Confirming Agreements in Writing

Photographers often make agreements by phone or in person to provide their services. While problems can arise later, they likely will be minimized if the deal is put in writing. But many photographers are uncomfortable about the process and won’t do it unless they have a full-blown formal contract. Thankfully, there are alternatives.

As mentioned in my last blog, the PLUS organization is making it easier than ever to prepare a written license for your photos. Your photography association may provide forms tailored to your business. The client may offer you a contract (but be sure to have it reviewed by your lawyer). Tad Crawford’s book, “Business and Legal Forms for Photographers,” will get you several more forms to use. Find an attorney to help you with specific contracts for other work. But, at a minimum, you have another option that can protect yourself to some extent. That is, after you make an agreement with someone, send them an email or letter confirming what you each promised to do.

For example, if a client calls to book you for a product shoot, send the client an email thanking her for the contact and then list the details of the agreement. You can cast it as an attempt to ensure that your work will meet the client’s needs, such as: “as I understand our arrangement, I will do the following . . . and you will do . . . .” To help construct the email, include all of the “who does what, where, and when” in a list format. Finish the email with an opportunity for the client to disagree (“please let me know if I have misunderstood our agreement”). It’s a great professional touch and serves as a contract for the job. While the other, more formal, options may better protect you legally, this exercise will get you on your way to better business practices.

Photographers are good at recording subjects through their lens. They next should become good at recording agreements with their “pen.”

Take my advice; get professional help.

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