We’re talking preventative measures to legally protect your photography business! An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure. Someone said that. We think they are onto something.
Your business is important to you. It might even be your livelihood and help you put food on the table and a roof over your head. Sometimes, we find ourselves facing situations that we didn’t ask for or cause. The reality is that we live in a litigious society, and as a consequence, it is a reality of doing business that we need to consider how to protect ourselves and prevent problems or foresee potential issues before they occur. We’re not claiming to have a crystal ball, but we have been doing this for a while, and have seen almost every variation of problems photographers and photography business owners can find themselves facing.
What kind of preventative measures can you put into place to help protect your photography business?
- Clear communication and customer service skills
- Lawyer drafted contracts
- Consistent business policies and procedures
- Data security
Clear communication and customer service skills
Invest time and energy in educating yourself and your clients. When you clearly communicate in person and in writing what your clients can expect from their interactions with you and the transaction, you can prevent a multitude of problems. You may consider creating a client guide that can be given to clients at the time you receive their booking. Clear communication can prevent (or help prevent) copyright infringement, misunderstandings about contract terms, payment terms, and deliverables.
Client education is essential. You cannot assume your clients know anything about copyright law, or how the photography industry works. Make sure your contracts include terms within your contract that explain copyright law explicitly. It is also important that you explain what copyright is and how it is different from a print release or commercial license. You can simply explain that even though you retain copyright ownership, you provide a print release to your clients. If you’re not sure of the difference yourself, read more here).
Lawyer drafted contracts
Be sure that your contracts have been drafted and approved by an attorney. Don’t copy and paste from other people’s contracts – you need to make sure your contracts consider your circumstances and the risks that face your business. An attorney who understands the photography business will make sure that your contracts will include terms which explain what copyright is and what conveys – exclusive or non-exclusive rights and what types of licenses or releases are offered.
Consistent Business policies and procedures
Written policies, consistently applied, can be a great way to prevent problems before they arise. It is much easier to be confident when you know what your policy is and why!
Consider adding Website terms and conditions and notices like a website copyright footer. The copyright notice may not be legally necessary but can serve as a reminder for clients and potential clients.
The way you package your products and share with your clients can also help reinforce copyright and usage rights and limitations. You might consider including a “Caring for Your Art” card at delivery of physical products or at the end of an IPS session. A “Caring for Your Art” card can be a tactful way to reiterate their rights and yours when it comes to the product you are delivering. This card might also include tips on caring for their prints or digital image files with subtle reminders of copyright laws.
Consider ways to reinforce your copyright by marking your prints. This doesn’t mean a large watermark on the printed photograph – although this may not be a bad idea for online and digital images. Instead, you can “mark” by placing a stamp or sticker on the back of the print that can function as a reminder that they may have print rights but not the copyright.
We’ve all read those dramatic posts about photographers who have lost the images from entire shoots and events – including weddings! Don’t be one of those photographers! Ensure that you have data protection procedures in place to protect your image assets. Consider tools to ensure you make sure you don’t reuse data storage and write over images that have not yet been processed! Consider documenting your policies on how long you keep images, what kinds of server redundancy might be needed for your business, and any insurance coverage you might need to protect your photography business.
Prevention can also be best achieved by taking a breath!
Sometimes when a client asks a question, it is not about getting something for nothing. Sometimes clients are simply asking a question because they don’t know the answer or are misunderstanding what they have read or have heard. Take an open posture – seeking to educate and serve – rather than a defensive posture. If you receive an email, a phone message, or a text message that takes you back, take a beat before responding! Read our article on dealing with bad client reviews and take note of the steps you can take to avoid them!