Photographer Contract Woes: Are You Protected?

Photographer Contract Woes: Are You Protected?

Let’s face it, in today’s world it is always better to be safe than sorry, especially for artists with demanding clients. I’m a huge believer in utilizing contracts to keep everyone on the same page, but contracts can be difficult when they are severely limiting.

Lately, there have been numerous stories in the news of photographers and clients alike filing legal actions against one another. Fstoppers has covered a few of these stories. Andrea Polito, a Dallas-based photographer, filed suit against her clients for damages associated with defamation of character and reputation and won after the couple was accused of running a smear campaign. This week Fstoppers also reported on Peter Cepeda suing model Gigi Hadid after she posted one of his images on social media without his permission.

Recently I received a photography permission form used by Guns N’ Roses. The form is mandatory for photographers that plan to photograph the band’s shows. After reviewing the form, I found that along with the typical legal jargon, it contains a lot of protocols for photographers to follow, including the need to bring longer lenses versus shorter focal length glass. The form is quite specific, but this is their contract after all. They are within their own rights to set certain limits. At times it may seem excessive, but these limits protect us as photographers and artists alike. It is a tough balance, but a strict contract typically proves useful in the end as was the case for Polito. So when as an artist do you decide it’s not worth the frustration and headache when working with potential clients that have very specific contracts? 

Many new photographers tend to gloss over the legal aspects of the business and focus solely on their craft, but having the legal protection is a vital aspect of the business that should not be overlooked. There are a multitude of legal service offerings online with popular ones being LegalZoom, Doracy, and Honeybook. Releases, which was featured here on Fstoppers, is also a great app for in the field model release forms. Also if you're a member of PPA, then you already have access to their forms and contracts. While I’m in no way a legal expert, my only suggestion is for each artist to make their own judgment call on what legal documentation they feel is necessary for their business. One day they may need it or risk being bankrupt and out of business.

Do you protect yourself with contracts? What would you do if presented with the Guns N’ Roses permission form?

Trey Amick's picture

Trey Amick is a full-time photographer based in Northern VA. Trey found photography as an outlet to the work-life he wanted out of, and after several years made the jump. Trey focuses on landscapes for personal projects but can be found working on commercial projects and weddings as well. Trey also enjoys bladesmithing.

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I would decline to shoot them and if photographers had their head screw on right they too wouldn't shoot the concert with these conditions. I've shot artists from Michael Jackson to Prince to the Temptations and Miles Davis and never did I have contracts like this. The magazines/and or music companies I worked for had a simple one time use of photographs and the artists were allowed to use the images for a fee. These days things have gotten totally out of hand. Glad I do not do this anymore for these type of bands. I do Jazz artists who are much more chilled out. They understand the use of images in helping to promote them and their music.

if you want to shoot Guns N Roses you sign it, if not you don't shoot. simple. you may not agree with it but you have no choice. they hold all the cards.

Which is why you don't sign it and you don't shoot them. When no photographer is showing up to shoot you and therefore, you are getting no promotion, you will eventually be forced to make a more reasonable contract.

This is why we as a collective are having issues. If we stuck to our guns (pardon the pun) we could hold the cards and be reasonable. The issue is a simple one, they (clients) have put photographers in the "freebie" basket and therefore do not respect our profession as a commercial entity and most photographers allows this practice to grow. Whereas, if we put our own demands out there, I willing to bet bad practices could change. Being told what you can do to something you've created is just crazy. "Only 6 prints and only at web sizes" what kind of crap is this? the worst part of that contract is they "own" world wide copyright to your work. That is the part that really pisses me off. Who the fuck do they think they are.. they are a "has-been" band!!! How would they like it if someone own world wide copyright to their music. You would think that they being artist can understand this.
Photographers of the world stand together and boycott these ludicrous contracts.

GNR can kiss my fourth point of contact with the copyright steal.

I agree Eric. There would be very very few times I’d be willing to give full copyright away to a client. My concern is photographers getting excited about the possibility of photographing a large name and glazing over the legal parts.

Which would end up with the photographer getting in trouble for unwittingly violating the agreement they signed.

I am particularly unhappy with attempts to control display of work in social media. When I shoot an assignment I want to post about it online, not wait six months or more before I (supposedly) have permission from a magazine. Recent contracts have had a couple of messy, poorly phrased clauses, seeming to ignore that fact that I, the photographer, hold the copyright to the images and have signed releases from the subjects. I am not convinced these limiting clauses in these contracts are enforceable. Apart form the legal considerations, one would think a publication would welcome additional interest in work that is appearing or about to appear in their magazines.