Deciphering Photography Contracts
Here I explain the important parts of photography contracts. It includes some food for thought when approaching commercial photographers. It’s broken down into four sections; Images, Fees, the Shoot and Liability.
- Image Supply - Most contracts cover the format your images will be supplied in and how they’ll be delivered to you. This information is drawn from the brief where you discuss with me what you'll be using the images for.
- Copyright - This section outlines how, where, when and for how long you can use the images for. See here for an explanation of copyright or visit the Australian Commercial and Media Photographer’s website for their take.
Copyright also outlines who else you can and cannot provide images to. For example to newspapers for editorial content is usually fine but submission to a magazine or passing the images on to your suppliers is generally not.
If you do not want the photographer to use the images to promote their business until after your campaign or product is released this information should also be included. In this case you would ask for exclusive rights for a set period of time or indefinitely.
- Deposit - Often photographers will ask for a deposit if you are a new client, if the job has significant pre-production costs (building a set for example) or if the job is particularly large. It will also spell out if the deposit is non-refundable or transferrable.
- Shooting Fees - What’s covered in the quote and what’s not are discussed here. Often things like preparation, shooting, basic post production, assistant’s fees, travel, and equipment rental charges are included in the quote. Things that may result in additional costs later could be parking or car hire.
- Rescheduling the Job - What happens if it rains, your people are sick, there’s a strike, you can’t get access to the location on the agreed date, or you need to reschedule? Things can go wrong so make sure you're aware of any cancelation or rescheduling policies. I'm very flexible with rescheduling because I know weather, illness, site restrictions, and safety factors can sometimes get in the way of a good shoot.
The Shoot Itself
- Client Approval - Some photographers (like me) prefer to shoot with a client representative on site, others don’t. Find out. This is important because what happens if you don’t like the images provided, if something is wrong, misrepresented, not shot in the style you want, or you’re simply unhappy? What right of recourse or reshoot do you have and what will be the charges?
- Cooperation and Availability - Whose responsibility is it if staff doesn’t turn up or if the location cannot be used? Will there be any fees if the photographer has to reschedule? Most photographers work on the basis that if you’re providing the staff or the location then it’s your responsibility to manage the relationships and access. The photographer will use every ounce of charm they have to persuade people to be cooperative and will make compromises where possible. But we can only sometimes work miracles.
- Liability includes a discussion about what happens if the photographer cannot perform the shoot for some reason. Liability also raises the issue of model releases. Every person who appears in an image must sign a release giving the photographer and client permission to use the image in agreed ways. If this is not signed the image cannot be used by either party.
This is a good guide to what you’ll find in a general contract. If your organisation has standard photography contracts (like many Government organisations do) you should tell the photographer this at the outset as this may affect the quote given.
- Here's some info to help you choose a photographer, getting a quote, or getting a brief
- Here's some info to help you decipher copyright
- Here are my contact details if you need some help clarifying your current photography contract