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  • Writer's pictureNina Bashaw

Copyrights, Usage Rights, and Print Rights, what are the differences?

Today I am writing a blog posts on the differences between print rights, usage rights and copyrights and why professional photographers do not give their clients copyrights to their images. Here is why it is so important to fully understand the difference and why this is written into your contract!

If you're asking your photographer if copyrights are included in their wedding packages you are not the first so believe me you are not offending us when you ask this question. Some of my fellow Tampa Bay wedding photographers and I have talked about this very subject several times and we have all noticed a running theme as to why clients ask this very question; they aren’t even sure what they are asking for. So I wanted to write a blog post giving bride and grooms, senior portrait and headshot clients a simple and clear explanation as to what the difference is between print rights, usage rights, and copyrights are. As well as explain why I do not give my clients copyrights. I hope you find this blog post helpful!


Owning the copyright to an image allows the photographer to protect their photos from being used by third parties without their permission, and for the photographer to use the images for marking their business. ( online, website, social media, and any print form such as prints, albums, canvas, etc. )

You will find that it is industry standard for portrait and wedding photographers to keep the copyright to their photos and to not give their clients any sort of copyright. Clients are allowed to use their images from their portrait session or wedding for personal use only. When the client receives a print release and personal usage rights this means they can print their photos to display in their home, office, etc. A print release does not mean they can sell the images to anyone or edit them in any way, including social media filters. When you hear someone buying the copyright to their photos this is typically done because they are highly private people (public figures such as celebrities or those in politics), and they are spending thousands of dollars to purchase that copyright. If you are concerned about privacy and you are not comfortable with your images being shared on social media or used in marketing materials then bring this up to your photographer and ask them to add a privacy clause to their contract so you can insure your images will not be shared on social media. This will eliminate any need for copyright ownership.

If your heart is set on having copyrights to your photos ask your Sarasota headshot photographer if they sell copyrights. However, be prepared to pay a several extra thousands dollars for the copyrights. A true professional photographer will not give out copyrights without charging a pretty penny, as well as a written and signed permission contract. Professional photographers charge upwards of $50,000 for the copyrights to their images, so make sure you have it in writing if you decide you want to purchase the copyrights.


A print release and personal usage rights allows the client to print the photos from their portrait session or wedding and have them printed from a lab of their own choosing. However, keep in mind that we cannot guarantee that the prints you will get from Wallgreens, Costco, etc will produce high quality prints or look like what you see in your online gallery. As professional photographers spend a great deal of time carefully editing your photos so that they are true to color and the skin tones are natural. When you order your prints from us we use a professional lab that will ensure the colors in a printed image are the same as the digital image.


With usage rights this gives you the ability to share your photos with your friends and family on Facebook, Instagram, etc and that you will give all credits to the photographer by tagging them and mentioning them when posting to social media. However, this does not give you the right to edit the images with any filters or edit them in any way. This also doesn’t mean that you can use them for any financial gain, you can not sell or make a profit off of the photos.


Because it’s my art and I put my heart into every single image I take. If I were to sell copyrights to my photos I would potentially giving someone complete freedom to do whatever they want with my work. They could edit the photos, they could use them in connection with something that is illegal, they could make a profit off of my images, and they could try to take credit for my art and claim it as their own. If all you are wanting is to be able to print your images, give them as gifts, display them in your home and share them on social media, then there is no need for a copyright release and all you need is a print release and usage rights. You will find that portrait and engagement photographers are happy to provide you with both.

Here is the short and sweet of it. Let’s say you buy a song or album from iTunes or a CD from Target. You have a copy of the song and you can listen to it on your computer, iPhone, in your car, while your cleaning our house, you get the point. However, just because you bought that song or CD this does not mean that you can sell that song, make copies of the CD and sell it, or try to claim it as your own. Another example is if you bought a custom painting from an artist. Yes you “own” that painting because you paid them for a service and you walked away with a tangible product. You are allowed to hang that piece of fine art in your home but that doesn’t not mean that you can claim that painting as your work or give you the right to sell that painting to a third party for profit. The same applies with your photos from your wedding or lifestyle headshot session, you can display them in your home, give them as gifts to your friends and family ( prints, albums, canvas etc ) and share them on social media. You can’t not sell those images or claim them as your own work with out a legal copyright release.

If you are a small business owner here in St. Petersburg, Florida and are looking for a professional photographer to take some personal branding photos for your business or if you are a bride and groom planning a wedding send me a message and I'll be happy to answer any questions you have! Although I am based out of the Tampa Bay area I travel to Clearwater, St. Pete and Sarasota often. I would be thrilled to be your photographer!

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1 Comment

Apr 08, 2021

What a great and simple explanation of the differences between the three.

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