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Simply put, a contract is a legally binding agreement between two parties. In order for a contract to be enforceable by law, there are several requirements:
What is a Contract?
Each party must offer something of value to the other, also known as 'consideration.'
Each party must be mentally and legally capable. (Not underage, not mentally deficient, etc.)
Each party must agree on the terms, typically confirmed with a signature. (The signature can be written or digital.)
In order for a contract to be effective for a photographer, these are some of the points that should be included:
What Should Be In A Contract?
Basic information. Legal names of the photographer and client, dates, and location.
Description of the work being done. Are you photographing a wedding, a portrait session, a fashion event, etc.
The agreed rates for the production, and any applicable rates for additional fees such as extra images, retouching costs, licensing fee, etc.
Security deposit. Do you require a deposit prior to the shoot, or do you have to be paid in full before the event?
The time that will be devoted to this event. Are you going to be at the wedding for six hours, or four hours? Include an arrival time, and exit time.
Late policy. What are your terms if your client is late? Is there a late fee? Does their time run out regardless of when they arrive?
What is being delivered. Describe how many images will be delivered to the client, and in what form. This point is vital!
Expected turn around time. Will the images be delivered in a week, a month? Get this written down to enforce a deadline.
Usage rights. What rights does your client have to the images? Can they use them online-only, in social media, in print, on a billboard? How long can they use these images for? Also, what rights do you have to the images? Will you post them in your portfolio and on social media?
Editing clause. Do you want your client to be able to slap Instagram filters on your images, or do you want to enforce a clause stating they can not edit them? Remember, you hold the copyright of the images, so consider how you want your work to be presented.
Cancellation policy. What happens if you are ill or not fit for the shoot? Do you refund the full amount, or do you substitute with another photographer of your caliber?
Violation. What will happen if the client violates any part of the contract?
Liability. What are you responsible for in terms of image loss, injury, etc?
Signatures and dates. (Adding a witness also helps!)
A contract is a formal agreement, and can offer protection not only for yourself as a photographer, but to your client as well. Contracts can enforce many points that are vital for a photographer and their continued career. Here are some examples:
Why Use A Contract?
Preventing a client from selling your images to a third party because they think they own the copyright.
Preventing a client from demanding that you retouch fifty images when you only intended to retouch five.
Preventing a client from demanding that you give them every image you took, even if you only expected to provide a hundred.
Preventing a client from editing your photographs and damaging your brand in the process.
Preventing a client from printing your images and selling them to friends and family.
Ensuring that your client credits you as the photographer wherever the image is posted.
Ensuring that your client pays you what you required and they agreed upon in the contract.
Enforcing a timeline if a client pushes you to get images done faster, when your contract states it will take three weeks.
Never! Even if you are working pro bono, or doing a portrait session for a friend's newborn, it is imperative that you protect yourself and your work.
When Should You Not Use A Contract?
Here are some links to great advice and contracts for photographers:
What Are Resources For Contracts?
A model release is a type of contract: it is an agreement by a subject to allow their likeness to be published in a photograph. Model Releases are often very brief documents that detail the model's name, address, and any applicable information as to the use of the images. Like a contract, the model must be over the legal age, or else a parent or guardian will have to sign for them.
What Is A Model Release?
If you are taking a portrait of someone in a private setting, use a model release. If you intend to sell prints of your portraits, make sure to get a model release. If you wish to sell your images as stock photographs to DeviantArt, Getty, or 500px, get a model release.
When Is A Model Release Required?
If the subject of your photograph is taken at a public place, then a release is not required. This is why street photographers and photojournalists do not require releases from their subjects. Another instance is when working with agency represented models, as the agent will not allow their model to be taken advantage of, and therefore will advise them not to sign any sort of release. These are really the only exceptions to the rule.
When Is A Model Release Not Required?
Resources For Model Releases
(Apple iOS App) itunes.apple.com/us/app/easy-r…
(Android OS App) play.google.com/store/apps/det…
Protecting yourself legally is incredibly important, and utilizing contracts and releases will help to accomplish that task. However, there is no substitute for advice from a law professional, so be sure to consult a local media or copyright lawyer if you truly wish to protect yourself and your brand.
Discussion1.) Was there a time when you wished you had used a contract with a client? What was the result?
2.) Have you used contracts in the past? What has your experience been like?
3.) Do you have any further questions on this topic?
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