Print Release vs. Copyright the breakdown...

What is a print release? Do I need copyrights? Your questions answered.

Sometimes we’re blasted with information on the internet and from vendors and we don’t know what the heck they are talking about, so I’m going to break down the difference between these two items. Spoiler alert: All you need is a Print Release!

I offer my clients a Print Release with the purchase of digital files. What is that and why? I do this so that my clients can enjoy the photographs from our time together and make unlimited prints and products from the digital files (although I do offer professional prints and would be happy to go over those options for you!).

A Print Release is included with the purchase of almost every digital file I sell, why not all digital files? Because some are for Commercial Use and those need a Commercial Use License.

So, what is a Commercial Use License?

A Commercial Use License is purchased by businesses so that they can use the images that I create from our session in their marketing & advertising.

Don’t worry - a Commercial Use License only applies to a very small number of Clients. But if you have more questions about what it is and how it works I’m more than happy to answer them for you!

Here is the scoop on Copyrights – it costs a lot of money to purchase the Copyrights from any artist, including a photographer.


Because as a photographer releasing the copyright to someone else I would no longer have any rights to it. The photo no longer belongs to me and I wouldn’t be able to use it for anything without written permission. As an artist, once I press the shutter the image is automatically copyrighted to me and is my property. I work hard to create beautiful images for my clients and I don’t want to give up my rights to them.

Here is a little breakdown:

Print Release – limited release of a super small portion of the copyright. This allows you, the client, to print for personal use while preserving the rights of the Photographer (me!).

Copyright Release – releases the copyright from me, the photographer, to you, the client. I do not do this. Once that transfer happens, I no longer own the photograph and cannot use the photos without consent.

Copyright – is a legal concept that grants the creator of an original work, like photographs, exclusive rights to its use and distribution. As soon as I push the shutter the image is copyrighted – it doesn’t matter who designs the set or styles the session. This gives me, the photographer, the sole right to copy, edit, distribute, etc. by sale or transfer. This is a Federal Law. Breach of copyright by editing, printing, distributing, etc. without permission is serious and is stealing. This includes an act as seemingly small as removing a watermark (even if you just “crop it out”) or submitting photos that you didn’t take (i.e. one’s a Photographer took of you) in to contests or for publication on blogs. There are huge fines associated with copyright infringement.

Still interested in more info?

Check out these links:

US Copyright Office Definitions

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (summary)

Here is a quick look at what my Print Release says…

What you May do:

+ Print them (photo, canvas, create albums, etc.)

+ Post them on all forms of social media using the specified files provided to you (not the hi res files)

What you May Not do:

+ Edit or alter the images in any way, including cropping and filters (like on Instagram)

+ Claim the work as your own.

+ Use them for commercial gain (which among other things includes; selling, licensing, advertising, commercial, editorial or marketing with them).

Still have questions?

That’s totally okay – I’m happy to answer them for you!