning the copyright is entirely normal practise and something that you shouldn’t worry about.

wedding photography copyright

If they sell the rights to you it means they’re unable to use any of the images to promote their business. They are also unable to make any more money on the photographs through advertising. This includes displaying the photographs as a representation of their work on their website or any other form of advertising they choose.  Generally they aren’t readily happy to do this. It can also be very costly!

So, read through your contract and have a discussion with your photographer. Remember, they’re an expert when it comes to weddings and copyright practises, so they should be able to answer any concerning questions you might have.


The photographer has the freedom to use the images as they please because they own the rights to them. This could include commercial use – as we said, it’s a great way to make some extra money on the photographs!

On the whole, it’s flattering if your wedding is shared for the world to see because of the beauty of the images. However, you might not want the images of your special day being used without your knowing. If you’re a private person or seeking total exclusivity, it’s definitely something to discuss with your photographer.

wedding photography copyright

Generally wedding photographers are out to capture your day beautifully and ensure their images aren’t manipulated in any way.

Andrew at Light Works Photography explains, “I always ask if it’s OK for me to use any of the pictures from the wedding for my personal promotion i.e. on my blog or social media. I strongly believe that you have the ethical, if not the legal rights over what happens to the photographs. They are of a personal and private time and you should have the choice for the pictures to be in the public domain or not.”

After the legal stuff

So your wedding day is over. The honeymoon has been and gone, and as you shake the sand out from between your toes and moisturise your sun kissed skin, you realise all is not lost from that special time because it’s time to look through your wedding photos!

Photographers typically deliver around 500 wedding photographs. This might seem like a lot but remember, they were snapping away during all of the little moments even you missed.

We live in a digital age and this is reflected in the way you receive your images. Every photographer is different. Some offer a locked online gallery for you to peruse and they will give you a password for exclusivity. Others provide a USB with all of your images in JPEG format. They can also offer a CD of all of your images.

Understanding that it’s your wedding day, photographers provide you with your images in these formats so that you’re free to print as you will. This enables you to print multiple images to share with family and friends.

wedding photography copyright

Some photographers watermark their images. This means they insert their logo or company name onto the image somewhere. Generally this will be discretely in a corner. Double check your contract to ensure you will be given non-watermarked versions of your photographs. If you aren’t, it can be restricting because you are forced to pay for non-watermarked prints by the photographer.

Rarely, photographers will simply provide print versions of your photographs. You shouldn’t assume that they will always provide versions that you can print yourself.

Can I use my pictures for other purposes?

Copyright only really becomes an issue when you are using your wedding images for a more commercial purpose than previously intended (the original purpose being to keep the images for yourself and select friends and family to appreciate for years to come).

If you start using your photographs for a personal business or other potentially money-making scheme, then your photographer may raise a few issues. If you’ve signed a contract that confirms your photographer owns the copyright, your images can’t be sold for any purpose by yourself.

Social Media

The digital age is upon us. As a result, of course we want to share fabulous photographs of our wedding day across social media. Most photographers won’t have a problem with you posting your wedding photographs on your social platform. In fact, most will assume you’ll be sharing them for your loved ones to view and will provide low-res versions for social media.

wedding photography copyright

That being said, it shouldn’t be assumed that it’s okay. Chat with your photographer and double check their preferences. They may require you to credit them by tagging them in the image or in the caption.

What are the consequences?

Breaking copyright law can lead to big fines. In most cases your photographer isn’t going to exploit you. He or she would approach you and ask to remove any images you may be using illegally, particularly if you’ve made an honest mistake.

In the UK, we don’t take copyright laws lightly. There are a number of infringement penalties that you want to avoid.

What does this all mean?

Shooting weddings is what these professionals do year after year. They aren’t out to steal your images or restrict your access to them. Above all, they generally love what they do and simply want to tell the story of your day with their fantastic photographs.

wedding photography copyright

As long as you are enjoying your images for private use, you’re okay! As a result, most are extremely lenient and really don’t mind reuse of your photographs, so long as you talk to them about it beforehand. (Not every time you copy or reprint your pictures though of course!) Obviously they understand that you will be printing copies to share with your nearest and dearest.     

Anne Johnston Photography explains, “I do appreciate that my clients want to have a little freedom to make their own prints and share them on social media…I don’t allow my wedding clients to use them for commercial use which means they can’t be sold for any purpose or used to sell services.”

Equally, photographers are unlikely to make further commercial use of your wedding pictures without asking you for permission first. This may include the use of images for their own marketing purposes, such as websites and portfolios.

wedding photography copyright

Understand that it’s common practise for your photographer to own the legal rights to the images and will assist you in accessing them and sharing them as you please.

For more wedding tips and advice, or to find yourself a wedding photographer in your area, simply browse through our previous posts in the Categories sections to the top right of this post! Or click on one of the images in this post to go through to one of our featured suppliers’ websites!

3 thoughts on “Wedding Photography Copyright: Do I Own My Wedding Photos?

  1. Sorry, but I strongly disagree with some of the points put here. I’m just putting this here for other readers. People who pay and hire people to take pictures of an event should not be gaslighted into thinking that they don’t deserve full rights. When a business creates an advertisement, it is standard practice that the photographer hands over copyright and any other rights to the business. It should not be different in wedding scenarios. Just wanted to give another perspective, because this article heavily speaks on the side of photographers. If they want to use your photos, this should be agreed in a contract. Things like approved uses should be established. Otherwise your image could end up in unsavoury places and you wouldn’t have a thing to say because the photographer owns the copyright.

  2. I was on the understanding that a photographer who takes a picture of people within their home which clearly is private property doesn’t own the rights.

    I am aware that in public property that a photographer can take photos of anyone and anything.

    There are also restrictions on certain landmarks. If you even try to upload to an online commercial usage site they will refuse.

    So also what about model release. How does this come into play.

    Anyway, I find myself in a strange predicament. A friend of the family requested that they take photos of our wedding to build a portfolio. She said that all the photos would be for free and we could have as many as we wanted. They weren’t printed only digital.

    These photos were taken in the church, in a forest and in our home.
    We now find that they’re being posted all over the place including Pinterest, and other online platforms. Even our young daughter is on there.

    So after thinking we were all doing each other a favour, we note fell a little exploited.

    I wonder what your opinion is?

  3. If a client pays for the work then they should own all intellectual property generated by the photographer during that work. They can always provide a licence back to the photographer for valid business purposes if required.

    I work in a creative industry and our clients own everything we produce. If we want to own what is produced then we fund the work ourselves and then charge to licence the output.

    We can’t expect the client to pay for the work and yet still retain ownership ourselves. That’s just nonsensical and no client would stand for that. There’s really no reason it should be any different for photographers, though sadly it is.

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