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The Art of Asking for Photos: How to Improve Communication With Your Photographers

Photo Courtesy Tim Kelly Photography
Photo Courtesy Tim Kelly Photography

Wedding photography is an important part of every couple’s big day, but we also know it’s a key part of your business. Great images that capture your team’s hard work, vision, and talent, is an essential component of your website, so maintaining a strong professional relationship with your photographer is incredibly valuable. Today New Zealand wedding photographers Tim Kelly and Nadine Ellen of Tim Kelly Photography answer a few frequently asked questions about communicating with photographers and the art of asking for photos.


Tim Kelly and Nadine Ellen - web res
Tim (left) and Nadine (right) of Tim Kelly Photography

So how can I get the photographer to let me use their photos?

The best approach is quite simple, ask nicely. Try saying something like “I really love your photography and I would love to feature some of it on my website.” Just being a nice person gets you a long way in this industry. Another great strategy is to be friendly. The wedding industry is all about relationships. Establishing good relationships with other vendors is good for business, and good photographers know this too. Many photographers are happy to provide other vendors with images, especially if they have a good relationship with that vendor already.

If you don’t already have a relationship with a photographer that will be photographing one of your weddings, why not send them an email. Email the photographer before the wedding and let them know that you’re excited to be working with them. Don’t underestimate the power of being friendly. You would be surprised how many people in the wedding industry are not really people-people. So differentiating yourself by being a nice, friendly, and accommodating person will get you a long way.

Should I tell the photographer that they will get great exposure if I use the photos?

No. Being told “you should give me your product for free because it will give you great exposure,” is so common it has become a joke amongst wedding photographers. If the place you are going to be featuring the photographers work will give them lots of exposure, the photographer will probably already know that without needing to be told.

Is it offensive to ask for images without the photographer’s watermark?

Most blogs and magazines don’t accept images that are watermarked. If the photographer has ever been featured in a magazine or blog, it’s likely that they have been asked to provide watermark free images. So personally we don’t think it’s offensive to ask for images that are watermark free, as long as you do so politely.

Some photographers watermark their images because they are worried their images won’t clearly be credited to them. If you do ask for watermark free images, we would suggest making it clear to the photographer that their work will be clearly credited and linked to them. There will still be some photographers who insist on watermarking their images even if you ask nicely. If this is the case with a photographer you are working with, we recommend you respect their decision and move on.

Photo Courtesy Tim Kelly Photography

When should I ask for the photos?

On a wedding day we often have vendors approach us and ask if we can send them a copy of the photos. My memory is unreliable at best of times and it is usually getting stretched to its limits during the busyness of a wedding day. There is a good chance that we won’t remember which vendor ask us for a copy of the photos. Our approach is to give the vendors our card and ask them to email us about it.

After a wedding a photographer can take anywhere from a week (if they’re crazy efficient) to a month or more to finish editing the photos. For us, the best time for people to ask us for a copy of the photos is once we have finished editing them. This way we can email through the photos straight away and there is much less potential of our memory failing on us.

The photographer said they would send me photographs, but they still haven’t sent them. What is the best way to follow-up?

This is a common problem in business and in everyday life. Someone has promised to deliver something… but it has never shown up. The best way to follow-up is of course, to do so politely. Unless you have purchased the right to use the images, the photographer is doing you a favour so proceed with that in mind.

Remember that the photographer will need enough time following the wedding to fully finish the photos before they will be able to send them to you. Many photographers will also want to provide the couple with the photos first.

Taking those points into account, the easiest way to follow-up with the photographer is to just send them a friendly email reminder. You may have to send more than one follow up email reminder if the photographers schedule is hectic or their memory unreliable. This will always be a delicate balance between reminding the person you’re still waiting for them to do something and not being overly annoying about it at the same time. This process may be a little easier if you have already established a good relationship with the photographer.

Photo Courtesy Tim Kelly Photography

What should I do if a photographer wants me to pay to use the photos?

Some photographers do want other vendors to pay to use their images. If a photographer you have worked with wants you to pay to use the images our suggestion is to either 1) pay to use the images or 2) politely decline the offer and move on.You can’t force a photographer to let you use their images which they hold the copyright to. It’s probably not worth starting a fight with the photographer to try and get the images for free, as that could end up damaging the reputation of your own business. In this industry word of mouth is king, so avoiding getting into arguments with other vendors is a very good idea.

And remember, if the photographer (or any other vendor for that matter) does something you don’t like, you don’t have to recommend them to any of your couples in the future. So instead of getting in an argument with a vendor, you could just never recommend them again.

The couple said I could use the photos, so what’s the problem?

Most wedding photographers will have a contract with each couple that states the photographer retains the copyright of the photos. Photographers usually give the couple the right to use the photographs for any personal non-commercial use. Of course photographers can have different contractual arrangements with their couples but this is the most common arrangement.

The easiest and safest way to use a photographers images, is to ask for permission from the photographer first. Getting clear permission in written form (email) is also recommended to avoid any potential miscommunication.

Tim Kelly and Nadine Ellen-3
Photo Courtesy Tim Kelly Photography

I have a contract with the couple that says I will be able to use the photos. So the photographer has to provide me with the photos right?

If the copyright to the images is held by the photographer (which is the most common situation), image use will have to be agreed with the photographer. It does not matter what your contract with the couple says, because the couple is not the copyright holder and does not have the right to distribute the images for commercial or business use.

Why has the photographer only sent me some of the photos from the wedding?

We send vendors a selection of photos from the wedding, usually somewhere between 30 to 100 images. That is also around about the number of images that blogs and magazines ask for when they want to feature a wedding. Choosing a selection of images lets us have some control over what photographs are used to represent our work.

Most importantly of course, the photographs we take on a wedding day are for the couple. We only provide the full collection of wedding photos to the couple. It is then up to them which friends and family they share the images with. Weddings are personal and wedding photos are personal too, and as wedding vendors we need to be respectful of that.

Photo Courtesy Tim Kelly Photography

Any extra tips for happy relationships with photographers?

Apart from being friendly and always seeking the photographer’s permission before using their work, we also recommend you always credit the photographer when you use their images.

Every time you use their image, credit them for their work. If you post a photographer’s image on Instagram or Facebook, then tag them. If you post some photos on your blog, then add a link to the photographer. It’s super easy and we really appreciate it. If the photographer has given you the photographs for free, it is an easy way to give something small back.

So over all, just be a nice person?

Yep. It really is very simple, be friendly, be respectful, ask for permission and give credit where credit is due. That’s it. Do that and you’re off to a mighty good start.

Tim and Nadine will begin an international tour next summer (starting June 2016) and bookings are still available. For more information contact tim@timkellyphotography.com.

About the Author

Tim Kelly & Nadine Ellen
Tim Kelly & Nadine Ellen

Tim and Nadine are international wedding photographers based in Wellington, New Zealand. Their belief in honest, authentic, and beautiful storytelling is evident in their stunning images from weddings and adventures from around the world. See more of their work at www.timkellyphotography.com.

One thought on “The Art of Asking for Photos: How to Improve Communication With Your Photographers”

  1. Great article, thanks Tim and Nadine! The last question is my favorite. “…just be a nice person?” Photographers are people too, right? 🙂

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