My wife and I wanted to save money as we were preparing to get married a few weeks ago, so we had my sister take our engagement photos with my Canon EOS 7D. She's not exactly a professional photographer, so I chose all the locations, framed the shots, and chose all of the camera settings. All she had to do was point and click. They turned out really well, so I did some massaging in Photoshop and sent one to Walgreen's to have it printed.
We got a call from the photo lab saying that we needed a copyright release form from the photographer before they would give us the photos. We explained my sister took the photos with my camera and that I personally did all of the editing. He explained that since the photos looked professional, he had to assume that they were and insisted on a copyright release form, even though they were taken by my sister with my camera. Since I was over 1,000 miles away from my sister and I was in no mood to argue with this man, I kindly explained to him that we'd take our photo to Costco to have it printed there instead. We got the photo from Costco the next day, no questions asked.
I'm not saying that the man at Walgreen's was wrong or that Costco doesn't follow the rules. I'd just like to know the U.S. laws for copyrights on photographs for future reference.
When does a photographer obtain a copyright for their photo?
How does a photographer write a copyright release form?
Who does the photo belong to once a copyright release form has been given to a client?
What does the release form allow a client to do with the photo?
I'd like to know just in case I take any 'professional-looking' photos in the future (which would be flattering, really).