Questions/Advice Needed

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Coconut2's picture
Joined: 01/10/07
Posts: 443
Questions/Advice Needed

A wedding planner asked me to do pictures for her of a wedding at a local museum. She wanted me to take pictures of the decor for her website and facebook page. They would be watermarked Stephita Photography and she could use them. Before the event she said she was going to get a sign release from the bride so that I could take pictures of her as well, she already had a photographer so nothing major. I didn't bring my own because she said she would get it signed for me before the wedding. At the wedding her photographer didn't come to the reception, which is where I was doing the decor pictures. The wedding planner said I had full permission to take pictures of whatever I wanted. The bride allowed me to take pictures of her and her husband; first dance, garter toss, cake cut, toast, bouquet toss, and more. After I left, I worked 12 hours, I was text by the wedding planner that the bride gave a verbal okay but not a written okay. I have been pressing to get the final written permission so I can use the photos because I got some really good shoots. Now today they want a cd of all pictures to view and approve before I use because she is a plus size bride and wants to be sure the pictures used flatter her. I would never use anything that wouldn't flatter the bride because it wouldn't flatter my work. This was never a part of the agreement and I'm kicking myself for not having a more concrete signed paper permission. I refuse to give my pictures without a release but they refuse to give a release without pictures. It has escalated into more but I won't get into all of the details. So do I have permission to use pictures or not? Can I at least use pictures of the decor from the wedding planner, pictures with no people or do I need the wedding planners permission for that? This is beyond frustrating. I feel like they are trying to be use me, I did this 100% for free for good experience and exposure, and she is trying to change our verbal agreement. We agreed to decor but it turned into more. I spent the whole day there busting my butt for this when I could of been home with my babies. This is definitely a lesson well learned, all agreements in writing whether free or paid, don't go above and beyond what was agreed because it will not benefit you like originally promised. This wedding planner has definitley put a bad taste in my mouth, I was planning on using her for my wedding but not anymore. Sigh any feedback would be appreciated and be gentle I'm already beyond devastated that 450 pictures and all of those hours can't be used, I have one amazing shot that I really want to use too. On the positive side I'm using this as a learning experience and practice run for the wedding my friends asked me to do this coming weekend. Even though they are very good friends of many years and I'm doing it for free, I'm making them sign a photo release for my own well being.

AmberBella's picture
Joined: 02/15/07
Posts: 1831

Are there e-mails back and forth saying that the bride gave permission?

You should definitely be able to use the decor images....especially if there are any e-mails between you and the planner about you being able to use them. For the really do need some written consent. Again, that consent doesn't have to be a formal contract or release...simple acknowledgement in an e-mail is enough for you to use the images for portfolio purposes. You just can't use the images to sell for stock without official signed releases.

If you just can't get permission any other way, I would give HEAVILY watermarked super small images for the bride to approve. Images no larger than 600 pixels on the longest side and watermarks that go across major body parts and maybe even faces. Also...don't give them all the images...only the ones you want to use. Throw the rest out!!! Sounds like they are trying to get free photography for their reception and that is SO NOT COOL!!!

Alternately, you could offer that they could purchase the un-watermarked printable versions of any images they see. They should definitely not get this for free.

Here is an example of how I would watermark and the actual size I'd give. There is nothing subtle about this and no one would attempt to print these! LOL You can set up Photoshop to run an action for can even do batch actions if you decide to do this for all the photos and try to sell them.

watermarked example by amberbella, on Flickr

I just have to add....any judge worth a salt would see it in the following way if for some reason the wedding planner tried to sue you for using the decor images in your portfolio and for sale as stock. For there to be a contract, both sides needs to be getting something. The wedding planner got to use the photos for her website etc....and you get the same. You were not given any other compensation, so clearly the compensation for your hours and hours of work was that you would have free use of the photos. There is really no other way to look at it. If the wedding planner forbids you to use the photos the contract is void and it becomes illegal for her to use the photos. You could then sue HER for violation of copyright law if she uses them. Because your verbal contract was with the wedding planner and not the bride and groom, I think you'd still need specific permission from them to use any photos that people are in.

You're smart to have a contract especially when working for really good friends. Too many friendships go bad because of business misunderstandings. It's such a tough lesson...but pretty much all of us have had to learn it the hard way. Protect yourself, especially when working for free because people who want something free or cheap usually want and expect way more than people who are willing to pay and understand the value of what they're paying for. When you work for many people take every opportunity to walk all over you. They're only looking out for themselves, so you've definitely got to do the same!

sadieruth's picture
Joined: 06/09/05
Posts: 6205

Amber has offered some GREAT advice. I don't have anymore to offer, but I hate you are dealing with this. I hope you get what you want out of this. Sad

Joined: 10/26/01
Posts: 3448

I don't have anything to add either really, but I wanted to offer a virtual (((hug))) and hope that you can come to some workable agreement in the very near future.

Hang in there!