so, what exactly IS a “print release?” and furthermore, what are your rights?!

Every session is a new chance for artists like myself to flex those creative muscles in our minds, hearts, and souls. Typically, when I shoot, I tend to know right away as an image is created in camera, the direction I will then take it in photoshop. It’s an exciting process, let me tell you! After a session, I take all the images back to my computer and carefully pick and choose the finest images that the session had to offer, and then I begin the post processing, also known as photoshop work.

Sometimes, I think photography and post processing is much like cooking. Let’s say we’re making lasagna. All of the ingredients are carefully measured, with just a teaspoon of this, and a tablespoon of that. The right amount of cheese, not too much so as to make it a cheesy disaster, but enough to be delicious. The right measure of sauce, enough to add flavor, not so much that it would be soupy. With the right recipe, all of the ingredients come together and before you know it, you created a master piece of which you are beyond proud. Now, let’s say you set that lasagna in front of your family at the dinner table, their eyes big with excitement, their mouths watering, just waiting to dig those forks in. Everything is going smoothly, until someone, some master of destruction, whips out the pepper and the tabasco sauce and defaces that meal that you poured your heart and soul into! The NERVE, The OUTRAGE, The DISREGARD (this is where we put our fists in the air and shake them like an old man) for *YOUR* art, your creation, your delicious, tasty, perfect lasagna. You sit down and sigh, what’s done is done.

Your custom created images are the same as that amazing lasagna. With all the right ingredients, it’s turned into a work of art. A art piece that was given just the right pinch of this and sprinkle of that. Your photograhper creates each image as they would like it to be seen, and then they present it to you, the client. Your artist has a style, brand, and vibe to their imagery and it is how they present themselves to the world and what you probably loved that made you become their client. That being said, after you purchase your digital files from your artist, what exactly are you allowed to do? Are you allowed to add to the recipe to flavor it to your desire? Well, the answer is simple, no.

Yesterday, I had a lovely new client ask if I could crop a few images to an 8×10 format for her from the digital files that came with her session. I so much appreciated her asking because most people are very unclear, even with a release in their hands, as to what they are allowed to do. Before I go further, I will tell you, the one thing that I DO allow, and I don’t know who else does or does not so this only applies to the clients of LKMP, is crop. You absolutely may crop your images, or if you rather, I can do that for you. By cropping, in my opinion, you are not changing my recipe; you are simply adjusting it to meet the size need of your frame. Editing, however, is something altogether different.

With your print release, you are given the rights to print the images that you have, but legally, that is all, unless your print release states otherwise. LKMP clients are allowed to use their images for print related products and web use (e-mail, personal blogs, social media, etc.). What is NOT limited to LKMP, but includes all photographers, is What is NOT limited to LKMP, but includes all photographers, is the fact that the person who creates the image in camera (the photographer) is also the only person who legally owns the image (known as the copyright holder/owner) and is, in turn, the only person who can alter the image, i.e., retouch/edit it. A print release gives you no more permission to alter an image than you have to go into an art gallery and spray paint a historic painting. Sounds crazy, right? It’s true. When you pay $xx to purchase individual digital files, what you are paying for is the right to reprint them, you are not purchasing the copyright of the image. Now, some photographers DO sell a co-copyright, if your photographer has given you a written letter of co-copyright ownership, or full copyright ownership, then you would need to be clear with the artist on exactly what that means.

The purpose of this post isn’t to sound as if I believe that my editing style is the best, or only way to go, but it IS my style, a style which I am hired for and a style that I intend to keep. When you alter an image that I have put time and effort in, you are (of Couse, without intention) sending a message to others (you know, the ones who ask you where you got those awesome portraits) that THIS is what I can and will do for them, when it is not. Mostly, where I’ve come across altered images, has been the Facebook. I want to say, for the record, that the images I am going to post are EXAMPLES THAT I HAVE PERSONALLY CREATED, not images that any client has done, but they are the kind of things I see, not the exact images.

Example One, Scary Contrast and Selective Color:

This "Bad Edits" image was created by ME, just for an example of the style I tend to see.

Notice with this image how yellow and dark the skin is, and how sloppy the selective color region is. I’m sad to say, this is probably the most popular alteration I see done to my creations. Of couse, Black & White Conversions are pretty popular too.

When creating a B&W image, there is not one click application that will work on every image to maximize the detail. B&W images are created much in the same way that color images are created, with a special recipe. When you go to the drug store and use their machine to change your color image to Black and White, you will NOT get the best possible coversion of the image. Here is a sample of a custom BW vs. a Drug Store BW:

This image was NOT created by a client. It was created by ME for the purpose of an example.

So after reading all of this, what is the moral of the story, you ask? The moral is simple, you may not legally alter any photograph unless you are the person who created it in your camera. You may not add text, color fx, or anything else UNLESS you have written permission to do so. If you have written permission to add text to your photos, that means exactly what it says, not any other atleration. I am writing this post on behalf of myself and countless other photographers who create art from the heART only to see them changed into something that does not flow with their brand. This post is not about one client or one specific incident as I’ve seen it done several times, but it is to inform clients of thier rights.

Should you decide that you would like an image altered, contact the artist, I’m sure they would be happy to fulfill your request so that it can be done in a way that stays cohesive with their brand.

Happy Thursday,