How long should I expect our photographer to keep our photographs?
This is a GREAT question! I can’t speak for all photographers, but I can tell you what you should expect from any photographer as a client…whatever the contract says. This is true with about everything in which you’re wondering what a deliverable is for your wedding.
My contract states that I will guarantee your photographs will be available for 2 years after your wedding. I do this because there has to be a number assigned to protect everyone involved. It’s bad business for me to guarantee that I will have your images “for life” as there are numerous things that could happen over the next 20 or so years. Also, at some point (not anytime soon) I’m sure I will “retire” and from that day on I would want to have an exit strategy on what obligations I still have towards my client.
With all of that said, it’s my intention to have all my photographs throughout the rest of my life. As of now I have every image I have ever delivered a client backed up at my home, online, and on separate hard drives that are resting in a safety deposit box at my bank. I have a question in queue about “backing up” that I will try to get too soon, but for now let me say that I always have multiple copies of everything in sperate locations so that there is a redundancy in place.
While there would be a cost, even though I’m under no obligation, in 10 years a bride should be able to come to me for her photographs.
I want to also say that regardless of who your photographer is, BACK UP YOUR IMAGES. Just because you are given a disc, hard drive, thumb drive, etc. doesn’t mean you are “safe”. Discs will fail over time, be it a few years due to wear and tear or long term through erosion of the media. Hard drives fail, flash drives get lost,…I think you see where I’m going with this.
When you get your digital negatives from your photographer, copy that disc to another computer, put them online with a site like Picasa or Flicker so that you have backups (Facebook is NOT a backup), or buy another hard drive to store them on.
This will make sure that if tragedy befalls your photographer and yourself that you will not have lost your extremely valuable images. It could actually save you money short term in the case you lose your files. Just because a photographer gives you a specific amount of time that they will have your digital files, it does not mean a 2nd delivery is free.
In short, read your contract, understand what you should expect from your photographer, and backup your files.