What happens if the principal photographer has exclusive rights to shoot the wedding?

You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em....

You gotta know when to hold em, know when to fold em….

Often, the principal photographer bargains with the client for the exclusive right to photograph the wedding. There are lots of reasons for this. Exclusivity decreases competition, increases product value, and it certainly makes for a smoother work environment.

So what happens if you get permission to photograph the wedding, but the principal photographer comes up and says “I have the exclusivity..” (I go in depth on the legal aspects of this topic here).

Will you have to quit, or can you both take pics? THERE IS NO BRIGHT LINE RULE. Each case will depend on the facts, and again, on the wording of each of your contracts. One trial judge might say one thing. Another might say another. Who knows? But I can tell you that, 100% of the time, if you follow that fight to its legal conclusion, you know who the defendant would be? The Client. The client is in breach of two separate contracts. The one made to the principal photographer and the one made to the other vendor. So let’s avoid that, shall we?

If you are a principal photographer, communicating with the client is the key to preventing this problem. At the initial meeting, I mean like, right after “Hi, my name is,” you must discuss your exclusivity clause. Does it apply to other vendors, does it apply to vendors who use their iphone to take a couple quick shots, or just when they hire professional set photographers? How about guests? Inform the client, in person and through the contract,  “this type of photography is not acceptable, and here is why…” List the consequences. Here will be the ramifications if this is breached- “I’m bouncing,” or something like that. If you do this, if you educate the client, then the client will know what to look for when reviewing other vendors’ contracts later. And, even better, they will know how to handle it at the event.

For all the Non-Principal Photographer Vendors- Don’t get me wrong, dudes. You guys can certainly bargain for the right to photograph weddings. Have the client go back and confirm that by providing you authorization to take pictures at the event, they are not stepping on someone else’s toes. If you take affirmative steps to cover yourself, you should be OK.


For further information, contact an attorney in your area. Don't know any? Go to and search. It's super easy!