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Restricting your photographer’s use of images: non-usage fee

What’s a non-usage fee?

Some clients do not want my images of them to be shown publicly and I respect that. But, to have restrictions placed on my work, I choose to charge a non-usage fee.

As the proud creator & copyright holder of the images I make, it is HUGE for me to be free to show the work I make. It’s the main way I am able to keep my business running.

Jasmine Star, one of the foremost wedding-photographers-turned-industry-educators, in this article put it best,

This fee is intended to off-set the loss of marketing opportunities.

“This fee is intended to off-set the loss of marketing opportunities”. 

These opportunities are so important to me at this stage of my business.

I honestly don’t have a huge referral network / personal network at the current time; I obtain new clients solely through marketing channels including social media and organic search.

How much is the non-usage fee?

It’s a small percentage that’s paid either before or after your wedding, depending on which you select.

I have two restrictions options detailed below – summarized version from my contract.

CLIENT elects to forgo the Model Release, regarding images with CLIENT’s distinguishable likeness, and be charged a loss of opportunity fee of 10% of the total amount due for photography coverage, to be paid prior to the wedding.


CLIENT elects to sign the Model Release, but select certain photographs bearing CLIENT’s distinguishable likeness, that reflect a level of intimacy that CLIENT prefers to withhold from online use, though no greater than 20% of all the FINAL IMAGES may be withheld. A loss of opportunity fee of 5% of the total amount due for photography coverage shall apply.

But first, know that I hate taking a non-usage fee.

I would much rather seek to understand your reasons behind restricting the usage of your wedding pics – and guide you towards a situation which suits you.

Common reasons to keep wedding photos private

  1. I don’t want people to Google me and find my wedding pictures
  2. I’m very selective about images of me displayed publicly
  3. I don’t want pics of certain guests / their children online
  4. We don’t mind being on your blog, we don’t want to be on some well-known wedding blog.
  5. My career requires me to keep personal photos off the internet
  6. We’re having a secret wedding
  7. Our marriage would not be acceptable in the eyes of our family/ culture
  8. We’re not permitting family & friends to post images, so it wouldn’t be fair if our photographer did.

The main reasons & my responses

If your reason is 1 – no need to pay the fee. I don’t use last names in my blog posts, file names, alt text, metadata or anywhere I post images.

I would simply refer you only by initials or even different names if you have unusual names that could be Googled. And of course I wouldn’t tag you on social media. Just let me know if this is a good workaround.

If reason 2, I would suggest choosing the restriction option that allows you to restrict a proportion of the images.

Remember I do not deliver any images that I would deem unflattering or inappropriate. However, photography – and self-image – are subjective.

We all have our own foibles and insecurities, so please tell me yours during the shoot and I’ll do my best to minimize the appearance in camera, rather than trying to fix it later.

Reasons 3 – 8

Regarding reason 3, I rarely show images of guests or children but sometimes other people may be visible.

If you take a look over my portfolio, you’ll see very few pictures of anyone except marriers themselves. I’m very happy to restrict images of people who are not you, the couple, without a fee.

The images that are of the most interest to us as photo business owners will be of the couple, and also the images showcasing the vendors you’ve used.

For reason 4, that’s fine and doesn’t require the non-usage fee. Just let me know that you’d rather I didn’t submit your wedding to any wedding blogs!

And by the way I never sell your wedding images to third parties such as stock photo websites like istock or Getty.

For reasons 5 – 8, I would suggest a release restriction would be a good idea, forgoing the model release – unless you are comfortable being referred to in my marketing by just your initials.

A little disclaimer though:  nowadays algorithms and timelines reign supreme, you never quite know how deep people will go if they’re digging for info. Artificial intelligence might know who you are and show this to others, even if I do not input your name or tag you.

Understanding a photographer's non-usage fee

Showcasing joyful moments like this are the way I’m able to keep my business going!

A few notes

– Unless you are dead set against having any images of you online, I would recommend seeing the finished gallery first and only purchasing the 5% fee option if you still feel you need it.

– I post an image usually on Instagram the same day/ day after the wedding. This won’t be subject to the 5% release restriction as that’s only applicable to the finished gallery. Of course, there won’t be an IG sneak peek if you forgo the model release.

– I may share your images with your vendors if applicable and grant them a free license to use the images to promote their biz. It’s important for me to contact them, show goodwill and foster important vendor relationships, which are huge in our industry.

I hope this helped understand the options for the non usage fee in plain English. It’s a tough subject for sure, and never a fun one to talk about.

How did the non-usage fee come about?

There came a point early in my business where I was getting so many clients who didn’t want their photos online, it became impossible for me to show the work I was producing.

To be creating great images but not be able to show it can be very problematic for business owners whose entire output is visual.

I always work with my clients to come to a solution that works for both parties. So please feel free to ask any questions, I don’t bite and I’ve love to talk through your unique concerns.

Related articles

City Hall weddings – the fine print stuff

Can I get all the RAW files / unedited jpegs from my wedding?

How to plan formal family shot list for your wedding

Info about my non-usage fee


August 5, 2019


Lover of ice cream, killer of houseplants, Zoe is a San Francisco-dwelling love documentarian. Contact | Insta

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