I understand, or do I? (Get it in writing)

November 02, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

LeatherLeather I Understand.. or Do I?

Photography is basically an interactive process in most cases, unless you are taking images on your own property for your own enjoyment.  Photographers may deal with models, companies, property owners, other professionals, the public and often a varied combination of any or all other above.

A nationally known photographer once related a story when she was just starting her business. She was taking images of a model to perfect her skill. It was an informal friendly relationship, certainly nothing formal.  At some point later, the photographer submitted one of the images to a contest, won a prize, and subsequently published the image and was rewarded financially. The model eventually discovered the image, claimed that the photographer did not have permission to publish, and sued for compensation. In this case, the photographer settled out of court because she did not have a release. It was an innocent omission, but it did not matter.

Another example, possibly even more common today is that a photographer hires a model for a  fashion shoot.  The photographer pay a fee at the venue and on the day the model arrives in her outfit at the studio, and he tells the model we are going to drive out to this scenic overlook overlooking the valley. The model promptly tells the photographer that she is afraid of heights, and can not do the project. The conversation was amounted to a 'simple fashion shoot, meet me at...". A day of shooting was lost as well as  the deposit to the venue, not to mention having to hire a a different model.

If a company hires you, are they in direct competition with another company for a similar product?  Do you understand that they may have something in a contract or work agreement stating that you can not work for the competition now or in the future?

As innocent or formal as an arrangement may be, the lack of some form of written communication can lead to a loss of time, money, and even legal issues. Photography shoot-outs are fairly common at some locations. An organizer may tell a group of photographers (who pay for the event) that an event starts at 11 am. The event organizer states that 20 models will attend. Unfortunately, the organizer allows the models to show up when they are available, with only 2 models present for the first hour or so for 10 photographers.  Many photographers are upset having to sit around, without the promise of a model for an unknown period of time. Obviously some ill will has been generated

When ever possible, all professionals (not just photographers) should gain as much information in WRITING as possible such as:

  • What am I expected to produce? (in as much detail as possible)
  • What do I know about my client, company, or anyone else that I may be working with? (Timeline, what do I need to provide, what is provided for me)
  • Where and when will I be working? 
  • How will I be compensated? What do I need to pay for? When can I expect payment and in what form?
  • What will be final product be used for? Does it need to be licensed? Are usage rights necessary? Can a model financially gain from the image(s) on a paid fan site?
  • Are model and property releases necessary? If so, who handles that?
  • If someone gets hurt, who is responsible? (Liability) Important point here is to never ask talent to perform as task or execute a skill that he/she is not ready and or willing to execute. That is one reason why big movie producers hire stunt people! This is not limited to physical injury, recent history has shown lawsuits have been based on emotional injury. 
  • Somewhat related to above, is property insurance necessary and who provides it? Are you on the hook if a $5,000 wedding dress is ruined during a shoot?
  • What happens if the makeup artist does not show, camera malfunctions, illness, or a even a major rain storm comes out of no where?  Is the event rescheduled? Compensation for time? Is there an 'Act or Government or god" (as we have seen recently) that cancels the event entirely?
  • Who owns final project? Can you use images for your personal portfolio (sometimes the answer is no). You may 'own' the pictures, but what is done with the images should be spelled out. In the case of a single photographer and model, language is often included in the model release. Do you need to keep certain elements of the project private (non-disclosure)?
  • Are there laws governing what you may or may not do in a certain jurisdiction? A common example is that drones may not be flown in certain areas.


Keeping emails, voicemails, or any other tangible documentation in as much detail as possible can help one avoid some sleepless nights!







No comments posted.