Copyright, Schmopyrite. A Clients Guide to What You Can Do With Professional Images

Everyone has seen this little symbol. And oftentimes, few really understand what it means and why it should matter to you.

Let’s explore a few scenarios that you, as a client of a professional photographer, should be aware of and why NOT being aware of it could get you in some serious hot water.

What are Copyrights and Why Should I Care?

So you paid someone to take your photograph professionally. You own that photo and all rights to it, right?

Actually, that’s not even remotely true. What you own is the “rights” to how your photographer can use an image of you, but you don’t own any other rights beyond that. The photographer you hired owns all other rights to the image- how you can display it, how you can use it online, and how you can print it or reproduce it (if at all).

Copyrights are actually property rights and the control of how that photograph may be reproduced. Because you hired a photographer to do your family portrait or photograph your wedding, doesn’t mean you can make as many prints from your disc as you want. If fact, without some form of Release that entitles you to do so, you can be taken to court for payment of those rights to do so. You may not even have permission to post them online either without permission to do so since you are “reproducing” the image online. Once you “upload” the image(s), you still have them on a disk or drive, so you “reproduced” that image.

I just scanned my 8×10 so I can make a BIG Canvas! I can send the kid’s digital image to Grandma too! That’s going to be so cool!

You probably shouldn’t do that. Once again, you are violating the photographers copyright and the property rights he or she has as to how that image may be reproduced. Even the act of “scanning” is a violation since you reproduced the image from a print. If you never do anything but store it on your computer, you don’t have any rights that entitle you to do that.

Additionally, when you send that scanned image to a print lab, you are representing to them, in almost every case, that this is YOUR image that YOU own the rights to reproduce it with them. Since you don’t, the photographer has every legal means available to enforce their rights to reproduction. That can get costly- for you and possibly the lab that did the print.

They put this BIG watermark on my “sneak peek” on Facebook. I cropped it so my friends wouldn’t have to see it.

Whatever your photographer adds to an image- like a watermark- is considered a part of that image. Altering that by cropping is a violation of the copyright laws (the DMCA). Again, since you don’t own the copyright, any changes to that image means you are representing that you “own” that image and all rights to do whatever you want. Way too many people find out that hard way that this is a BIG no-no.

What about adding an Instagram or other “filter” to it to make it look “cool”?

Another big no-no. The image you have is considered an “artistic creation” and adding anything that changes that interpretation of what the photographer produced as his or her final image is a violation of their copyright. Most photographers add an “electronic” copyright to their images so any alteration, filters, cropping, etc., is a violation of that copyright. You can’t even change it to a B&W image if you think you might like that better.

My Photographer used an image of me in a Contest or advertisement. Can he do that?

Perhaps.

Remember that I said you own the rights to usage of your own image, but not the actual photograph? Most photographers today ask for a “model release” in which you grant them permission to use your image as they see fit. It might be in a contract you sign or a separate document. It may be for limited usage or could be for whatever the photographer wants to do with it.

Now, there are certain things that are “implied” usage and doesn’t require a model release. For example, a photographer might post an image of you on their website as a “featured” image. They can do that. BUT, they might not be able to use it for a flyer or some other form of advertising. Unless you signed a model release, which you probably did without realizing it, they can still post to their website as representative of their work and artistic ability. Since they control the reproducti0n of that image, use on their own property is considered proper usage and since they do own their websites, domains, etc. and can use it there in most every case without permission.

But I PAID them to take my photograph! What do I get for THAT?

Well, yes you did and what you paid for wasn’t for the images in most cases, nor any usage rights or copyrights to that image. What you paid for was the time, talent, equipment usage, and creative vision of the artist. If your contract doesn’t specifically state that you get anything other than that, you don’t own anything copyright wise.

Take for example that you pay Office Depot for a Windows product. Do you own that software? The answer is a flat out no!

What you paid for was a LICENSE to use that software. You don’t own the code, the rights to alter it in any manner to suit your own needs, nor any right to reproduce it either. You have what is called a EULA- End Users Licensing Agreement- that you “check box” off that you understand this when you install it on your computer.

Basically, hiring a photographer means that he or she owns all rights to that image and can license them to you as they see fit.  Because you paid them to take your photograph, doesn’t grant you any rights. What you paid for was for them to use their skills to produce images that you can purchase and/or also obtain rights to usage as your photographer decides is best for his or her business.

My Photographer want $1500 for images of me I can print! THAT’S highway robbery!

Well, I am sure you think of it that way, but here are a few considerations. According to the PPA, Professional Photographers of America, 65% of PPA members make their sole living from photography. We have to eat too, pay house payments, insurance, taxes, and do all the things from our incomes as you do from yours. What your employer pays you is calculated in part in the prices they charge for products or services they provide. Professional Photographer are no different. We charge you for the rights to produce your own unlimited number of prints based on the income we would lose if we printed them for you.

Imagine for a moment that Microsoft “gave away” the rights to reproduce their software- or sold them really cheap. Their source of income- from their rights to be the sole producer of that software- would be next to nothing, thousands of people would not be working, and someone else would be gaining from their hard work, not them. I could then duplicate it, sell it for whatever I wanted or even give it away.

This is the very reason you often see lawsuits involving software manufacturers where some copy-written code was “stolen” and someone ends up paying dearly. Doing the same thing with a photograph could mean you are on the losing end of a similar lawsuit.

Can I share or use an image my photographer posted on Facebook?

Yes, you can. As long as you don’t alter the image in any manner- including cropping out the watermark, adding a filer, or doing anything that changes the final image that your photographer originally created.

When your photographer uploads an image of you to Facebook, they “surrender” only a small portion of their right to reproduce that image by others. What Facebook DOESN’T allow you to do with that image is alter it in any manner. Which means, you can’t download it, do a few Photoshop edits, and then re-upload it as your own- even if you are thoughtful enough to give the photographer credit. He or she still owns all rights to the unaltered image and altering it in any manner is a violation their copyright by you. This is usually the point where your photographer is going to get really upset and ask you to remove the image, so be prepared if that happens.

There is a NEW SERVICE where I can create photobooks from my Facebook Photos! Isn’t that a great idea!

Well, if you are using images you paid a photographer to create, and you don’t own any reproduction rights to do that, then no, you can’t use those images. It’s a great idea if these are images you made yourself, but not so great if you paid a photographer to take them!

The only images your are legally entitled to use are either ones you took yourself or ones you have the reproduction rights, in writing, from your photographer. Because your photographer tagged you or shared their images on your Facebook page, does NOT grant you any other rights OTHER than sharing or use on your Facebook page. They still own the reproduction rights.

Most any of these services that do that are going to ask you “do you own the rights to reproduce these images?”. If you answer “yes”, then you are subject to the photographer coming back to you and asking for payment. If you love their images so much you want to put them in a book, ask your photographer to do that for you! It can cost you far less in the long run should you “steal” their images and try to do it yourself.

We went to Walmart with our disc from our Wedding. They won’t print them and my photographer wants MORE MONEY for images that I can print! THAT’S OUTRAGEOUS!

Walmart is doing their job. They probably asked you for a “Print Release” and since your disc didn’t have one or you couldn’t produce one in writing, they are not supposed to print your images unless YOU created them. Chances are, your photographer embedded an electronic © symbol or text in the images and as soon as Walmart or other lab sees it, they want your release.

Many labs today are finding themselves on the losing end of lawsuits by photographers for printing images they own the copyrights too simply for not asking for print releases. Even online labs are asking for an electronic release- something you have in an electronic form like a PDF file- where you have the rights to print that image. If you don’t, then you can obtain that from your photographer. Yes, they have every right to ask for payment for one as they do own the rights to reproduce that image(s) you want to print. In most cases, it would be more to purchase the rights than to purchase the prints directly from them! They do have to eat you know.

Even though this is not totally “copyright” related, your photographer also has a certain right to produce images that represent their work as they envision it. Often times “consumer labs” fall way short of doing that. This is often one reason most photographers- your real Professionals that is- want to control their printed products. They want satisfied clients- you- and use pro labs for prints. The care they put into those images and the best possible printed representation of those images will benefit not only you, but also best serves the reputation of your photographer. Often times those “crappy prints” from Wackyworld’s lab doesn’t do that.

I did a “screen shot” of my images on the photographers website and posted them to Facebook. NOW they are all pissy and want them removed. I refuse to do that! They are MY PICTURES!

They are well within their rights to do so. Because they are pictures OF you doesn’t mean “YOU OWN THEM”.

Remember that copyright means they primarily own the reproduction rights to the images. Even if they are of you or a family member, you “stole” their image(s) and reproduced it without permission to do so. Add to it, by doing so, you represented it as “your own”. Even though it might be OF you, you don’t own any right to use it as you see fit or to scan it, copy it, screen shot it, or edit it without your photographers permission.When you “steal” our images and they don’t represent our best work- and that’s what happens with screenshots- we get upset. Let us bend over backwards to serve you, just please don’t “steal” from us. Just ask and we are most likely to accommodate you in every way possible.

My last Photographer gave us a disc of images we could print all we wanted. Why don’t YOU do that too?

There is one thing I totally believe- “you don’t make yourself look good by making others look bad”. So I want to stick to that edict and pray you will bear with me. So let’s call this part an bit of an “educational lesson” for consumers that I hope you will take to heart.

First, there is NO “prerequisite” to become a Professional Photographer. Basically, all it takes is for someone with a camera to call themselves one. Even though pretty much every full time professional has over $20,000 in equipment and over 10,000 hours of education to perfect our craft, it’s not a requirement. There are no tests involved, or any licensing boards to see if we are competent. Just put it out there- “I’m a Professional Photographer”.

Now here is where it usually starts- someone loves photography and gets themselves a decent camera. Someone tells them they take good pictures. Boom! They are now a “professional photographer” who wants to make a little extra money on the weekends taking pictures and getting paid money from people to do so! Exciting way to do that and doing something you love to do too. Perhaps its a few weddings “where the big money is”. Whatever it might be.

Statistically, this is what we know. 90% of these people will not be around inside of a year or two. They find out there is far more work involved to create the images people love and can generate enough income that makes it worthwhile The give their clients a disc of images for $75 and includes the “shooting time” too. Then they find out that hour of shooting time turns into 10 hours of editing time and all of a sudden they are grossing $6 an hour and after they pay for their website, their software, their computer and upgrade their equipment, they are in the hole $200 for everyone they photograph. So they raise their prices. Double. Still in the hole.

They are at the point where one of two things happens- they get out, saying, “there is no money in photography anymore” or they figure it out that copyright protections and printing of images is the only way they can pay their bills, eat, and keep their business afloat- even part time. The latter is the 5% that survive beyond 2 years.

Usually here is what you often get from the cheaper “guy down the street” who gives you a disc of images-

  1. Someone starting out who has a nice camera but hasn’t put in the hours needed to produce truly professional images you are paying for.
  2. Is usually part time and doesn’t make their living from their photography. They work at a bank or dry cleaners and only do this on the weekends. It’s not something they have dedicated themselves to just yet. They want to “try it” to see how it works out.
  3. Doesn’t really care what you do with your images and printing them for you to have, hold, and share with others isn’t important enough to do for you. Basically, they don’t care if your Wackywold prints suck. They just got paid to do your session and because your lab sucks, isn’t “my fault”. They often put that in writing even though they don’t have any access to a pro lab to produce prints that don’t.
  4. They don’t know enough to realize that a “full resolution” image isn’t properly prepared for printing. All they know is that they heard that all you have to do is upload it and you get remarkable prints- even though that ‘s not true at all. (there is a lot of technical details here that is part of that 10,000 educational hours I mentioned)
  5. The use “online ordering” with little if any “quality control” over the prints. All they know is that some lab, someplace, uses their “full resolution images”, not properly prepared, and sends you prints if you want to buy them. They hope you will order from them since “you can get better quality” and they make a couple more bucks. Maybe.

I could go on, but you get the idea, or hopefully you do. This is part and parcel why the person who was “into photography” a few years ago is usually out of the profession now and has sold everything they owned. I see their “camera for sale” ads in Craigslist all the time since they rarely realized that having a Professional Photography business isn’t going to survive by being what I call a “commodity photographer” and doing it in volume- not as a true, professional photographer who values giving the greatest experience possible to every client that come through the door. Over the years I have found that a lot of people who ask me “for a disc only” only are coming to me because that last “photographer” they used isn’t around anymore.

In closing, as a PPA Professional photographer, there are certain standards I must maintain to be someone you would want to come to and can come to over and over. My commitment is to you, the client and to be fair and honest in my dealings with you. It is to make the experience you have, one you will talk about over and over again. It is to provide you with the quality you are paying me to produce and it’s to provide for you, photographic prints you will display in your home and cherish for the rest of your life.

What I produce for you isn’t “ink and paper”. In a couple of years, those photographs will be priceless. If you feel that “ink and paper” is all you are wanting or that is all I provide, then there is always that “guy up the street that gives you a disc of images”. I’ve seen way more of those lost in a desk drawer, someplace- or become damaged and their “priceless-ness” become more apparent when they weren’t available anymore.

Or you could spend the $20,000 or so and the 10,000 hours or so needed to produce what I work hard to produce. But if you aren’t going to go that route and decide to hire me, please honor the copyrights I have on my images. We both will find our experience together as one we both will love!

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Hiring a Wedding Photographer? A Disturbing “Trend” Brides MUST Beware of, the “Vendor-Photographer”!!

As a long time wedding photographer, I have had to deal with any number of “issues” that happen on wedding days. From the “little too tipsy” Uncle Charlie to the Bride and Groom having an “after the ceremony” little flair up. Either way, as a photographer, you are prepared for it or your not.

One disturbing “trend” that you as a Bride need to be aware of is “vendor-photographers”. So what exactly IS a “vendor-photographer’? I mean you’re hiring a vendor of photography services, so why should “this” concern you?

Recently, vendors of wedding services like your florist, DJ, venue or even your caterer are now either hiring or bringing their own “professional photographer” to document you using their services on your wedding day. In most every case, you had no clue that was going to happen. Your florist decides they want photos of you and your bouquet and your bridesmaids bouquet with all of you holding them. So they bring their OWN photographer to document every minute of that happening. Or perhaps it’s the caterer or even your Wedding Planner.

No matter how it happens, in most cases you are put right in the middle of what they are doing- creating a massive advertising campaign with YOU and their services as the “spotlight” for use in flyers, ads, Social media- you name it!

You spent perhaps days or weeks choosing the ONE person to document your wedding day- your photographer. You checked him or her out, viewed countless images, and found someone you could relate to and liked. You hired them. Paid them a lot of money.

Now, your wedding day arrives and you find 2 or 3 OTHER “photographers” all trying to take photographs. And you find your HIRED photographer is frustrated, perplexed, and ready to leave. They may have come to believe you hired more than one photographer when the reality is, you don’t have a clue who they are or why they are even there!

In many cases, these “other photographers” are obnoxious, rude, and demanding that “they have every right to take photos” and that the images they take ALL belong to them. WOW! So what is a Bride supposed to do or say here?

You have just encountered your “vendor-photographer”! He or she is there working FOR your vendor(s) and are going to exploit your wedding day to it’s fullest for their own promotional work. Hey, this is YOUR WEDDING, not theirs so what do you do? Do you say something? Or will your HIRED photographer help you out here?

This is another very important reason you MAKE SURE you have a photographer that offers a CONTRACT. In that contract you may find an “Exclusivity Clause”. In that clause, you are giving your photographer the exclusive right to photograph your wedding. He or she has the very first priority above all over “photographers” that are there. Face it, you PAID THEM to make sure your day was documented and captured for your memories forever. And if your photographer knows what they are doing, they are going to tell the “vendor-photographers” they need to leave.

So now it’s probably going to get “not so pretty” and in some cases, pretty ugly. You can bet these photographers are going to INSIST that “they have a right to be there” and will take photos of whatever they want to take. So let’s see HOW you as a Bride, can make SURE you have something to protect yourself from this happening.

  1. READ other vendors contracts. If they have ANY provision for “vendor-photographer” either ask them to remove that clause or don’t hire them. It’s your wedding and you can determine who takes photos or who doesn’t.
  2. ASK your other vendors if they have ANY plans to do still photography, videography or any other “image capture” of your wedding. If they DO, ask them what they plan to do SPECIFICALLY. If you can agree to it and understand a few images is fine, then you want that CONTRACTUALLY in writing. If your florist brings a camera to shoot your table displays or your other flowers, fine. BUT to bring or hire a photographer to document the wedding, is another issue all together.
  3. ASK your potential photographer how they would handle this situation if it arose. There is ONLY one correct answer- he or she asks them to leave.
  4. READ your photographers contract. Make sure you give the “exclusive rights” to be the ONLY professional photographer taking images of your wedding. This doesn’t exclude a guest or family member from taking a few photos, but DOES restrict those “vendor-photographers” from being there, taking photos, and ruining your wedding day.
  5. If you are hiring a photographer and they don’t have a contract, run. Without one, you have no “ammunition” or someone in your corner to help you overcome this practice AND to be “on your side”.

How “dastardly” are these “vendor-photographers”? One recent lawsuit OF a fellow wedding photographer BY another “vendor-photographer” resulted in a counter claim and LARGE award by the court to a couples “real” photographer. They are using what I call “Ninja” tactics and using YOUR wedding day with impunity and images without your permission in many cases. They also will “weave” these little clauses into their contracts and you never know its happening.

So what does this all mean FOR YOU?

If you aren’t properly warned AND prepared, it COULD ruin your entire wedding day.

Is it happening here?

Yes, and starting to be an issue all over the country. I have SEEN “vendor-photographers” at weddings and had to deal with them in a nice and gentle way. SO FAR, they are cooperative, but in some parts of the country, not so much.

So what might happen if  you did sign a contract with another vendor and they interfere with your HIRED photographer?

In some cases, your photographer MAY include a clause in their contract that allows them to basically LEAVE if you did indeed allow these “vendor-photographers” to show up and create havoc. Add to it, YOU are out what you paid and you may get no images either! These “vendor-photographers” are basically “interfering” with the photographers ability to fulfill the Contract WITH YOU and photographer’s ability to perform their job. It’s call tortious interference and is actionable in the courts.

So you decide to “sue” your photographer in court! You can bet that the legal battle is going to be uphill and the chances are, you lose and your photographer will sue the “vendor-photographer” for being there and you for violating the “exclusivity’ you gave your photographer. In the link to the article below, you can read what happened to ONE “vendor-photographer” who made a real stinker of one wedding and how much it cost this “vendor-photographer”. I doubt you want to be party to that.

In closing, I hope you take this seriously and don’t think “it can’t happen to me”. It can. And probably will to someone reading this. Most importantly, HIRE A TRUE, LICENSED and INSURED professional photographer. AND I recommend hiring a PPA Professional. Our commitment to YOU, the client, is foremost in what we do.

We KNOW how to handle these issues and do so to assure you 100% of what we promise.

A very special Thank You to a friend and fellow photographer for pointing this out for all to learn from. If you want to read her entire blog post, you can find it here- http://www.katforder.com/2015/09/02/vendor-photographers-are-a-new-trend-in-event-photography/ .

 

“Mommy, why are you crying?” asked little Molly

Molly, their usually charming 8 year old, pigtails and blue eyes always gleaming rays of sunshine in everyone’s life walked into the room. “Mommy, why are you crying?” she sadly asked.

Three tear soaked tissues laid on the bed. Andrea had spent the last 20 minutes in tears.

“These are my pictures from the day your Daddy and I got married Molly. I always cry when I see this”. Continue reading ““Mommy, why are you crying?” asked little Molly”

10 Things Your “Cheap” Wedding Photographer Won’t Tell You

The $600 wedding photographer is EXPENSIVE, right?

You only need them for a “couple of hours” to give you a “few pictures” to remember your wedding day. So that $150 an hour is a lot of money for those four hours and honestly, you wish you could make that kind of dough. They are only “snapping a few pictures” and you only want a “disc of images”, right?

So you are opting for one of two things for your wedding photographs: Continue reading “10 Things Your “Cheap” Wedding Photographer Won’t Tell You”

Why Printing from Your Photographers Digital Images Can Result in Disappointment

Walk into one of your local photographers studios and look around. See the marvelous works of art they have displayed. Even take a tour of a local gallery where various photographers have displays. Visit your local photography guilds or associations when they are having print competitions.

Can you see images in printed forms that literally jump off the paper at you? Continue reading “Why Printing from Your Photographers Digital Images Can Result in Disappointment”

Professional Photography- Do you want to buy my Cow or my Butter?

Family Photography Jacksonville, Fl
Family Photography Jacksonville, Fl

I was with a friend the other day and his wife called him, and the conversation went like this-

“Honey, can you stop by the store and get a gallon of milk? We also need some butter and a pack of cheese for the kids lunches. I would like to make that cream cheese pound cake you love, so get a pack of that too while your there.”

Okay, Mike, NOW I know you have gone completely off the deep end here. What in the WORLD does that have to do with “professional photography”? Continue reading “Professional Photography- Do you want to buy my Cow or my Butter?”

The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures in 10 Years- Part II

Often I wonder if “really important people” read what I write. I still don’t know and honestly, it doesn’t matter.

Just today I stumbled on another article that said basically what Part 1 of my “The Most Photographed Generation Will Have No Pictures” article stated and from no less that a Google Founder and Big Boss what is in charge. The article appeared in several British publications. The article I read was in the The Telegraph.

Basically, the same dangers were reiterated of not printing your photographs- technology is exponentially changing today so fast that the risk of losing everything digital is going to be something you will not consider until it’s too late.

Warning that the 21st century could become a second “Dark Ages” because so much data is now kept in digital format, he said that future generations would struggle to understand our society because technology is advancing so quickly that old files will be inaccessible.

Validation can be a good thing when your thoughts are echoed from someone far more in touch with digital development that I am. 10 years might be too short a time frame.

Print your photographs. Preserve them for future generations to see what we enjoyed today, lived today, cried today, and laughed today over.

They might love to actually know what “we” were all about in those “old fashioned” days of doing things the hard way.

Now That You are Engaged, What is Next?

It is a known and proven fact that more Engagements occur between Christmas and Valentines day than any other time of the year. If you are one of those couples, then without a doubt, it probably means a wedding is in your life in a few short months. This can be one of the most exciting times of a couples life as well as one of the most confusing one at the same time.

The task of planning everything from soup to nuts, flowers to dresses, tuxes to garter will seem simple enough, but the countless mistakes and frustrations are about to begin and in order to help couples get started, let’s examine where to begin so you start off on the right foot for your wedding day! Continue reading “Now That You are Engaged, What is Next?”

A Brides Biggest Nightmare- “Cheap” Wedding Photography

As I speak with couples who are planning their wedding, I find that more and more are no longer interested in print products, albums, or any other form of viewing their photographs other than “digital files”. This could perhaps be the biggest mistake they make.

Basically, they want to take their files, with print rights, and go down to their local 1-hour Photo store and print their own photos, or order a photo book from an online book maker, or simply keep them for later viewing on their computers.

So let’s examine each method carefully and see if these are viable options or perhaps the biggest mistake you can avoid.

First, digital files are great. They take up whatever space that a DVD, CD or USB thumb drive offers and can be stored in a small area of your home. However, there are drawbacks you should consider before you settle for just digital files or using your 1-hour photo printers to preserve your wedding day memories.

Today, you can’t find an Apple I-Mac or a Toshiba laptop that offers an optical drive as standard equipment. Getting your photos on DVD is going to soon be obsolete since few computer makers are offering drives capable of burning or viewing DVD’s or CD’s. Then you have the USB drives. Few (or none) of your Apple tablets have USB ports and a few of the lower end I-Macs don’t have them either. Everything has become “Cloud based” for storage. Microsoft, Adobe, and a few other software companies are almost totally cloud based for access to their products. And, if technology continues to progress, even your USB drive or the “cloud” will be obsolete as well.

Now, you COULD store them on your hard drive, but even that isn’t totally preserving your wedding photos. Drives break and crash. Photos and other files get lost or corrupt and many a person has discovered all too late what happens when you have to buy a new computer to replace that broken one or to upgrade to the latest and faster machine.

Now, let’s say you take your digital files down to your local Walmart and print your own photos. Let’s look at what they offer for their $2 8×10 or their $.29 4×6. There are 2 ways to “print” your photos. The one you are probably most familiar with is what comes out of your inkjet printer. They use “photo” paper- which really isn’t true photo paper, but a treated paper that drys the ink really fast- and you get an image that may or may not look ok. Some, if not most, of your 1-hour labs use a similar method to produce your prints. It’s cheap, fast, and subject to the same issues all ink based photos offer. They have a VERY short “shelf life” and will only last about 1-5 years before they start to face, discolor, or become pretty much useless. Even the BEST inks and paper combinations will only last you 6-7 years at the very best. Add to it, any moisture or water completely renders the photograph useless.

So what do Professional level labs that your photographer is selling for $50 or more offer? A whole lot more than you realize.

Pro level labs only deal with professional photographers. Their methods of producing prints does NOT involve inks or pigments, but instead use real light sensitive photographic paper that is “developed” through a chemical process. They are usually coated to protect from UV light deterioration, and have a shelf life of 100 years or more. The paper is much heavier, is not subject to moisture damage, ink deterioration, and unless you set fire to them, are always there. Pretty much, these prints are made the way prints were done during the “old days” of film and paper. I know I have prints I made 30 years ago with film and paper and there is no loss of quality or fading or any other “color changes” from the first day they were made. These are truly archival photographs and will last you until your children are ready to get married and have your grand children. Even though “digital files” are great, none of the “alternative” methods of photographic preservation is better than the “old school” method of photographic prints using Professional labs.

Let me also add that Walmart doesn’t have a clue what my prints are supposed to look like, NOR do they really care. They almost always color correct my images, can produce inferior results, and you will come back to me with complaints that my photos have something wrong with them. The fact is, my photos are perfectly fine and with my Professional Labs, I can guarantee the exact photograph I see on my screen when I edit them- colors, effects, resolution, and any other factor that influences image quality- will be produced exactly when you purchase from me.

The same holds true with Professionally produced album products. Basically there are 2 ways to produce albums or photobooks. You can get “press printed” products really “cheap” and you get really CHEAP books. Again, these are ink based books and can and do fade and discolor over time. Your true Professional photographer will use their Professional level book binders and album binders that use photographic paper and NOT “press printed” pages for your photographs and will last you forever. The bindings and covers are not going to fall apart in 10 years either.

Over the years, I have seen so many so called “experts” give couples the advise that “professional photographers are ripping you off” by charging as much as we have to charge in order to “make a living”. Perhaps you can’t understand that $50 8×10 print price when you can get one at Walmart for $2 or less. The fact is, these “experts” are being paid a salary to tell you how to do things rather than actually DOING the thing and making a living at it that they are telling you to do! Would you listen to an “expert” tell you how to drive a Mercedes Benz if they were driving a 1986 Ford Escort?

So let’s examine the “real” income of that so called “cheapo” photographer and WHY they aren’t going to be photographing weddings for very long.

Let’s say you find a “photographer” who offers to do your wedding for $400, provides you with digital images, and print rights and sends you on your merry way! The rest is totally up to you as to prints, albums, etc. First of all, this “photographer” is NOT going to be around in 2-3 years simply because they are going to soon discover that they are making around $3 per hour for their time. Let me explain.

At any wedding I photograph, I can pretty well figure that I take between 100-150 photos per hour. A 5 hour wedding means I have 500-700 photos from which I must edit and compile into your image files. Yes, I reject a LOT of them-upwards of 1/3 of them- which will leave me with a solid 350-400 images from which to work. Rejected photos could be due to any number of issues like exposure off, people blink, distractions in the background or something else that just isn’t making it a good photograph. But because I have multiple images, I have a LOT to make a great visual story of your wedding day.

From there, let’s say I spend 15-20 minutes doing editing per photograph. This includes correcting exposure to perfection, color correction for proper skin tones, adding enhancements to make the colors rich and full and sharpening the images for great prints. Perhaps I have to take the photos into Photoshop to remove a distraction or edit a blemish from a brides skin. All of that is done to every photograph. 400 photos times 15 minutes average. That is a total time of 100 hours of editing time. Now, since I shoot in what is knows as “camera RAW”, each of those files must be first converted to jpeg format, have the proper color space embedded for the Pro labs to reproduce the images correctly without color correction, and then store those files on disk. I also have to upload those to my website which takes roughly 5-8 hours depending on the number of images. So assuming I don’t have to “babysit” the upload process, that adds another 2-3 hours of time to the workflow. So just in time alone to photograph your wedding, do the editing, and uploading to the website, that is roughly 105-110 hours of work I have actually done to your wedding images. Now take those hours and divide that into the $400 you paid that “cheap” photographer- he is making LESS than $4 per hour. Let me ask you- would YOU work at your job for less than $4 per hour? So why should I have to? And how long before your “cheapo” photographer figures out that he/she is making literally nothing for their photography?

Now, from that $400, I have to pay for my website hosting, the cost of a DVD, insurance, taxes, cameras, SD cards, software, computers, additional hard drives for archiving and back up of your images, online backup of your images, gas for the car, the car insurance, car payment, other lighting equipment I use to photograph your wedding, the salary of an assistant the day of your wedding, and any repair costs or replacement costs associated with having a viable, Professional photography business. IF I offer you prints for $2 apiece, like your “Walmarts” do, and that is my cost of those prints, I have actually spent more to get you prints than I would make selling them at their price. Unless I price my prints at a rate that keeps my doors open and my business viable, pretty soon, I will be like the REST of the “cheapo” photographers you are thinking about hiring- OUT OF BUSINESS FAST. Or sooner.

As Professional photographers, we are NOT out to “rip you off”, but to provide you something you can’t get from the “cheapo” photographers. We offer an experience that is fantastic from start to finish with products that we know will exceed your expectations and provide you the lifetime of memories we promise to provide. You have your family to feed, provide a home for, and to offer the nice things in life you want to have. Shouldn’t I have the same desires and ability to provide MY family the same things? Sure, many of us would LOVE to provide you great wedding photographs and would do it “free” simply because we love what we are able to create for other people. But reality sets in and soon enough, we MUST charge enough to pay the overhead and expenses of keeping our business viable and to provide for OUR family and income needs. I don’t think there are very many of you who would get up in the morning and head off to your job and tell your employer you are now working for “free” since you love doing what you do.

So what is the “bottom line” here? First, don’t mistakenly believe that you having your digital files is the all encompassing solution for your wedding photography. Technology changes and the day will come where you aren’t going to have photographs you can view. Don’t think because you have “print rights” and will get prints from Walmart is the solution either. Chances are, you won’t have much to see in 5-10 years. Nor will that $59 photobook be around for your grand kids to see before their wedding day.

But most of all, please don’t think that we are trying to “rip you off” by asking for $2500-3000 to photograph your wedding and provide you with images you will love and with products that will last you forever. We are no different than you are and want to provide for our families with a decent income that can provide the same things in life you desire. But more important, we really WANT you to come back to us over the years as your family grows, your kids graduate, and your grand kids start coming. And if we aren’t “there” because we just couldn’t make it doing “cheapo” photography, we won’t be around should you need access to your images in 5-10 years due to an unfortunate accident. But perhaps the “thing” we want to do more than anything is to see you really enjoy and cherish the photographs we have made for you and to see them displayed proudly for you and your family to value as keepsakes forever.

Hire a professional and budget accordingly. I have never had a couple tell me how much they regretted doing so, but I sure have had a ton of people tell me how bad their photographs are that went the “cheapo photography” route!