We have talked and written about several instances where a seemingly meaningless image became valuable weeks, years or even decades after the photo was taken. Here’s the story of one that was shot at a very conventional wedding.  Real names, states and other identifiers have been changed or omitted. The facts are accurate and very uncomplicated.

All American, conventional “blue collar” wedding with about 150 guests is held at a mid priced catering hall in the Midwest.  Catering hall’s favorite shooter is not used as the mother of the bride (MOB) finds him a “tad arrogant”.  She (not the bride) picks out Joe Wedding Photog who shoots at least 50 similar type events per year.  Joe Wedding Photog employs excellent paperwork and clearly retains and registers the copyrights to all of his work on an event by event basis. A practice we advise all to follow.

Wedding takes place and an utterly ordinary photo of three kids is taken at the wedding at the request of the kid’s parents, who are friends of the groom. Parents love photo and pay Joe Wedding to have 36 wallet size printed and a nice big print made and framed for the den. Good extra order that comes with Joe Wedding Photog’s paperwork.  Fifteen years pass and bride and groom incredibly, against current odds, remain married.

On day, Joe Wedding Photog’s wife is in an airport with time to kill. She picks up a mindless best selling book about a famous Hollywood celebrity.  She flips through the book and sees a picture of the famous celeb as she was 15 years ago at the wedding of Mr. & Mrs. Nobody.  The book is “authored” by a parent of Mr. Nobody and the mini bio about the travails of the extended family in bringing up celeb. Mrs. Wedding  Photog calls hubby Joe saying, “I think we just got a European vacation”.

Ed sends the claim letter and almost immediately the case was settled.  The relative made no excuses, had told the publisher that if caught he/she would pay off the photographer because the odds were “remote at best”. (The celeb had consented to the book). Relative was a working class person who hated lawyers and litigation and wrote an eminently fair check made payable to Joe Wedding Photog instead of paying lawyers. An atypical experience to be sure.

Nobody, nobody could possibly have guessed that this obscure pre-teen child would some 15 years later, become the subject of books and E! Specials. Joe Wedding Photog never gave it a thought. What he did think about was registering his work and making it crystal clear that any future use had to be approved of and paid for.

Live and learn, ‘cause ya’ never know.