So I am going to explain Copyright a little in hopes of clearing up some of the confusion in my little corner of the blog world.
Copyright (noun)- the exclusive legal right to reproduce, publish, sell, or distribute the matter and form of something (as a literary, musical, or artistic work.
A few thoughts about Copyright:
Just because you purchase a print, does not mean that you have purchased the copyright.
Copyright owners have the exclusive rights to their work, but they can authorize others to use their work.
Unless you have permission from the photographer, you can’t copy, distribute, scan and print, publicly display, or create derivative works from the photograph.
Copyright infringements (reproducing photos without permission) can result in civil and criminal penalties.
So to put that all in an even simpler way, if you hire a photographer that says you get all copyrights, that means they are giving up their exclusive rights to those photos, and they become yours to do as you please. And the photographer has to ask for your permission to use them in any way. WHICH, I don't believe any experienced Portrait/Wedding photographer would ever do. Maybe in a rare or occasional circumstance, and in those cases the photographer would be charging a pretty penny to give up all their rights to those images.
On the other hand, most photographers that offer Digital files would give the client a Print Permission, or limited Usage license which would allow the client to print/reproduce those files. There are photographers that even still do not offer their digital files at all, but I do offer the digital files and along with those files, you will receive the Image Usage license that will give you the permission to bring those files and print the files in any size/amount for your personal use. All the other copyright rules still apply since I still hold the copyright to all my images.
So that hopefully explained the difference between getting the copyright to images, or getting a permission to print the images! And if you see a photographer offering full copyright make sure to ask them if you are in fact getting that ;)