Do Wedding Photographers Need Releases from Guests?

Every Wedding Photographer knows to have an image release in their contract with the Bride/Groom (at least I hope everyone knows that). But what about images used by Wedding Photographers appearing online, in portfolios, etc, that feature attendees or other vendors?

I recently had the privilege to privilege to discuss these matters with Maurice Ross, a New York intellectual property attorney who has been litigating copyright and privacy issues for over thirty years. Here’s what he had to say: 

Guests who appear at weddings or wedding receptions held in private places of worship or private venues do not impliedly consent to appearing in published photographs concerning the event.   But there are exceptions to this.  Guests who voluntarily pose in group pictures implicitly consent to appearing in the group photograph. It is usually easy to distinguish a group photograph in which guests voluntarily participate from photographs taken in circumstances in which the guest probably did not provide advance consent.  Another exception arises  if for some reason a photograph  is deemed news-worthy and, thus, the First Amendment would trump rights of publicity and rights of privacy.

Of course, some states such as New York allow photographers to post photographs in their establishment for purposes of self-promotion, but in the age of the internet I advise photographers to be very cautious about using client photographs as part of their portfolios without consent from the married couple and any guests who appear in the photographs. It is always better to obtain releases, but releases are not necessary for group photographs in which guests voluntarily pose.  For any other photographs of guests, releases should be obtained.