The Informed Client: Copyright Release vs. Print Release


If someone asked me what is the number one question that I get as a photographer, it would be this:

"Can I get/Do you give/How do I get the copyrights to all images?"

My answer to this question is always that I do not give copyrights, but I do give a print release to purchased digital files that allows you to print up to an 8x10 photo. Now, each photographer will have a different anwer to the question based on how they have decided they are going to run their business -- that is totally a personal choice on the part of the photographer.

That being said, I think the photog-language can sometimes be confusing so I am here to help!  So here are the differences between the two releases and why a print release is the mindful choice.


  • This document releases the copyright from the photographer to the client.  At the moment of transfer the copyright no longer belongs to the Photographer, he/she no longer owns the photograph.

  • In cases where copyright has been handed over, the Photographer can technically never use the photographs without the permission of the client.


  This means you cannot use the photo for marketing purposes, portfolio purposes or any other means without getting permission.

Clients:    Chances are you are wanting the photo release so that you have the ability to add to your own photo album, place on social media etc. This can be acheived with a print release and still gives the photographer the right to build their portfolio and include your photos in part of their budding collection.


  • This document gives the client the ability to print photos for personal use, within the clauses of the release.

  • In cases where a print release is given, the Photographer retains ownership of the photos and has the rights to use for market, portfolio or other.

  • Allows photos to be used by both parties.


  Giving a print release has many benefits.

- Client cannot edit the photograph at all (any edits good or bad will be connected with your name)

- Photograph cannot be used for monetary gain by client (commercial or other)

- The photograph still belongs to you, but your client is still getting what they want.


   Why does this benefit you also?

- Unlimited printing of your photo session*.

- Posting of files on your social media.

- Digital file to keep forever.

*Check your photographer's release policy. Most established photographers will only release digital files up to a specific size. This is done to ensure that you get the best, highest quality images that are large scale. Usually consumer-available labs have a capability to print large format, but they spend little to no time reviewing their product, or checking that the output is the best it can be for that image. 

I hope this has helped clear up any confusion on the difference between a Print Release vs. Copyright Release! :)

It’s your love story. Brag a little.™

Bethany Melvin Photography is a Sioux Falls, SD wedding photographer who specializes in capturing love stories. Bethany Melvin Photography is based in the Midwest, but is available nationwide and for destination weddings. Have a question or want more information on booking? Contact Bethany today at or visit