Can I Use Photographs of My Client’s Wedding to Promote my Wedding Planning Business?

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On this episode of Office Talk, I’m answering a question I receive quite a lot when I speak to event and wedding planners.

You see, since event planners are often busy executing and designing the event, there isn’t something tangible left for them to include in their portfolio. That’s why they rely on photographs to help showcase their work and promote their business and services to others.

So the question becomes….

Is there a way for wedding and event planners to legally require clients to contractually agree to provide them with access to professional images after the wedding? If so, how do they go about asking for permission?

I’m sharing the answer in this week’s Legal Quickie episode!

LISTEN TO THE EPISODE
 
WHAT YOU’LL LEARN IN THIS EPISODE
  • The two types of permission you need to be getting – in writing
  • What is a copyright, and can it be transferred?
  • Two things you can do if you aren’t able to get written permission to use the copyrighted material
RESOURCES WE TALKED ABOUT
REMEMBER…
HERE’S THE TRANSCRIPT FOR THIS EPISODE

[Intro Music] This is Office Talk with Annette Stepanian.

Annette

Hey there, welcome back to another episode. Thank you so much as always for being here.

Now before we dive into this week’s legal quickie, just wanted to check in with you, if you’re listening to this when the episode first aired, we are in the middle of July of 2017. And I don’t know where the year went you guys I honestly, every time I look at my calendar, it kind of freaks me out that the days are passing by so quickly. 

But being that it’s summer, I also get a little nostalgic because I was a complete nerd growing up in that I loved going to summer school. Yeah, other kids wanted to go to summer camp and, you know, sit at home and play Nintendo and video games. But I liked to go to summer school because I loved learning. So that’s what I did every summer between I think junior high and high school, I went to summer school every summer. And in that same spirit, I feel like summer is always a great time to catch up on things and get ahead. So I’m hosting a number of different workshops and master classes and webinars. I’m hosting two different ones next week. The first one is called Law for Designers and it’s geared for folks who are graphic designers, website designers, invitation designers, stationery designers, basically you make stuff look pretty, right. So the masterclass is going to be about 60 minutes. And I’m going to walk you through some of the legal issues you need to be aware of as you are starting and growing your design business. But what’s cool is you also have an opportunity to ask me questions. So once you reserve your seat, you can then email me with your questions. And I’m going to incorporate those into the presentation for you. So if you are a designer or you know somebody who could benefit from this, make sure to pass along that info. And you can learn all about that on my website at annettestepanian.com. 

Also, I’m doing a free webinar for my event and wedding planners. Now, this is a popular webinar that I do, I haven’t done it in a few months. So if you want to grab your seat, come on over to the website, grab your seat, it’s all about the common contract mistakes that new event planners make and how to fix them. So we are going to go through I’m going to highlight some of the major issues they see. And then also offer some solutions for you. So that’s also going to be happening on July 19th and 20th. So make sure to reserve your seat. I hope to see you there. Get ready for summer school, I promise I won’t make you write essays or take pop quizzes. It’s all gonna be fun stuff to help you grow your business.

Okay, so let’s move on to this week’s legal quickie. It actually is a question that came from Victoria, who was a student in the masterclass that I did in June for folks in the wedding industry. And it’s a question that comes up all the time when I do my webinars, or when I speak with folks in the wedding industry, particularly my wedding and event planner friends. And I thought it would make a perfect topic for an episode. So here it goes. This is what Victoria had to ask: “Is there a way for me to legally require my clients to contractually agree to provide me with access to their professional images after their wedding so I may use them for promotional purposes?  Typically, I reach out to the photographers on my own in advance of the wedding to establish a relationship and discuss their policies for vendor access to photo galleries. But I’ve heard of certain photographers not allowing vendors any access to images. In these cases, Iwould like to have the clients share with me directly. But I’m curious if I have a right to do so.”

 This is such a good question because it intersects a lot of different areas of law. So you’ve got your contracts. So she’s wondering, you know, can we contract for this. But then it also involves copyrights, and what that all means and who owns a copyright and an image and all that good stuff. 

Now, we have talked about the issue of copyrights and past episodes. You can check out Episode Five, it was a legal quickie. And the question there was, who really owns a copyright when I’m hired to do work for a client. And that’ll give you a little bit of background about copyrights. But we’ll talk about that a little bit here today as well.

 If you’re not familiar with the wedding industry or wedding planning in general, with a wedding planner, a lot of times what happens is, you know, they are busy executing an event, they are organizing it, they might be designing an event. And oftentimes there’s nothing tangible left for them to put in their portfolio or to show future clients of what kind of work that they are capable of doing. So the photography becomes really important to them. And they want to have those images so they could promote themselves for future work. Totally makes sense. 

But if you’re going to be doing this, if you’re going to be using work that Another photographer his shot, there are two types of permission you need to be getting. And I always love to get all of this stuff in writing, just to cover your booty in the future. 

Now, the first group of people that I want you to get permission from in this case, is the owner of the copyright to those images. A copyright is a right in certain creative work that is original and has certain elements of creativity associated with it. And photography is usually eligible for copyright protection. But what’s cool about copyrights is that copyrights can be transferred. So I can be the person who creates the work, but then I might transfer the copyright to another person. 

So for example, my client. Okay, I might say, I don’t want any rights to this work, you can go ahead and have all the rights for it. Now, you need to find out who owns the copyright to the work to those photographs of the wedding, most often than not, it’s going to be that photographer. If you’re going to use his or her work, you need to get written permission from them, authorizing you to use their work. And why do you have to get permission? Well, the copyright holder in a designated work has the exclusive right to display, to make copies, to license out, to basically utilize that work. So if you do not get permission from the copyright holder, and you go about and start using their work without their permission, in theory, you’re infringing on that copyright. 

So before you use any of their images, always, always get in touch with them like you’re doing, which I really like you’re getting in touch with them, you’re establishing a relationship, understanding what their terms and policies are in terms of using those images, and then just get it in writing. 

Now, if in your example, you’re saying that there are some photographers who do not give you this permission. If the concern is, but I really want to have images of the wedding to put in my portfolio, I would just recommend bringing either your own camera or hiring a photographer who is then going to take pictures on your behalf, and is then going to authorize you to use those images in connection with your marketing or your promotional purposes. 

So as to your question about whether it’s if there’s anything that you could put in your contract with your client, requiring that they give you access to those photos, if the photographer is the copyright holder, then no. You have to just contract directly with the photographer. 

If the client is the copyright holder, then yeah, you could put something in your contract that says that they are going to go ahead and give you that content after the wedding is over. 

But oftentimes at the time you’re booking your services with your client, you’re probably not going to know who the copyright holder is, in those images. And it’s kind of an awkward conversation to have upfront, you know, like – Hey, are you going to be the copyright holder to your wedding images. 

So you might want to have this conversation afterwards, after a photographer has been secured. 

Now remember, I said there were two groups of people that I want you to get permission from when it comes to this topic of using wedding images in connection with marketing and promoting your business. Now, the second group is the clients. Now you’re like, wait a minute, and that you just said I can’t really contract around this? Well, the permission I’m talking about is really like a release authorizing you to use the client’s image or likeness in connection with promoting your business and services. 

So if you’re going to be using images of let’s say, a bride and groom or a couple in connection with your marketing, you do need to get permission from them, authorizing you to do so. I also think that it’s a really great sign of amazing customer service. Because think about it if the shoe was on the other foot. Would you necessarily want your face plastered on somebody else’s business, promoting their business and services? Maybe you do. Maybe you love it, you don’t care, you want your face all over the internet. But for some people, they want to keep their wedding private and personal. And they don’t necessarily want their face or the fact of their wedding to be promoted everywhere. So I think this is a really important conversation to have with your client. And you want to and can include that clause in your client service agreement with that client, just confirming how you’re going to go about handling any photography or any use of any images or their images or their likeness in your marketing.

I hope this has been a helpful A to Victoria’s Q. And I’m going to be talking more about questions like this in that webinar that I said that’s coming up next week all about the common contract mistakes event and wedding planners make and how to fix them. And if you want an an opportunity to have your questions answered, and you are a graphic designer or website designer or a stationery designer or you just make things look pretty, then you can also sign up for that master class called Law for Designers also happening next week. 

Now with that said, my friend, I am going to sign off and get back to work and get back to those goals I’ve set for myself and I hope you are too. I hope you have a fantastic day and I can’t wait to talk to you later.

[Outro Music]