Legal Guidelines for Brides and Instagram Filters – A Must Read


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Did you know? Putting an Instagram filter on a professional photo could be illegal.  In this blog post, I marry my two professions: being a lawyer and a professional wedding photographer.

(***Disclaimer: This blog post is not intended for official legal counsel; if you have questions, do contact your personal attorney for advice.) 

The day has come. Your professional photographer has delivered your wedding photos. You LOVE them and can’t wait to share them with the entire universe through social media.  You’ve got your hashtags ready, and have a thoughtful caption on deck.  You upload to Instagram, and the first “edit” option pops up.  You almost skip this part, but then think, “HOW COOL DOES THAT HAZY GREEN/ VIBRANT/ BLACK AND WHITE FILTER LOOK ON THIS PHOTO?!” You choose the one you think looks best.  You enter your comment, and then you click, “Share.”  You’ve done nothing bad, right? Wrong.

In fact, “editing” a photo or slapping a filter on it without the proper rights to do so might get you into legal trouble.  Before you get nervous, understand that this is an innocent mistake, and it happens all the time. But as you get excited for your photos, this blog post might be beneficial to help you avoid any sticky situations with your photographer and the legal realm of altering art.  Because that’s what the photos are: art.  If you only hold printing rights, and not the full copyright to the photos, putting a filter on a photo may violate 17 U.S.C. 106, dictating copyright infringements.

If you’re asking yourself, “Do I own the full copyright to my wedding/ engagement/ portrait photos?”, the answer is likely that you do not.  Typically, owning full copyrights only happens in commercial photography situations, or other special scenarios in which someone pays (usually thousands) for those exclusive rights.  However, do consult your contract for further clarification.

As an aside from the legal issues, can you imagine studying photography for years, and perfecting your post-processing style, only to have someone slap a filter on top? Not a great feeling.  So, on a related note, the checklist for finding a photographer for your wedding should also include LOVING the colors and brightness of their photos.  If you’re looking for a dark and moody look, you shouldn’t book someone who is light and airy, and so on.  This will significantly decrease the urge to “filter” your photos!

This blog post is brought to you by the fact that sometimes, I need to combine the fact that I am an attorney with the fact that I’m also a photographer.  Being a lawyer has helped me run by business effectively, protect my clients, and have a little insider knowledge that can go a long way. I hope it helped shed some light on the etiquette of photo sharing in our digital age.  Education in this gray area is so important!

Takeaway: before you share on social media, be cognizant of the implications of “filters,” and, most importantly, be respectful of your photographer.  They’ve worked so hard to make sure your photos are perfect! Save the filtering for your phone photos – that’s why Instagram was created in the first place.

(Image from our recent Enchanted Dusty Blue Styled Wedding at the Wainwright House – blog post coming soon!)  

Image Credits: Styled, Planned and Hosted by: Kristina Staal Photography, Tesora Photography, Jack & Grace Events | Florals: Carrie Wilcox Floral Design | Hair: Melissa Scrofani, Westchester Hair and Makeup | MUA: Meredith Hayman, Makeup Artist | Calligraphy/ Invitations: Coppola Creative | Dress: Kelly Faetanini, in store at A Little Something White | Cake: Palmer’s Bakery | Vow Books: Elmo Paperstories | Rentals/ Decor: Gather and Lounge


Carolyn of Tesora Photography is a New York, CT and Westchester Wedding, Engagement and Portrait Photographer.  Booking into 2019.

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