|This is not a studio photograph, |
it was taken by a proud father who sneaked into the Bride's room before the ceremony
Our daughter was married a few months ago. This is the season to start thinking about using some of the wedding photographs for gifts, Christmas Cards and calendars. Usually we print photos at home on our home printer with premium photography paper, but when there is a large number of prints we send them to a local store to be picked up. Sometimes we send photographs via an online service to family in Spain or Puerto Rico to be picked up at their local discount store or pharmacy. (I’m not going to use store names here)
Before I go on with my story, I just want to mention that my husband is not a professional photographer, but he is a prize winning amateur.
We hired a professional photographer for our daughter’s wedding. Many people do, and nowadays they are given a disk with all the images instead of the old fashioned wedding album of photographs like we received at our own wedding thirty years ago. This is standard procedure today. In the contract and at our meetings with the photographer she told us we could do whatever we wanted with the images.
A few days ago we sent 25 photographs taken by both Vincent and the professional photographer to a local chain pharmacy. They called to tell me the photos were ready, but also warned that we could not pick them up until we brought in the copyright release.
This was strange. We had picked up some photographs months ago at another pharmacy chain store without being asked for the copyright release. I didn’t have the paperwork or the original disk, they are with my daughter. I immediately contacted her and asked her for a copy of the release. She found it as a PDF on the disk, and forwarded it to me, and I printed it out to bring to the pharmacy.
Vincent checked the images our daughter had shared with us on a memory stick. None of the professional images had any metadata that identified them as from a studio. None of his images from his pocket digital camera had any metadata that identified them as copyrighted. How did the pharmacy photo clerk know which was which? How did they know that any of them were from a studio?
When Vincent picked up the prints at the pharmacy, with the printed release, he asked the clerk why she had called. She stated that the store policy was to ask for a copyright release only if the photos “appeared” professional. When he asked about his own “home” photos, the store demanded to see the memory card on his camera to see that he had taken them himself, in the correct sequence. This was standard procedure- to make a decision on releasing the photographs based on the clerk’s personal opinion on the photo’s perceived professionalism.
I checked online and found that this was the standard procedure at Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, Kmart and other chain stores with photo services. You can check for yourself.
1. When sharing digital images from a professional photographer, always include the image of the copyright release. It should be the first image on the studio disk. If not, pass out paper copies of the contract or release to all the family members and friends who may want to print those images.
2. Be prepared to show this release to store clerks.
3. Be prepared to defend your own photographs. Clerks are making judgment calls on personal photography if it appears “too professional”. Have your original memory cards with you, showing the sequence of photographs as they were originally taken. A memory stick with an assortment of images out of sequence will be seen as suspect.
4. If you send photographs out of town, out of state, out of the country to be picked up at a store in a relative or friend’s hometown, keep in mind that they might not be able to pick up photo prints that appear “professional” without the release. If they are from your own camera and appear to be “too professional” you may be out of luck. I have no idea how you would proceed to prove they are from a home camera in these cases.
5. These same problems may occur if you are using Shutterfly, Blurb, or any other photo book publisher, or any other photo gift product such as magnets, mugs, Christmas tree ornaments, etc. Be prepared to defend your right to use the images whether they are from a studio or your own camera.
I certainly understand that professional photographers want to protect their images, but I do not defend the rights of store clerks to use their opinions on what constitutes a professional image or not. If the images are copyrighted, that would be included in the metadata. Photographs released to the customer on studio disks under contracts do not appear to have copyrighted information in their metadata. At least that was our experience.
You can find many horror stories online about folks having problems picking up their prints at stores. Just Google “[insert name of store] photo copyright”.
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Copyright (c) 2013, Heather Wilkinson Rojo