There is a problem which seems to get worse every year, and that is what are called vendor-photographers. Having photographs the service a vendor provides at a wedding is nothing out of the ordinary. In fact, at this point it has become quite common. Unfortunately, some vendors have decided it’s okay to go above and beyond their services and document the entire wedding day (or at least large portions of it) for their own marketing purposes. Some even use the images to market their own photography service!
What you need to know:
- Your wedding is (likely) a private event. That means you, as the host, have ultimate legal power over who takes photographs at your wedding. This includes guests if you really want to go that far, but mostly it’s applicable to vendors. You and your photographer have entered into a contract where you are providing your photographer the rights to attend your private event and capture photographs. You don’t have this control in public places such as a public beach or a city park, but in most cases, you have complete control as the event host.
- Other vendors are illegally poaching my art. What does that mean? Aren’t you just snapping pictures? No. I am posing people, using lighting and background to create a piece of art for you. Someone who happens to grab a snapshot of my intellectual property (the poses, the environment, the composition, etc.) are pretty much okay doing it so long as it is not for marketable gain. Just because they snap the picture on their camera, they do not have copyright to that work of art. It would be like me painting a copy of the Mona Lisa and saying I have the copyright to that property because it was my paint and my canvas. When a vendor takes a picture of my work, and puts it on their own social media to promote themselves, they are actively engaging in theft.
- They are confusing your guests. What if Aunt Margie sees someone take a picture of her and her siblings who never see each other, and it was actually the DJ walking around with professional camera equipment? She’s going to think I took that, or at least, one of my team members did. She’s going to think she can get that picture from me, and when she doesn’t see it in your online gallery she’s going to be very confused. She might even be upset with me for “deleting” such an important picture, even though it is one that I never took. Your guests might get asked to take a picture that I just took at their table, by someone not with my team who might act unprofessionally. That reflects badly on me, even though I had nothing to do with it.
- They are photobombing my pictures. While being as tall as I am affords me a pretty good position and angle, there are moments where a vendor-photographer gets in the way. They might use a flash which messes up my shot. They might actually be in the photographs that I am being paid to take of you and your guests. I have had some be so brazen as to push me aside (unbelievable as it may seem) to try and get a shot that has nothing to do with the service I provide.
- They are diminishing your experience. When I finish the extensive post-processing of your images and share them with you, that “wow” factor can potentially be diminished by them throwing up a bunch of auto-generated .jpg images with no editing, into their social media platforms, a day or two after the wedding. They are putting their own marketing needs above your experience.
- They are violating the privacy of your guests. You sign a model release with me, and you and your guests all know I am there to take photographs. They do so knowing that the images I take are of the highest quality and will make them look good. They know I act professionally and with courtesy, and will quickly remove any image from marketing purposes as soon as it is requested. Vendor-photographers are highly unlikely to establish this type of relationship of expectation. They are marketing their services with unauthorized images of you and your guests.
What can you do? Well, communicate with your other vendors and let them know that you have an exclusivity clause with me. Let them know as well that there is a definite line which if crossed, I will defend politely but firmly. Read their contract as well, to ensure they do not have any clauses permitting them to photograph your event. If they do, insist they be removed. If you allow another vendor to professionally photograph your event, you will actually be in breach of your contract with me. I am in favor of vendors having a few shots of their service for their marketing purposes, and I share my own photographs freely with them. Be aware that if another vendor is acting egregiously enough in this regard, I will assert my rights as a professional. If they persist, I will have to involve you. I don’t ever want to have to bring something like that to your attention on your wedding day, but rest assured, if I do it is because I have exhausted all other means.