Using photography contract templates can save you time and money.
Starting up any business is a costly endeavor; this is especially true in the photography industry.
Startup costs can be astronomical due to having to secure the correct equipment and ensuring it is of professional quality. Also, a startup has a lot of moving parts which have to align correctly at the get-go for your business to function smoothly.
TheLawTog is THE legal resource for photographers, offering contract templates to use in every aspect of your photography business; from start-up filings to client contract templates to dissolution of business documents for when you successfully retire from the industry.
This is why we are the Industry’s go-to place for quality, cost-effective, legal documents. We have been recommended by leaders in the photography industry and seen on CreativeLive, WPPI, SeniorsIgnite, and more!
That being said, no matter if you use our services or not, we want you to have a successful business and to be protected from all possible eventualities. I would like to take this time to remind you to ALWAYS HAVE A LAWYER DRAFT YOUR CONTRACTS. No matter what service you utilize, this is always Best Practice.
Why you should always have a lawyer draft your contracts
I know I have covered this topic ad nauseum. It just really is that important and, believe me, this is sound advice from someone who is in the legal profession. Obviously, I have something to gain from recommending that you consult with a lawyer. I am one. But, at the same time – I don’t stand to gain.
Why? How? Well, before I give you my reasons – I want you to answer a few questions. Try to answer these questions on your own. Don’t cheat and Google the answers. Below are three basic contract terms, do you know what they mean?
I have covered these terms in previous articles, let’s see how much you remember —
What is a third-party beneficiary?
What is an illusory promise?
What does privity of contract mean?
These questions only reflect a small portion of the world of contractual theory and application. The questions are relatively easy, but the answers are not readily apparent.
If your contractual document misapplies any of the three, then your contract may be null and void.
I encourage every contractual document you utilize to be written in plain and simple language.
Be consistent in your terminology. While variety is the spice of life, variety can ruin a contract. This being said, there are contractual applications and theories at play that are triggered by the text utilized within a contract, that a non-lawyer may not be aware of.
Lawyers spend a soul-crushing three years just beginning to understand these concepts. After these three years, a lawyer will then cram during every waking hour for months just to master basic legal concepts applicable to only one particular state, in order to pass the multi-day legal gauntlet that is the bar exam. Thereafter, a lawyer will spend a lifetime attempting to master their chosen field of legal focus.
The general practice attorney, the street lawyer, is a dying breed. There are so many new rules and regulations that come out every year that it is impossible to keep up with multiple areas of the law. But, lawyers endure this, take on massive amounts of debt, and basically sign their lives away, so that you, the small business owner, don’t have to be concerned with contractual theory and application.
So — Leave it to the professionals. Let a lawyer worry about the legal aspects of your photography business. Besides, you will already have enough to deal with in the day-to-day workings of the business end of your studio.
Don’t blindly download a contract template.
Once again, this is a subject we have covered ad nauseum in the book. I just think this subject is so extremely important, that I cannot stress it enough. The internet is a great place to turn to for funny cat videos or videos of people being pranked. However, the same cannot be said for binding legal documents.
You never know what you are going to get on the internet. You can download a photography contract, dense with legalese, and use it in your business. Your client may be impressed by the thickness and solemnity of the document that you are asking them to sign; but, the end result is that both you and the client will probably be confused by the contract’s contents.
That contract could have been constructed by someone for a college freshman business law class. I have seen one contract being utilized that I know for a fact was featured on a contract law test. The professor placed it in his exam and tasked the law students with finding the mistakes therein. My point is, how do you really know the document has been drafted by professional to be utilized in a business transaction?
Using a document you just pulled from the internet is akin to submitting a client portfolio by randomly pulling pictures from the shoot, without looking to see what you are putting in or caring about the quality of the image. It is quite possible that you will make matters worse for yourself by inadvertently drafting the contract against yourself.
Before you pull that contract off of a forum and use it, ask yourself:
“How much is my photography business worth to me?”.
Your answer will probably be much higher than the cost of buying a vetted legal template and sitting down with an attorney to tailor the template to your business model.
Any attorney will work. Right?
Okay good, now we have the matter of blindly downloading a template from the internet settled. So, now that you have in your hands a vetted contractual template, you can just stroll into any attorney’s office and have them review the document. Right? Unfortunately, the answer is no. Read on!
Find an attorney who has experience in the photography business.
If you have followed my advice so far, then keep up the good work. Now, consider this, if you wanted to have photographs taken of you and your family, from a source other than your studio, where would you go? Would you go to any old photographer? Is a studio that focuses on landscapes or pet photography going to be able to produce pictures on par with a studio that does nothing but take family photos? The commonsense answer is no. A studio that focuses on producing a certain type of photograph is going to have the knowledge and experience to produce a quality end product.
This thought experiment equally applies to lawyers. If you want a good contract, you will not want to go to an attorney whose practice is predominately personal injury or criminal law. You will get the best advice from an attorney who has years of experience in working with contract law. But, not just any old contracts lawyer will do.
You need to find an attorney who has experience with photography contracts. You want an attorney who knows the industry, knows intellectual property and copyright laws, and knows what potential legal pitfalls exist for small photography studios. This is the attorney you want to guide you around those pitfalls and ensure your assets and livelihood are protected.
It really is worth the expenditure to hire a lawyer who deals with contract law daily and has experience in the photography industry. This lawyer will know the intricate pieces needed to complete the inner workings of a photography business. A lawyer without this experience may indeed know contract law, but may miss something that only a photographer would think of. This could potentially leave you with missing provisions and protections.
REMEMBER: CONTRACTS ARE MORE THAN LEGAL TOOLS.
Contracts are intended to set the bar of expectations between you and your clients. A contract is meant to inform the client of what he may expect in the photographer/client relationship process. A small business lawyer will not know the ins and outs of this relationship. There will inevitably be specific provisions that he will miss, that only a photographer or lawyer who has worked extensively in the photography industry would know should be included in the contract.
Bottom Line: A good lawyer is better than no lawyer. A good photographer/lawyer combination is even better.
Should I have a lawyer review the template?
As you may have already guessed, absolutely yes! At first glance, it may seem counterintuitive to spend money on a photography contract template and still need a lawyer. But, as we have just covered above, you need an attorney with small business and photography industry experience to make slight, state-specific, amendments. This is the only way to ensure your contract follows the law of the state you intend to utilize it in. This method offers the best protection for you, your assets, and your business.
Here at TheLawTog, our staff is composed solely of individuals who have expertise in both the legal and photography industries.
We utilize this combined experience to provide our clients with a well-rounded document for use in your business. Unfortunately, our legal knowledge, while extensive, does not extend to every state and territory within the United States. Thereby, it will always be our recommendation that you take our templates and consult with a local attorney. This is Best Practice; it ensures your interests are always fully protected.
A real-life example.
Please realize prices are subject to change and may vary.
A Virginia lawyer will charge $195/hour for legal work. This is for pretty much any legal problem, but for this example, it is for work directly related to your photography business.
In order to construct a contract for your business, you can expect to meet with an attorney for at least an hour prior to her creating your document. This is a cost of $195. The Lawyer will then spend, at minimum, an hour researching specific issues related to the creation of your document. There goes another $195. (In reality, you can expect her, or her paralegal, to spend multiple hours doing this research.)
Once the research is complete, your lawyer would spend another hour taking the firm’s template “contract for services” document and tailoring it to your photography business. That is another $195. (Again, in reality, you can expect the attorney to spend multiple hours doing this.)
When the document is complete, the attorney will send you a watermarked draft to review; if you are lucky. Or, the attorney will bring you in to meet with her and get your feedback on the document. She will mark-up the draft for revision and proceed to the second draft. This will take about two hours, which is $390. (If the attorney does not provide you with a copy to review outside of her office, expect another hour or two to be added in.)
Draft two will take about .75 of an hour. This results in another $146.25 added to the bill.
The final review session will probably take .75 of an hour. This will add a final $146.25 to your bill.
The end result is 6.5 billable hours, the TOTAL COST $1,267.50.
That may seem high, but I know from personal experience that the lawyer is not charging you for all the time she put into creating that document.
Typically, a lawyer has a ledger with which she marks her time. She will have two columns, one with time actually spent on a project and the other with the time actually billed. The time actually billed will ALWAYS be less than the time actually spent. If it isn’t, then you have a shady lawyer charging you for time she did not spend working on your legal matter.
A lawyer bills less, because most clients cannot afford to pay for her time.
Not only will the bill be over $1,000, but it will take days or weeks to get your completed document. Just as you can only take so many photographs a day, a lawyer can only deal with so many legal issues a day.
Alternatively, you can purchase an affordable, well-rounded, photography industry-specific contract template from TheLawTog.
You can take the template to a local attorney experienced in small business contracts and knowledgeable about the photography industry for review. It should take such a well-qualified attorney about 1.5 billable hours to speak with you and then review your document. Heck, it may be able to be accomplished in only 1 billable hour.
The end result is a state-specific, solid, legal contract. The total cost for this document, using 1.5 billable hours, is $401.50. This is a savings of $866.
The First Method – 6.5 hours and $1,267.50.
The Second Method –1.5 hours and $401.50.
Total Savings Using the Second Method: 5 hours and $866.
Note: The pricing in your area will vary – the prices utilized were done based on a study comparing drafting versus review prices from the same law firm.
You can easily see how the second method saves you both time and money on the front end.
Another benefit is that you now have a great roadmap to inform your clients of the contractual duties and obligations they are agreeing to. It also gives your clients a greater insight into the behind the scenes workings of the photography industry, the processes utilized, and what the client can expect of the end product. This will help you avoid any potential amendments to your contract as you will be starting on a firm legal foundation.
How to use TheLawTog’s photography contracts.
Even though TheLawTog is not currently focusing on individual state contract law, every single one of our contracts will go through a multi-level review process. This involves a well-qualified and committed team of lawyers and photographers reviewing and revising your document. In the end, we will provide you with the optimal contract for whatever type of photography business you are in.
Additionally, our team will not leave you wondering how to implement the contract in your business model. TheLawTog does not simply tender you a legal document and say, “God Speed.” On our website, we have the entire step-by-step process laid out for you. Our goal is to leave you knowing, without a doubt, what information to put in your contract and where to put it. We want to ensure that you are “doing it right.”
How can you find a local attorney for review?
State laws vary, I cannot mention this enough. TheLawTog will always recommend having a local attorney, with the appropriate legal and photography industry experience, review our contract template. We will provide you with a list of recommended attorneys who are already familiar with our contracts. No referral fees are passed on, only high-fives from the attorney to us.
This is to ensure that you will be provided with quick and efficient service without having to spend a lot of time and money on your attorney becoming familiar with our documents.
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