F*ck You; Pay Me! A Guide To Contracts For The Creative Professional

Have you ever had a client dismiss a project after you have already put in hours of work? What are you supposed to do when a client brings in a second professional to also work on your project? What can you do if a client says your work isn't really what they were looking for after you have already delivered the final project?

Mike Monteiro is the design director at Mule Design Studio. During a seminar at CreativeMornings, Mike gave a really insightful and thorough speech about how a creative professional can protect his work and payment in the event that something goes wrong with the client or job. This video is long but it should at least make you aware of issues you might face on your journey to becoming a professional photographer. At the most this video will make you reconsider your contracts (if you even have them) and put the proper legal checkpoints in place to prevent problems down the road. If you've had a bad experience that a solid contract would have solved, let us know in the comments.

Posted In: 
Log in or register to post comments


Deedee Thomas's picture

Hey Guys This Fucking Awesome! Seriously!

Awesome info. I practiced law for fourteen years before I wised up and got the hell out. What I learned in those fourteen years, though, has been truly invaluable. Everybody who makes money with their camera (or ANY creative outlet, for that matter) needs to learn their way through the minefield-- or at least have someone they trust to help guide them through it.

Anyone who get paid to be creative in any way shape or form NEEDS to watch this talk ASAP!

love it!!!

Marvin Hagemeister's picture

Really awesome stuff here!! Really apreciate it!

Ju's picture

thank you for sharing this!

Thank you for sharing this!!! Here's a quick story that I went through in the last about 7 months. I have been photographing for a start up magazine their stuff is based off of anything dealing with the motor-sports field. So as a start up anything money can always be a bit tight so I really based my prices low and really hadn't thought about a contract because at the time I was just in aww that I was getting published to the public in a magazine (local). But over the first 4 months the magazine began to grow and profit off of its sales and advertisers so in turn as they grow and their bank account grew I decided to create a contract putting me at the head of all photography being put into the magazine, front cover, key articles, etc. It worked out great and I was covered and I had a guarantee to be in every issue. But like any good thing the economy has taken over and the magazine is taking a turn for the worse so I jumped off the ride so as not to ruin my name. Any way contracts are key for anything I have learned ( I haven't been doing this very long but I have listened to many around me and that has did more good than anything).

Seriously love it!!

dario chaparro's picture

Fuck you and Pay me , may here can do some t-shirts about it!!!

This shirt should be the upper part of the company uniform. Also, it should be worn when first meeting the bride and groom, set the tone right.

Does anyone have any great examples of a Contract for a photographer?

This is a informative video. Thanks for sharing.

Amy Rose Lee's picture

Brilliant! what a great talk! Normally falling asleep at these places! these two should be comedians! ...brilliant advice! looking out for signs now :) and rewriting my contract!!! ...:)

been listening to this video ever since it was posted, and that lady at the end still annoys the hell out of me.... wtf is she mumbling aboot??!

Wow. THANK YOU SO MUCH for posting this. Coming from a family of entrepreneurs, I've learned through observation that ANY deal needs to be put on paper.

In my personal experience, I've learned that it's ESPECIALLY needed if the deal is with friends or family. It was probably my third photography project by the time I got a contract in order. "Model Release & Copyright Agreement".

Just recently, a friend asked to use one of my images on his upcoming CD. I did up an "Image Licensing Agreement", but was STUPID and sent him the image before getting his signature or payment. He and his producer don't return my emails, and two months later, I still haven't seen even a signature. Friendship = over. I really don't want to take legal action. But had I been diligent right from the get-go, I wouldn't be in this hot water.

"It's gotten to this point as soon as you decided to go from creative amateur to creative professional". On Monday morning, I'm sending all my contract drafts to my lawyer to have them reviewed.

Thank you Mike Monteiro. And thank you FStoppers.

BIG Mike's picture

yea... i believed in this policy almost 3 years now. I had one fo my models express my feelings for people who dont pay me.


_photographer in Las Vegas_

Does anyone know what the song in the beginning was?

RubberxD's picture

anyone else think the lawyer looks like the doctor from " Star Trek: Voyager" actor Robert Picardo? except with hair :) http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000585/ in case you don't remember.

Mike Monteiro's picture

Hey everyone, thanks for all the kind words. Glad you all enjoyed my talk. Honored that it's spreading out to other creative fields. (btw: we actually made t-shirts: http://feedstore.muledesign.com/product/fuck-you-pay-me)

Tim Colston's picture

I had a nightmare happen like the ones you described. As a designer, I have to be able to adapt and create on a regular basis. As such, I was approached by a client of mine notorious for being "behind" when he came to us for work. Needless to say, this was no exception. He was a partner in a dental implant manufacturer. Long story short, he needed an interactive presentation to be displayed at his trade show booth. I was given over 700 high res hi res images of various stages of dental implant surgeries to do this with. It was all to be delivered in a Flash projector for use on a computer full screen. Copy was also supplied. But here the thing, I was given less than a week to do it. Not impossible, but very time consuming. 57 (billable) hours later, I deliver the presentation the day prior to the deadline he gave. "This is so totally awesome! Thanks. Can we add something that will have this display random images behind my logo when no one is using it. And also..." Sorry, but the level of functionality he was wanting couldn't be added in less than a day. "I'm not gonna lie to you and say yes to this since its not going happen given the time you have until your show. You're leaving tomorrow aren't you? I won't waste your time or your money because it isn't physically possible to do." He says, "I can't use this as it is!" I threw my hands up in frustration because I delivered to him exactly what he asked for in our initial and subsequent meetings on what I was going to be responsible for. I said "I delivered what you asked me to. I don't know what else to tell you." I sent out the invoice a week later. To this day, I haven't received a dime in regards to this project and probably never will. As an old client, I never dreamed of this as a possibility so no contract was ever drawn up. That was the last time that ever happened.

Patrick Hall's picture

I know you have no case to stand on by threatening litigation but sometimes it works. People get scared of going to court and especially if you tell them the next call will be from your lawyer, all of a sudden the check is in the mail. Sucks to hear that story though

I shot for an agency that had a very exclusive country club as a client. They wanted to show the new, even more upscale club-within-the-club homes and ameneties. I worked with no contract, since the agency was owned by a "friend". three days on location with rentals, assistance, meals, travel to and from.....all down the tubes not to mention the THOUSANDS in fees lost to the wind since they were leveraged up to their eyeballs and the housing market bombed....GREAT portfolio builder....kinda expensive, but boy what pictures.THEN I see the website AFTER their bankruptcy filing....still sportin' the images.I lawyered up, but didn't recover ANY fees or expenses....I only had them pull the images. Nothing written is a REAL loser, folks....don't try THIS at home.

Any one know where i can get good written contracts to use?

Ronald Stewart's picture

Very good talks. If you are looking for a contract to use I say just google it. Pick a few different ones, look them over, take what you want from them to make up your own and then look over that to make sure it is the best for the situation, etc.