Publisher: Allworth Press
Review by Conrad J. Obregon
Nothing is more boring for a photographer than paging through a form book of contracts. Nothing is more important for a photographer who derives income from his pictures than having written agreements with his clients.
Business and Legal Forms for Photographers, 4th Edition (Business & Legal Forms for Photographers) opens with a broad discussion of photographers’ contracts, including the “boilerplate” that appears in most of the contracts and their meaning, including such elements as to whether the parties may assign the contracts and in what forum disputes will be settled. The book then presents 34 different kinds of agreements ranging from simple model releases to contracts relating to a book deal. In each case there is a general discussion of the important elements of the contract, followed by a check list of items to consider in the contract, and then the actual contract. The book also includes a CD containing each of the contracts in .pdf, Microsoft Word .doc and rich text format. This gives the user the opportunity to cut and paste to create an appropriate contract.
Although I am a lawyer, when I reviewed this book I wore my hats as a photographer who occasionally enters into such contracts and as a former business officer who negotiated many, many contracts. (I have to add the mandatory disclaimer here that I am not rendering legal advice and that if you have legal questions you should consult your attorney.) It appeared to me that all of these contracts contained the necessary conditions for a good business relationship. On the other hand, particularly where big dollars are involved, like say, a long term lease of space, one might want an attorney to review the agreement as well.
It’s important to remember that the negotiation process is not primarily an adversarial proceeding, but rather an attempt by the parties to reach agreement about what is to be done, and how to handle contingencies. In some cases like a wedding photography contract, the photographer will probably present the clients with a copy of the contract and then discuss the meaning of its terms, considering the special needs of the clients. In other cases, like a contract with a gallery, there will probably be discussions between the parties and then the contract will be prepared reflecting the outcome of the discussions. In the latter cases, the photographer will probably want to transcribe Crawford’s checklist to his notebook for use during the discussions to remove the air of an adversarial proceeding from the negotiations.
Besides presenting the contract forms, the author makes many other good suggestions. If sending the other party a written contract looks too formalistic, a letter incorporating the terms may be less daunting and just as effective. Perhaps, in the next edition, the author will include a few such letters to provide the flavor of how the same terms can seem less forbidding. If the photographer is presented with a written contract, he should take time to review it using the book’s checklists, and make suggestions for changes. Over the years I have found that bad deals are often made because the party receiving the contract was reluctant to ask for modification.
Most photographers who sell their work or services are not schooled as business people. Using this book should help to overcome some of that disadvantage.