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If you own a small or medium-sized photography business, it can be difficult to work out exactly what legalities and documentation you need to manage your relationships with: 

  • clients; 
  • models; and 
  • other people.

While it might be tempting to solely focus on your photography, you need to protect yourself and your business. If you do not have robust legal documentation, you are exposing yourself to legal risks.

This article will look at three of the most common and most important agreements for photographers: 

  • a basic client agreement;
  • terms of use for your website; and 
  • model release forms.

What Is A Client Agreement?

All photography businesses should use client agreements of some description. This document should formally set out the terms on which you are working for individuals or businesses that are looking to use your services. This agreement can include a number of different provisions depending on what you will actually be doing. However, it should almost always include terms about:

  • the parties to the contract (is the other party an individual or a business?);
  • how your clients will pay you;
  • a detailed description of the services you will be providing (e.g. taking photos at a customer’s wedding, editing, the final offering of photos etc.);
  • how any intellectual property rights in your photos will be managed and licensed to the customer;
  • how you or the client can end the agreement in the event of a dispute; and 
  • the way you limit or exclude your liability under the agreement (e.g. for events out of your control or consequential losses). For example, if your camera breaks during a special event, you do not want to be held legally responsible for any disappointment or harm resulting from a lack of photos.

You can include different terms depending on:

  • what is important to you; or
  • what you find typically results in issues based on your experience with past clients.

Once you have a basic (or template) agreement with your chosen terms, you can adjust it for each client. 

What Are Website Terms of Use?

A website’s terms of use set out the rules for anyone who goes on your website. These terms typically include:

  • how people can use your website;
  • legal disclaimers; and
  • rules around what conduct is allowed and what is prohibited.

Usually, one of the most critical clauses in a website’s terms of use relates to how users can use your content. This is particularly important if you have a website that showcases your work by having lots of different photography available for visitors to your website to see.

Given the risk of someone taking or copying the photos on your website, you should ensure you have website terms of use in place and include a general prohibition on website visitors copying any content from your website without your consent. This means that anybody looking to use your photos (from your website) must seek your consent if they would like to do so. This provides you with a stronger legal basis if you discover that your content has been taken from your website. Anyone doing so will be in breach of your website’s terms of use.

What Are Release Forms?

A release form is another important agreement that photographers and photography businesses typically use. A model release form will be especially relevant when you are using models in your photographs. There are intellectual property issues to consider if you would like to take photos of a model and then use those photos for commercial purposes, such as for a company advertisement. 

A model release form will usually:

  • grant you rights to use the photographs;
  • set out the purpose for which you can use the photos;
  • explain that you are not legally responsible for any claims from the model; and 
  • set out that you, as the photographer, will own any intellectual property rights in the photos.

Key Takeaways

There are some key contracts that people who run photography businesses typically need. These include:

  • client agreements;
  • website terms of use; and
  • release forms.

Client agreements are important for formally setting out what photography services you will be providing, how payment will work for those services, and other key terms. It is important to commit to these in writing in case there are any disagreements or issues down the track with a client. Website terms of use helps prevent photographers from having their content taken and used without their consent, and release forms are important for protecting your intellectual property rights when working with models. If you want to know more about what contracts you need for a photography business, contact LegalVision’s employment lawyers on 0800 005 570 or complete the form on this page.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a client agreement?

A client agreement sets out the terms on which services will be provided to another party, such as a business.

What is a website terms of use?

Terms of use on a website set out the rules for how a website can be used, legal disclaimers and terms (often including limiting content taken from the website) and what conduct is allowed. 

What is a model release form?

A model release form will usually contain terms that grant the photographer intellectual property rights to any photos of the model in question, and how those photos can be used.

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