Let’s face it: we’ve all heard about ugly legal battles between photographers and clients. You never know when a disgruntled client could bring you to court over a contract dispute or something that’s not even in your current contract. A bullet-proof legal contract is the number one tool you need to have in your arsenal to best ensure that you come out on the winning side if you ever have a face-off in court.
Written contracts give you and your clients a legal document that clearly states what is expected from each party, and what will happen if a problem presents itself. Having an iron-clad contract is your way of safeguarding your resources nipping potential disputes in the bud.
Before any contract is signed, it’s always a good idea to review it fully with your clients. The devil is in the details; no matter how obvious you might think these details are, many clients will be oblivious to them. For some clients, this also may be the first time they have signed a photography contract, so you’ll want to be extra clear. The terms of your contract will not only help you prevent any upsets, but will also assist in outlining your, and your clients’, responsibilities and obligations.
The completed and signed contract always includes the details of your contractual relationship such as: performance duties, payment terms, termination rights, deliverables, and deadlines among many other things.
Does your contract cover late payment penalties? Harassment by guests? Equipment failure? Overtime fees? It should.
Your contract details what your expected duties are under your agreement. This means that your client has agreed that you’ll provide X service, for X amount of time, for X compensation. Including contracts that cover your day-to-day business routines ensures that you’re not going to be completing work outside of your contractual duties without compensation. Think staying for the couple’s sparkler exit even though it’s 2 hours past your 10 hour package. Or retouching 50 extra images.
That being said, there’s nothing wrong with going above and beyond for your clients or business partners. Just know that any work outside of the scope of your agreement will not be protected in a dispute or court of law.
This part doesn’t apply to potential clients, but more to employees or associates (like second shooters). Non-compete agreements prohibit the involved parties from offering specific goods or services detailed in the contract to the economic marketplace. They can even prohibit one from starting up a similar business within a certain mile radius that’s directly in competition to an employer.
There are more decisions to be made if you use associate photographers. Will you allow your associate photographers to use your clients’ images on their own photography website, social media or marketing materials? What about promoting themselves at your events? This should all be spelled out in their second shooter contract.
If you’ve created your business in a niche market, adding a non-compete agreement into your employee contracts are great for protecting your area of expertise.
Or at least they should be. Legal documents (like contracts) can be filled with terms and jargon that might make an ordinary person’s head spin. Taking the extra step to have a local attorney review over your contracts can save you from any confusion and prevent other parties from taking advantage. An attorney will be able to give you clear information on your policies in relation to the laws in your specific state or country, and whether those terms can be upheld in a court of law.
The unique complexities of the creative industry make it crucial to include detailed contracts in our daily operations. To the new photographer, contracts might seem too costly, fussy and formal for their creative business, but it’s essential to be prepared for the what-if.
Remember: this is your livelihood and even the smallest unintentional mistake can have enormous consequences. We recommend protecting yourself from day one with the highest quality resources possible.
Make sure your business is ready for any client situation with Forms & Workflow templates from the Design Aglow shop. From the most comprehensive legal contracts for wedding photographers to photography print releases, we’ve got all your business needs covered.