BY MAGI FISHER | THE ARTISTS’ LAWYER
If you’re a photographer, you need these legal documents to protect your business
From photographer to photographer, I want to speak some truth into some of the most important foundations you need for your photography business: Legal Documents.
I know and I get it. You are building your photography business out of a passion for what you do and the incredible people you get to serve along the way. You’re spending your precious time and energy on getting clients, going on shoots and doing edits that the very last thing you’re even thinking about are the legal documents you need in place, but here’s why you should be!
I’m Magi, the founder of The Artists’ Lawyer. I’m a lawyer and educator for artists and creative entrepreneurs. My journey has taken me from photographing professional surfers while swimming in some of the world’s most epic waves to receiving a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law. I founded Magdalena Studios, a boutique photography studio, which quickly grew, alongside my law career, to serve over 80 couples per year. I now oversee the wedding photography studio and team of associates, photograph a limited number of luxury and destination weddings per year, and provide legal counsel to creative business owners.
And the truth is, you need more than a contract to fully protect the artistry of your work, and the attention to detail that goes into your client’s deliverables. Keep reading for my recommendations and reasoning (and a sweet deal!).
Disclosure: All links in this post to The Artists’ Lawyer contracts are affiliate links. We only ever recommend products and services we fully believe in and Magi at The Artists’ Lawyer is one of them. We may receive commission through purchases you make with these links. Use code TONIC at checkout for 15% off!
01 – Services Agreement
It should come as no surprise that first on the list is a services agreement. Whether you focus on commercial shoots or portrait sessions, it’s important to set expectations with your clients, establish copyright and licensing parameters, and have a procedure in place for unexpected events like inclement weather. If you’re not sure if you need a contract *yet* read this blog post explaining why you do!
02 – Contract Amendments
We’ve all had that client that insists they don’t need a complete gallery (just a few shots!), only to change their mind mid-shoot when they sneak a few peeks at the back of your camera. And it’s time to stop including ‘just one more photo!’ for free in your gallery. A contract amendment provides a paper trail of scope changes throughout a project, ensuring you’re paid for all the work you do, and your client receives every last shot they’re expecting. In other words, this is a necessary document if you ever have a client wanting to change their package, or there is a change of plans such as a venue or event relocation.
Rescheduling might seem pretty straightforward, but what if your client reschedules on a date where you’re no longer available? What if they want to move their date two years in the future — when you have no idea how your availability, pricing, or packages will have changed? The truth is, you were relying on the income from that booking this season, and losing out on that could impact your business.
We never like to think about the weddings that get canceled, but you’re an entrepreneur as much as you are a creative, and these unfortunate circumstances need to be taken into account. Whether the wedding is cancelled due to COVID or called off, they are going to want to know if they’re entitled to any refunds. And you’re going to want to be compensated for the world you did to prepare for the event that’s no longer happening.
Rescheduling or canceling a wedding can lead to a lot of questions (and even more headaches) — but your protocol and procedure doesn’t have to be one of them.
03 – Model Release
Whether it be for a styled shoot or a commercial client, obtaining consent from your models to use the photos they appear in for a wide variety of purposes (such as social media, for example) is crucial — especially if your models are minors (in this case, their parent or legal guardian will need to sign the release).
A photoshoot like this usually has a lot of costs associated: the studio rental, model fees and their agency’s rate, and usually an assistant for you. And that’s just the start! The last thing you want is your client disputing your contract because they can’t use the photos.
Let me repeat that: You truly have no rights to use any images of any person anywhere without a model release.
Plus, it’s important for models to know where the photos of them will appear and what they’ll be used for. It’s also important for models to know whether or not they have rights to use the photos themselves for their own portfolio.
Model coordination leading up to a commercial shoot can be a lot of work, by including model recruitment, scheduling, preparation, and obtaining release as part of the service you offer your clients, you’re adding an incredible amount of value that extends well beyond the final gallery!
04 – Associate Photographer + Second Shooter Bundle
You never want to have to say no to a big opportunity because you’re not properly staffed! In the event that you ask a peer photographer to support you with a particularly exciting or large project, make sure the relationship between the two of you is clear. Of course, the hope is always that collaboration and creativity drive partnerships among business owners, but unfortunately that’s not always the case. An agreement outlining rights, payment, communication, and credit between you as lead photographer and a second shooter is just as important as the contract you signed with the client! Check out the bundle here to make sure you’re covered.
05 – Album Contract
Albums are a great way to add to your bottom line, and oversee the quality of your work as it’s being reproduced. Plus, it’ll be important for you to let your client know what’s expected of both parties throughout the album fulfillment process. For example: how is payment exchanged? What are the turnaround times? What are their options for the album design and the respective scope of work? What happens if the project deviates outside of that scope? This contract answers all those questions and more.
06 – Portrait Photographer Contract
I’ll say it again: it’s important to set expectations with your clients, establish copyright and licensing parameters, and have a procedure in place for unexpected events like inclement weather — whether you’re photographing a family session, maternity, newborn, or simply headshots. I wrote this contract as a portrait photographer and attorney, factoring in everything I learned along the way. This contract covers all the basics you’ll need to be legally covered–before, during, and after your shoot, if you’re a portrait photographer.
Want it all?
If you’re sold on the need of all mentioned legal agreements to protect your photography business, you can purchase the entire package of documents and receive $725 off your order. Yep, you read that right. Oh, and one more thing: the Commercial Photography Contract is also included in this bundle. As if you needed us to sweeten the deal even more.
Use code TONIC for 15% off at checkout!
DISCLAIMER: This information is made available for educational and general informational purposes only; it is not legal advice for an individual case nor does it guarantee any future result. This material may be improved upon or updated without notice, and The Artists’ Lawyer will not be held responsible for any outcomes as a result of this education. Do not act upon this information without seeking individual advice from a lawyer licensed in your state. You understand that viewing this information does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and The Artists’ Lawyer, or the founding attorney, Magi Fisher.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Magi Fisher, The Artists’ Lawyer, is a lawyer and educator for artists and creative entrepreneurs. Her journey has taken her from photographing professional surfers while swimming in some of the world’s most epic waves to receiving a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law. Magi founded Magdalena Studios, a boutique photography studio, which quickly grew, alongside her law career, to serve over 80 couples per year. Magi now oversees the wedding photography studio and team of associates, photographs a limited number of luxury and destination weddings per year, and provides legal counsel to creative business owners. Connect with Magi on Instagram @theartistlawyer or visit theartistslawyer.com.