Copyright vs. Print Release-A comparison of photo release forms

Copyright vs. print release- A comparison of photo release forms

As the photography industry moves into the digital age with the rest of the world, confusion follows. Particularly over the use of Copyright vs. Print Photo Release forms to accompany digital files.

This article is for Photographers and Clients alike to help preserve the rights of both parties and the value of the photography industry.  So enough of that — let’s figure out the difference between the two and why a PRINT RELEASE is the way to go!


A print release allows you to retain rights to your images while allowing your client to print their digital images


Copyright Release

It is exactly what it says.  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 fact, in these cases, the Photographer can technically never use the photographs without permission of the client!

Well, Photographers – whats the point in that? What about portfolio and marketing products? Once you give away your rights, you can no longer use it!

Clients – Here is where your respect of the art of photography comes in.  You wouldn’t ask Bon Jovi to give you all rights to his song right? No! You just want it for use on your iPod!  Respect the industry by allowing yourself to have your cake (the prints) and getting to eat them too (using print release!) but protecting your photographer as well!

But you want to be able to print your pictures for a home scrapbook huh? Well……


Print Release

Again, exactly what it says.  It allows you to print for personal use at home while preserving the rights of the Photographer.

So as the client, how does this benefit you?

  • Unlimited printing of your picture of little Joey!
  • Posting of files on your social media
  • May use the digital file in your Christmas card (unless your photographer provides a restricted print release)
  • Digital file to keep forever!

As the photographer, how does this benefit you?

  • Prevents the client from violating copyright by editing your picture (Any changes to picture will be on your name and could be bad marketing.)
  • Prevents commercial use without permission
  • Preserves the integrity of your art
  • Preserves the integrity of the industry (The more copyrights are violated or given away, the less likely the industry will want to be digital – it’s already a division among photographers.)
  • You still own your photograph but give the client what they want – ability to print!

A word of caution on print releases…

Clients – it is only for YOU.  It is only for the person named on the release.  It should NOT be for Aunt Sally to be able to reproduce pictures.  That is stealing.  If a photographer has been kind enough to extend a print release, then please be kind enough to ask for their permission.  Remember, while you may be in the pictures, the Photographer owns them.  Their blood, sweat, and tears were put into your photographs.  Please respect the photographer with the use of the images, as I caution photographers to please respect the use of clients. An identity is a personal thing and pictures mark this identity to the world.

I love seeing photographers who are willing to embrace the digital world and pull it into the industry.  It helps for the clients to get what they want but still preserve the integrity of this art form.  Working together will keep everyone happy and creating beautiful photographs that capture our lives for generations to come!

Share this information with others by pinning this image!



Copyright vs. Print Release-A comparison of photo release forms


The industry’s only legal go-to resource to help photographers protect and defend their business.

Helping you with topics such as contracts, intellectual property, employment issues and more!

Contracts. Legal guides. Tax tools. Education. Community.

Contract Templates for your photography business


  • Privacy Policy
  • Google Analytics

Privacy Policy

By using this Site, you are consenting to the collection, use, disclosure, and transfer of your information as described in this Policy (and any Privacy Notices that apply to you). If you do not consent to the collection, use, disclosure and transfer of your information as described in this Policy (and any Privacy Notices that apply to you), you may not use this Site. If you have questions about this Policy, or any Privacy Notice, please contact us using the information provided below.

You can read our full policy here.

Google Analytics

This website uses Google Analytics to collect anonymous information such as the number of visitors to the site, and the most popular pages.

Keeping this cookie enabled helps us to improve our website.