I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: If you want to make money from photography, you need to have a contract and a license signed by you and the client. A contract is just an agreement between you and a client that specifies the scope and nature of your work. A license is the document that grants a client certain rights to use your image(s). I’ve seen some wedding contracts, for example, that include a model release and specifies what the bride and groom can and can’t do with the images. So in essence it’s a contract, model release and license all in one.
Now, I’m no lawyer. That means two things; I can’t give you legal advice. Second, it means writing and reading contracts and licenses give me a headache. I’m a college educated person, but sometimes I have to re-read a statement several times and sometimes I still don’t know what it says! If you think about it, writing “and” instead of “or” can have serious implications in a legal document.
So my first solution was to buy “Business and Legal Forms for Photographers” by Tad Crawford. The book comes with boiler-plate templates on a CD-ROM in various formats that you can use. The book walks you through what each line means and covers everything from model releases to wedding contracts and more.
“Licenses don’t have to be complicated. They don’t need to include a lot of wherefore’s, whereby’s or other legalese. What they need to do is to outline – clearly, simply and in plain English – what the client can and can’t do with your images.”
She goes on to say that licenses can be written in list form. That got me thinking. I’m now in the process of writing up a contract in plain english. It’s not that easy though. I’m referring to the legalese in the book as well as the ASMP web site and translating it into plain english. In the end, I think this helps both parties. Would you want to give a bride a 2-to-3 page legal paper to sign? Seems a little intimidating, I think.
So my advice is to talk to your client and find out what their needs are. Then incorporate that into the contract. The contract I’m writing now, for example, really only has three core principles. First, granting limited use to the client. Second, protecting my copyright and by extension; Third, not allowing them to give my images to anyone else.
If you’re serious about making money from photography you’ve got to learn about releases, contracts and licenses. Fortunately, the ASMP site is full of free information. On the homepage click on “Business Resources” then “Tutorials and Forms“. There you’ll find info on copyright, releases, an example of a bad contract and a terms and conditions example that you can include in your contracts.