If you happened to be on Facebook or any other social network, then you came cross a video that went viral about a photog that was being sued for 300K. We thought this was a great learning experience on protecting your images with contracts but thought who better than to ask a photog with a law degree. In steps Rebecca Enslein with her knowledge and experience. Read her advice below.
Photo Credit: Aharon Hill Photography (aharonhill.com)
Bio: Rebecca Enslein is a graduate of Walter F. George School of Law at Mercer University and is a member of the State Bar of Georgia. She gave up the practice of law to follow her passion for wedding photography and never looked back! She lives in Marietta with her husband Matthew and their dog Maccabee.
Where is a good resource to use when gathering up a contract for your clients (ex. online, though an attorney)?
The best place to start is with an attorney who specializes in working with small businesses. Ideally it will be a person who has worked with photographers before, and is very familiar with the needs of someone in the industry. You'll find that your business will change over time, and you'll likely need to modify the language of the contract slightly when you run into new situations. At that point, feel free to reach out to other photographers that you trust and specialize in the same thing. You're bound to find someone who has dealt with the same issue and can share how they deal with it in their contract.
What is the most important thing to include in the contract?
It'sa tie between specifying what happens if you can't perform your side of the contract (sickness, family emergency, etc.) and if the client can't perform their side of the contract (canceling the wedding, financial issues, etc.) The contract is there to protect both people equally, not just the photographer. Your clients want you to shoot their wedding, which is why they're hiring you, but they also need to know that they are covered in case of an emergency. Your contract should explain to them what your plan is in case something unexpected arises. Let them know that you have a network of other photographers you trust (ideally who also shoot in the same style) who will be able to fill in for you if need be.
On the other hand, it's also important that your clients understand that their deposit to reserve your services for a specified date is nonrefundable. If they cancel or postpone their event, it will likely be difficult for you to re-book the date, and you will have suffered damages.
Have you ever had a contract protect you from a client?
Yes, I had a client reschedule her wedding for a later date. The original date was a popular fall date that I'd turned away clients for and by the time she knew she had to move the date, I was unable to re-book it. There is a rescheduling fee in my contract which she paid to have us shoot the wedding at a later date. The fee isn't outrageous, but it is enough to discourage people from rescheduling without a really good reason.
Is it better to be generic or heavy on the language in your contract?
It is always better to be more specific in a contract than to use generic language. With that being said, make sure that the language you use is the kind that the average person can understand! There are so many things that can go wrong between the time you sign a contract with a client and the time you deliver the final product, and you need to be prepared for that.
Just a small example of the things that may not go as planned: clients not paying on time, having random relatives offer to shoot the wedding and get in your way, not getting fed during an 8+ hour day, rescheduling the wedding day, clients taking a long time to approve an album design...the list goes on and on. Make sure you're covered!