What To Do If Your Client Won’t Let You Share Their Images

Ahhhhh, marketing. I do love it and hate it all at the same time. I love the ever-evolving challenge of doing it well and hate that it sometimes feels relentless. It wasn’t always like this. I started long enough ago that marketing looked like this – ‘once a year, take out an ad in yellow pages – wait for enquiries to roll in.’

Fast forward to now and a typical marketing week for a wedding photographer could involve making reels, posts, and stories for social media, blogging, publishing ads on Google or Facebook, listing in directories, making sample albums, and submitting to wedding blogs. Most of us do at least some of those or know we should, and they all involve sharing our beautiful images.

We own the copyright to our pictures so no problemo, right? Wrong. In the UK (and this is different in other countries), your client has a right to privacy that was incorporated into domestic law through the Human Rights Act 1998. Their right to privacy is protected by Article 8 of the convention, “everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence”. Add in the more recent GDPR rules and it’s a double no. An image can be deemed a form of personal data.

The onus is on you to gain written permission to publish your images anywhere. This can be done through a clause in your contract or an opt-in tick box in your T+C’s. Your client has every right to opt out of anyone including you sharing their images in a public forum. We need to be mindful that these are images from a private day, not just content for us to market ourselves with.

Don’t think this is just something a celebrity client might be concerned with. There can be several reasons why a person might want to keep their photos offline – If they are a member of the armed forces, or if they do a job that requires a high level of security like social services or the prison system but also careers like being a pilot, people going through the child adoption process or who have children that have been fostered or adopted in sensitive circumstances. They also just might be reserved and not into putting part of their private lives out in the world. 

All of the above are circumstances that I have encountered with clients and led to me not sharing their images beyond a private gallery. So if this happens to you, is there anything that you can do about it? I know it’s annoying, especially if you might not have plenty of other shoots to share when it happens.

It’s a discussion we recently had in our community and some very useful tips were shared.

  1. Be respectful of their wishes but it is worth asking after the gallery has been delivered if you could share a few that do not show their faces or any personal elements. Curate a small selection that you would like to share and approach them to see if they might permit it. At this point, they can often agree as they see how it impacts them in no way. Go with the approach that as a small business this is how you attract bookings.
  2. If it’s a venue that you are super keen to shoot at, take some photos on the day that highlight the venue’s features and are nothing to do with that individual wedding. Don’t include them in their gallery but (and only if you have time) shoot them just for content.
  3. If you are lacking in content, think about either attending a styled shoot, producing your own, or second shooting for a photographer with clients where both are happy for you to post your shots. My advice in this instance is to not go in with the approach that you are just there for content. I had someone this year who was so keen on this that she stepped into my frame on more than one occasion. There are plenty of ways to portfolio-build without being a dick about it.
  4. If this starts to happen fairly regularly, create a gallery somewhere of the kind of images that you would like to share in circumstances like this. This way you can pre-empt their concerns. Pick out shots that don’t show full faces or anything personal and address the issue at the point of them asking to opt-out. Say these are the type of images that I could share without revealing your identities.

This topic is thought-provoking in a world where content is king. It’s a stark reminder to never put all of your marketing eggs in one basket. I’ve heard of photographers wanting to charge couples more if they do not agree to their images being shared. This is actually against UK law but you can do the opposite and offer incentives to people who do give permission. This could be a reduction in the rate or some kind of sweetener like a voucher for their gallery store. If the images are valuable to you, it would be worth a little investment on your part.

No matter what stage you are working at, you will eventually encounter this. It happened to me recently. They had no issue with it until I shared a few on my Instagram. I was sad to have to remove them, how did that couple find me? On Instagram, hahaha!

Image by Devlin Photos for Rock n Roll Bride Magazine
Art Direction: @rocknrollbride
Styling: @thebijoustudio
Hair: @daynavaughanteague.hair
Make-Up: @shanimush
Jacket: @bethwilsonembroidery
Dress: @clubllondion
Jewellery: @infinitydiamondjewellery
Model: @_juliabregalda via @nevsmodels