Photo Releases and How They Benefit You

One of the top questions I get from my clients and brides is about a photo release. This is mostly because I include it as an item you’ll receive for paying for one of my services and most people haven’t heard of what it is before. Basically, a photo release extends you (the paying client) the right to use/print the images from your session for your personal use. The key here is PERSONAL USE. Copyright and print releases are in the same family, but vastly different.

As most of you know, copyright means legally owning something. It’s the exclusive legal right given to the owner. So, as a photographer, every photo that I snap is legally, exclusively mine and anyone who wants to use it without my permission can run into some legal trouble. I hope to never deal with that, but it does happen.

While I, the photographer, will always own the copyright to all images I take*, a print release extends the client a portion of those rights. It’s exactly what the words mean: print release. It’s allowing the client to print images from that specific session for personal use while preserving the rights I have as the photographer.

What do you mean by personal use?

Basically, you can’t use your photos to sell anything. That would be commercial use. Let’s say you’re wanting to sell some new perfume fragrance and you loved a dreamy photo I took on your wedding day - you legally cannot use that photo on that billboard you’re about to put up.

What you can do is print that photo for your home, your office, as thank you cards, in photo books, etc. A print release is allowing you to enjoy the photos that you received in print form.

When will I need a print release?

Once you receive your digital files and you’re ready to go print them off, most places you’ll go to print (including CVS and Walgreens) can recognize a professional photo. I won’t get into the specifics, but basically our digital world is amazing. Those printers can refuse printing those images until you provide them with that print release you received. It protects you (and the printer) from legal trouble.


How does a print release benefit you as a client?

  • You can print an unlimited amount of that one weird face Michael is making
  • Social media posting is fair game!
  • You get to keep that digital file forever
  • You can send personalized Christmas or Thank You cards

How does it benefit me as a photographer?

  • Preserves the integrity of my work
  • Prevents clients from violating my work
  • Prevents clients from using my images commercially without written permission
  • Contain full ownership of the image WHILE making the client happy - the permission to print and use!



A print release is given only to the name on the release itself. That does not automatically give Aunt Susie the right to do what she wants with the images. That is called stealing and could lead to a lot of legal trouble. Even if Aunt Susie is in the photo, the photographer still owns the photo and has only extended the client the print release. For a majority of my services, you receive an online gallery to share with the world. If Aunt Susie really wants that one photo, she can purchase the digital file from that gallery, or just merely order that 8x10 she was hoping for.


I hope I didn’t make print releases sound too daunting. They definitely benefit everyone! Ready to book your session and get all these benefits?


*Unless the photographer who owns the copyright signs legal papers transferring all ownership to someone else.