The Photographer’s Contract – Everything You Need to Know

In the current climate of awareness and ownership of “how” one does business, photographers, reps, and producers need to be well rounded with the law. Knowing the importance of contracts and understanding them helps us to make informed decisions and be able to push back on some of the language that isn’t in our best interest or the best interest of our clients. Being able to dissect and understand the terms and conditions document as well as having a grasp of the anatomy of a photography contract is a skill we cannot afford to not have in our toolkit.

Last week, our friend; photo and film producer Monica Zaffarano, attended Art & Law Thursdays co-presented by the American Society for Media Photographers (ASMP) & School of the Art Institute of Chicago (CAPX). Marci Rolnik Walker, Legal Director for Lawyers for the Creative Arts, was the speaker. Monica was gracious enough to share her experience and some key takeaways.

Contracts are often standard contracts, so it is necessary to review thoroughly with your attorney before signing.

Here are a few key things to remember:

  • Educate yourself on the array of contracts
  • Understanding the anatomy of a contract, the varying terms and things you should consider with every project you accept is YOUR business
  • Understanding that you can take control of the language therein to protect your work
  • “Mutual Indemnification” is a good idea to add in to terms
  • Always distinguish between and define the media generated such as RAW files (photographers work) from delivered image files or prints (released images)
  • In regards to compensation timing consider the following
    • Retainer Fee
    • Step payment options (advance prior to job/step payment upon delivery of hard drive/step payment for final retouched art – the options can vary)
    • Full Photographic Services Payment prior to or at the time of shoot, and
    • Obtaining licensing fees before releasing high resolution.

Thank you to Marci, ASMP and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago for putting on an awesome event and Monica for sharing her experience with us. The Lawyers for Creative Arts is a terrific resource. I would urge all professionals to attend future events to further educate themselves on how to make sure your contract is working for you.

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