The Care and Feeding of "Prima donna" Photographers (AKA: How wedding professionals can get wedding day images from photographers–often for free)

get free images from wedding prim donna wedding photographers
Its was a gorgeous wedding.
The bride was radiant.  (In a custom gown from a local designer)  The room glowed and sparkled,  and the scent of florals wafted through the air conjuring thoughts of spring. (Made possible by the careful design of a the event planner with collaboration from a  floral designer and  lighting expert.  ) The cake, towering-with buttercream so flawless you would have thought it fondant- complete with sugar flowers for days. (Crafted by the most talented of bakers.)  Light notes of dinner-appropriate music circled the room.  (Which soon gave way  to booty-shaking/ bass-filled delightful madness meant to keep the party inspired.)
They ate.  They drank and all were in fact,  merry.
I often sit back in awe when I see all of the moving pieces that  ALWAYS seem to come together in a perfectly-imperfect way for each. and . every. wedding I am honored to photograph.
So naturally–it comes as no surprise that each. and. every. fellow wedding professional would like to be able to show-off their talents and are naturally excited to see/utilize the photographs.

‘So how come its been 2 weeks/months/years and that A-hole photographer hasn’t sent you images yet? ‘ 

That answer may be simple (They are slammed, busy! Season sometimes kicks our asses–and just like you…we get behind.)
….or perhaps its something little more complex.  Have you committed one of the ‘this is how you annoy the hell outta of a photographer’ cardinal sins? 😉
Before I  ago ahead and step on this landmine address the above.   Let me go ahead and just put this right here:
Though we all have a contributing factor in the success of a client’s wedding day.  (I mean, an A-list team can make an event so much MORE!) At the end of the day (god, I hate that expression..reminds me of EVERY freaking meeting in my corporate days. I digress…) our clients paid us, the  photographers– for our time and talent and are the only people we “owe” images to …anything above and beyond that is ‘gravy:’  a pure favor/benefit we pass along to those we work well with and respect us/our work.  (Disclaimer:  those who know me/work with me know I try my darndest to provide images after each and every wedding…as do many of photographic peers)
But please let this  settle in.
Though many of us do in fact provide these images to other wedding pros–often with very little restriction (Nor cost!  How cool is that!) :   it is a favor and a benefit….not a requirement.
So how do you as a wedding professional insure you receive amazing images of your work from photographers?   Like anything else in life:  through a little common courtesy and developing a relationship based on mutual respect.   Here’s how:
1.) Build a relationship first.  A little hello at the wedding, an email after to say it was great working together. I know this one seems basic but sometimes the greatest demands put on us for images are from those we have never even met. Let alone the one paying us.
2.) Please  don’t ask for a particular image to be taken on a wedding day unless that wedding day  is your own. (As in,  you are the one in white-walking the aisle.)
Though we nearly always take images of any items a client has spent time and money selecting in an artful manner; our focus on a wedding day is distinctively on THE CLIENT.  I can’t tell you the number of requests we photographers have had from vendors on specific shots they would  like me to create for them on a wedding day.  (I assume this is out of pure excitement for a gorgeous wedding..not rudeness.  So no one need  email me and ask if it was you I was talking about.)  We are often pulled aside on the wedding day  (even during family photos!) to have another vendor let us know what they would like us to photograph for them.  This day is about our mutual clients–no more than I would expect you take my request on butter cream vs. fondant..our  images are made for our clients based on their wishes and shot lists.  –Not other vendors.  (for the record…it’s butter cream though)
Sidebar:  If you would like a very specific set of images guaranteed of a your cakes/floral arrangements/hair styles:  hire a photographer for a commercial shoot of your work.  (Or,  sometimes we will even trade!  I have done this in several cases and had the awesome luxury of working with  other industry pros for images for their websites/marketing material in exchange for items like cakes. florals, planning help on event etc.)   This allows us all to ‘win’ and not work under the time  constraints and pressure of the client wedding day time line.
3.)  Ask vs. demand images .  Demanding images (sometimes only days after a wedding.)  is the surest way for us to accidentally ‘forget’ to send images in the future.  (Did I say that out loud??)   But its true.  It just human nature to want to help those who appreciate us or at the very least–are not rude.  Sidenote:  editing is hard work.  If a photographer does this in-house/by hand….it may be up to 12 weeks+ before the client even receives the images and most photographers will not provide images to other vendors until after the client has seen them first.
4.) Please, please for the love of all things holy do not cut out our waterwark  Or,  worse yet– replace it with your own.  Aside from loving our vendor friends and wanting to share images–one of the key benefits of sharing those images is promotion of our work.  When you chop of that watermark  and replace it with your own…its a major bummer.  (And , incidentally is also illegal.)
5.)   DO NOT ask the clients for the images.   Guys–this is a no-no. Not only does it create work for the client to send them to you….it puts them in the ‘middle man’ role as they have to reach out to the photographer to even give you access.  Why?  Lesser-known-fact:  the photographer owns the image copyright.  The client is given “use.” For another vendors to use an image–you must have the photographer’s consent to utilize them.  Legally.   Good news though:  I have met exactly zero photographers who do not share images with other vendors.  Most for no cost you guys!!! (And those of us that do charge–only charge to unarchive images that are long in storage when you come us to 3 years later when creating  ‘ your new website.’  🙂  –Free/small fee instead of charging the cost of commercial use of the image.  (freebies guys!!!)
Extra Credit:
6.)  When we deliver images, say thank you.
Did you know on average for a photographer to pull images, watermark and upload them to a gallery for you and send an email link  it takes approximately 1-2 hours?  **Now multiply that by 2o-30 weddings (average/busy photographer) and 5-10 vendors per event.  Can I tell ya how much it hurts our little (I-know-you-think-us-primadonas) hearts to have spent all of that time and energy and not even know if you received them?   I know we all get busy (Guilty…I still owe thank you cards I just found in a drawer from last year to a few amazing vendors who helped me throw a kickass party.)  I get it.  But even if its once in every 5 weddings or next time you see us…I promise the likelihood of receiving images from us increases when know you actually give a rats arse about having received them.
Directions:  Receive email with gallery link from photographer.  Hit reply:  type ‘thanks!’ ( Bonus points for ‘these are effing amazing!!! I will refer you to all-of-the-clients!! 🙂 )
Super Extra Credit: (is that a thing?)
– If you love us/our work and see value in what we do—refer us.   (I mean, you think we wont damn sure send over amazing images to a fellow vendors who thought enough of use to refer them to their client!  You might even get a book or a canvas. wink wink. )
-Blog/facebook and instagram those images until your heart is content…with appropriate photo credit and mutually-beneficial links to our page. (Extra “Google juice” for you when you link other pros to your site…which means more clients find you just by posting a link to our sites!)
We are ALL in this together guys!  I know you want to delight our mutual clients as much as we photographers do.  You want to promote your business and grow it via beautiful images as much as we do.
Let’s work together to do both.  (insert hugs, air kisses and maybe the soft humming of kumbayah here.)
All the “Primadona” Photographers
AKA: your gateway to free, commercial images of your work on wedding days.


  1. ashley fisher says:

    You forgot one:
    Don’t make us pay $30 for parking, make us beg for food, or make us wait until the bar opens to get a glass of water if you want us to give you free images. 🙂

  2. Bluesky says:

    water is for sissies Ashley:-)

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