Yes, I know that they can be super cute – and it is okay for you to do to yourself, but for a client? There may come a time that you want to draw the line in the faux snow covering your studio floor. Some actions are not worth the liability-ridden factor that comes along with them.
Since Pinterest has come around it has brought a lot of photography trends that many of us wish would…just…die. Right?
But that is okay.
Sometimes giving a little for the client is OK…but here’s some friendly legal advice: NOT WHEN IT HAS A RISK TO IT.
In fact, while I was researching for this article, I stumbled across this article showcasing this light-wrapping phenomena, by one of my favorite blogs no less! The more I looked at the images though, I realized something. Wrapping yourself in lights may be dangerous – burns, lead, electrocution – but if you want to do it to yourself, by all means.
But for clients? We need to be a bit more professional and vigilant on protecting our businesses than jumping on board the Pinterest-photography-idea-wagon.
So I’m not here to slam this idea. If you want, you can read about the dangers of wrapping clients in lights here – I’m actually writing to shed light on potential liability ridden requests by clients and give a how-to on handling client requests that may be out of your comfort zone.
Here’s my advice in a nutshell – (scroll down to get the long answer to each)
- You don’t have to take every client or request that comes your way.
- Protect yourself against liability.
- Always carry liability insurance.
- Be knowledgeable.
How to handle client requests
Guess what? You’re the business owner. You don’t have to do any request simply because it is requested.
True story. Nix that fear of having a client go the other direction and think – if my gut says no, then there is a reason. This can be the Christmas lights wrapped up, train tracks, or just merely an aesthetic choice that you aren’t into.
The key is to successfully turn someone away without making them feel alienated but protecting your business.
Key actions can include:
- Refer them out – “Unfortunately that isn’t a request that I can handle at this time, but I have a great referral for you” (but make sure you ask the referring photographer if they would be comfortable too!)
- Offer an alternative – How about we try X – I think we could really come together to create a great session getting close to that result as possible.
- Simply say no – If you are uncomfortable you don’t have to do it. “I’m sorry but I don’t feel comfortable with that idea. I would still love to be your photographer though!”
It is best to sit down and figure up ahead of time what your response will be so you aren’t caught off guard and/or feel pressured to do something you’re not into.
How can I protect myself against liability?
Again – you’re the business owner – so if you WANT to take on these requests, just make sure you’ve put some protections around you. In fact, this liability protection list is for every photography business owner. In no particular order.
- Contract – Always have a contract in place outlining all of your policies and an indemnification policy.
- Carry liability insurance – Carry the proper liability insurance. There are a broad range of insurances that every professional should have; liability is just one piece of it. In fact, many wedding venues and locations will not allow shooting without proof of such insurance. (Companies include PPA, Hartford, Hiscox – I don’t endorse any of these over the other – merely providing the information for you to research on your own. Always look at the policy provisions!)
- Business Formation – Set your business up separate from your personal assets (such as an LLC or Corporation).
- Think before you act! – Always make sure the surrounding environment is safe, you have informed your clients of all the requisite safety measures, and are vigilant during (and immediately surrounding) the session.
If you absolutely must or want to engage in risk-taking behavior with clients make sure you sign a Release of Liability Waiver!
Resources to keep you and your clients safe
- Exposed: The Risks of Photographing on Railroad Tracks and Exposing Risky Behavior on Railroad Tracks
- Operation Lifesaver (with additional info on Digital Photography School here)
- Newborn Safety from the NAPCP
- Photographing with Live Animals
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