What Do A Bride & Groom Need To Know About Copyright When Booking A Wedding Photographer?

The majority of planning a wedding is pretty fun. It’s about playing dress-ups, cake tastings, and going down the rabbit hole known as Pinterest look at pretty wedding photos for inspiration, but there’s a serious side too.

For every wedding supplier you hire, there’s likely to be a contract or some form of written agreement. While not the fun part of planning a wedding, it is important.

Every couple should be on top of protecting themselves and their wedding day by educating themselves on the legalities behind the various services they engage for their wedding.


Today we are looking to educate couples on the basics of copyright and wedding photography, and what that means in terms of the wedding photography contract. 

Firstly, the copyright laws in Australia are different for commercial use and domestic use. Commercial Use is when a business uses the photos to derive income from the advertising. Domestic Use is for personal use and good examples of this are family portrait photography and wedding photography where the client uses the photos for their own use either by printing photos and/or albums for themselves or their family. 

An extract from the Australian Copyright Council Photographers & Copyright Information Sheet G011v18 dated December 2014:

For photos taken on or after 30 July 1998, the general rule on ownership depends on the purpose for which the photographs were taken:
• if the photos were taken for “private or domestic purposes” (such as family portraits, or wedding photos), the first owner of copyright in them is the client, unless the photographer and client agree otherwise; however
• if they were taken for any other purpose (e.g. commercial shots), the photographer will be the first owner of copyright, unless the photographer and client agree otherwise.

A good point to make here too is, that should other wedding suppliers such as the hairstylists, makeup artist, florist, venue, etc want copies of your wedding photos, it is best to direct them to the photographer to avoid getting in trouble for being in breach of the contract or agreement which is breaking the law.

Depending on what is stated in your contract, you might be in breach of the contract by giving the other suppliers copies of the wedding photos. You see, when the other suppliers are using the photographer’s wedding photos, that actually falls under commercial use. While many photographers are happy to provide the other suppliers with low-resolution images that demonstrate their work for social media, if they want high-resolution images for advertising purposes then that’s another matter altogether. Its the discretion of the photographer whether they charge the supplier for a commercial image license to use the image/s for advertising because in that situation they will be making money as a result of the advertisement so the photographer should be entitled to some form of compensation as well.



Who owns copyright of the wedding photographs according to the laws in Australia?

If you are a couple getting married in Australia, the copyright law automatically assigns copyright to you and not the photographer. However, most professional photographers will have their clients sign a contract that reassigns the copyright to the photographer. Now let’s be very clear, this is not the photographer being shady or deceptive in anyway. It’s simply to protect their work, the photographs in this case, that they created.

Since the digital revolution began and introduction of social media, the best way photographers can bring in work is through sharing images online ie. Facebook and Instagram so they need to retain copyright ownership in order to share the images online. It’s just a fact of doing business in today’s climate if their photography business is to survive in the long term. 

My point is, don’t be too concerned if your photographer asks you to assign the copyright to them, it’s standard practice in the portrait and wedding photography industry. Just keep in mind they do need to verbally explain to you they are transferring the copyright to the photographer so you understand what they are having you sign – plus it also must be stipulated in the contract that the copyright is being “reassigned” or “transferred”. 

If you still have objections against signing the copyright over to the photographer, maybe you don’t want to give them permission to use your photos on their website or social media, you can always decline to sign the contract or make modifications to the contract. Bear in mind though that because photographers rely on images from the weddings they photograph to bring in more work/couples, which is their livelihood, they may not being willing to budge on this point. 

This could leave you in the position that your first-choice of a wedding photographer will pass on shooting your wedding, or you might have to pay a fee for a solicitor to amend the contract, or you might be able to come to an arrangement where the photographer can share a handful of images from your wedding photo collection that you approve. 

At the end of the day, as a couple, you have to be happy with your decision. Our advice is its always best to have an open conversation with your wedding photographer about copyright. If it’s just a case of you not wanting your images online for whatever reason, and its common for people in law enforcement and the military for security reasons to require this type of privacy, that I’m sure your wedding photographer would be willing to work with you and forgo sharing images online and copyright.



Here are some general guidelines before signing any contract :

  • Read your contract, twice if not three times! If there is something you don’t understand, don’t hesitate to contact your provider to explain. If still in doubt, engage a solicitor to provide you with legal advice. Don’t sign the contract until you are totally confident in the terms and conditions set out in the contract.
  • Read Between The Lines. Make sure everything included in the package or quotation for the services or products you are purchasing is detailed in full in the contract as well as the total price is accurate on your contract. Don’t sign the contract until all the details are listed on the contract. You don’t want to be surprised with any extra charges because you didn’t read the fine print.
  • Review The Cancelation Policy. While you are most likely never going to have to refer to this clause in the contract, its best to understand what the outcome would be should the worst-case-scenario occur and you have to cancel your wedding for whatever reason. Most wedding suppliers take a non-refundable booking fee to hold your date. Also depending on how close to the wedding date you cancel, you may lose out on more money than just your booking fee so its best to know what the cancelation policy is and if there is a cancellation fee.
  • Understanding The Payment Terms. Pay attention to the payment terms as every supplier will have different payment terms. Basically all wedding suppliers require the total amount owing to be paid in full before the wedding date. Some offer installment options while others will require the balance X days before the wedding date. Also, some suppliers may not accept credit cards so also make sure the supplier accepts credit card payments if you plan on popping the charges on your credit card.

We hope we have cleared up what copyright means when it comes to your wedding photos.