Lights Camera Lawsuit Pre-sale Starts Tomorrow!

“Fireworks” by Epic Fireworks from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I’m nearly pee-my-pants excited because the pre-sale for my first online course, Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography starts tomorrow! I’ve been working on this for well-over a year, and it’s so close to finally coming to market.

I’ve spent the last week promoting the bejezus out of this, and I’m so pleased that the response has been so positive:

Looks like a powerful product… I’m sure it will prove very popular!

Super good idea, and i love the curriculum.

Sound like a good (and much-needed) product.

Just forwarded it to every photographer I know

I will never stop being amazed at your entrepreneurial talents – what an amazing idea.  

On the eve of the pre-sale, I wanted to respond to some of the questions I’ve received about this course.

What inspired you to create this course?

I’ve worked as a lawyer for eight years and a model for five. Basically, I’ve worked on both sides of the camera without having to touch one. I’ve seen there is a great need for quality information about photography law, and, unfortunately, most photographers can’t afford to hire a lawyer to help with all their legal needs. I’ve seen too many photographers make costly mistakes that were completely avoidable, particularly related to their contracts and copyright. I created this course to save other photographers from making the same mistakes.

Why did you create a course instead of another type of product or event?

There are three reasons. First, by creating a course, I can maximize the number of people I can help while keeping the price down.

Second, the material in the course is evergreen (at least until the law changes), so I want it to be available when people are ready for it and looking for a reliable resource about photography law.

Third, people who buy the course will be able to access it again and again, versus a live event which is a one-and-done deal. If there are changes to the law, I can update the lesson in question or add an additional lesson to the course, and everyone who had purchased it to date will get it at no additional cost.

Does the course include contract templates?

No, and here’s why – I’m not allowed to under the rules of my law license. However, the course includes the list of provisions I include in my contracts and lots of sample verbiage from real documents I’ve created for photographer clients.

Where did the name Scarlet Maven come from?

Scarlet Maven is the name of my superhero alter ego.

Why did you have to create a separate business entity? What type did you create?

I created a separate entity, Scarlet Maven, LLC, to make it clear that there will not be an attorney-client relationship with people who buy the course.

On the advice of my accountant, I created an LLC for this business. LLCs are a great choice In Arizona, because they are basically set-it-and-forget-it entities. The state doesn’t require an annual report or fee. I don’t have to file anything with the state unless the company moves or dissolves.

What aspects of the course did you outsource?

Each lesson is going to be a screencast with a voiceover recording. I hired Elizabeth Fullerton at Boldfaced Design to create the templates for the PowerPoint slides.

Additionally, because I have no artistic talent and only had a feeling about what I wanted my logo to look like, I hired Dina Miller at Square Peg Creative to create the logos for Scarlet Maven and Lights Camera Lawsuit.

Both were money well spent. These ladies did a beautiful job.

How have you been promoting the course?

In addition to promoting the course through Scarlet Maven’s email list, I sent well over 500 individual emails to photographers, lawyers, and other professional creatives who might be interested in the course or who might know people who would be interested in the course.

The promotion won’t end with the pre-sale. I expect Lights Camera Lawsuit will be a course I sell for years to come, so I’ll continue to look for opportunity to reach more people about it.

What parts of this process were fun?

Creating the outline for the course and each of the lessons was fun. So has been talking with photographers about their needs and what they hoped to get out of this.

What new skills did you have to learn?

This venture gave me the opportunity to learn some new skills. This was the first time I ever created a website with Squarespace. It’s quite different than working with WordPress, but not too hard once you learn the basics.

This is my first online course, and I’m using Teachery for it. I was so glad and relieved to learn that this platform is super easy to use. I’ve also taken a number of courses that platform, so I know how easy it is for users as well.

What challenges did you face?

Scarlet Maven is my side business, so one of the challenges I faced was making time to devote to the business, create the course, and promote it. I still have my full-time job being a lawyer, writer, and speaker where I don’t always control when I have deadlines or when work gets dropped in my lap.

The biggest challenge I faced, by far, with this venture has been managing my anxiety.

  • What if no one likes it?
  • What if no one buys it?
  • What if I screw up making it and it never gets to market?

These are the types of fears I wrestled with on a daily basis. Sometimes they caused me to procrastinate working on the course. The best way I knew to manage them was to focus on the next task in front of me instead of being consumed by the bigger fears related to the course’s overall success.

Lights Camera Lawsuit Pre-sale: February 14th-18th

The pre-sale for Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography will last only five days!

Pre-sale Starts: Friday, February 14, 2020 at 8am AZ Time

Pre-sale Ends: Tuesday, February 18, 2020 at 6pm AZ Time

Pre-sale Price: $199 (60% discount)

Please subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on this fantastic pre-sale price. I’ll never offer this course at this price again.

When the course goes live on March 16, 2020, the price will be $497. This is still a bargain for 10+ hours of legal information, but why pay more?

How to Respond When a Client Violates Your Photography Contract

” Angry Face Krah” by bixentro from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Even when you do everything right as a photographer – signed contract, quality work, deliver the final images on-time, etc., you’ll still have to deal with clients who don’t comply with the contract terms such as being late with payment or alter the images (e.g. cropping them or applying filters) before posting them online.

In these challenging situations, you have options.

What Does Your Contract Say?

The terms of your contract matter most when things go sideways. You want to make sure you have an air-tight contract that is clear about the client’s dos and don’ts, as well as how you’ll resolve disputes.

When I write a dispute resolution clause for my clients, I frequently write one like:

Parties will attempt to resolve the matter among themselves for 30 days. If the dispute is not resolved in that time, then all disputes will be resolved in a court located in [Your County, Your State]. The Parties consent to the personal and subject matter jurisdiction of this court. This Agreement is governed by [Your State] law. The Parties agree that the non-prevailing Party shall be responsible for the prevailing Party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

Actually, many times, I recommend that my clients have their dispute resolution clause to be based on where I live and Arizona law, because in the event of a dispute, my client will have to pay me throughout the dispute and hope for reimbursement from the other side at the end. It’s cheaper to resolve the dispute on your lawyer’s turf than to have to cover their travel expenses.

Dial Direct

When a client comes to me because their client violated a contract, I often advise them that they should contact their client directly first. Many people feel attacked and go on the defensive when a letter from the lawyer arrives, and they’ll ask, “Why didn’t you just contact me directly?”

When you contact your client, be sure to give them an out, a way to save face, particularly if the client hired you for personal or family photos. They don’t likely understand things like copyright. It could be a casual message like:

“Hey there. I noticed you did XYZ. I’m glad you’re loving the photos so much. I think you may have forgotten that our contract says ABC. Please remove the images by Date.”

When you send the email, include a copy of the contract, possibly with the pertinent provision highlighted.

If that a doesn’t work, the next email should be more forceful. (This may also be your opening response, depending on the client.) You want to clearly state that the person is in violation of the contract, and they must remove images by a specific date. Many times, I recommend including the sentence, “I hope we can resolve this matter without having to resort to lawyers.”

If that doesn’t work, that’s when it’s time to have your lawyer to send a nastygram (cease and desist letter) on your behalf.

Truth be told, frequently I’m the one who writes these emails for my clients to send. This way, the emails are legally accurate, which makes it easier if I have to get involved.

Other Ways to Go After Illegal Image Use Online

If a client posted images online that they weren’t supposed to, and you’ve posted them online somewhere, you can bypass your client completely and send a DMCA Takedown Notice to the website where the images were posted. This tactic only works for U.S.-based companies and companies that comply with these notices, since the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) is part of the U.S. Copyright Act.

To comply with the DMCA, the website has to remove access to the images. Note: It is easy for the client to send a DMCA Counter Takedown Notice to get the images restored. If you are concerned your client may do that, you may want to send them a note that doing so would constitute perjury.

Images that Should Have Been Licensed

Sometimes websites and/or paper publications ask the person in the image if they can use the photo without verifying who is the copyright owner. If this person is your client, they may be so flattered and excited by the offer, that they forget they don’t have authority to grant permission for the use.

If this happens, and your photo is used without your permission, particularly if it’s a situation where you would have charged a licensing fee, the proper response is to contact the publisher and inform them of their mistake. You can even send them a bill with a letter that essentially says, ““By using my photo, you’ve agreed to our licensing terms” and include a copy of your standard license.

“Beggar’s Sign” by Eli Christman from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Non-Paying Clients

There are few things more frustrating for any entrepreneur than having to chase a client for payment. I’m a strong advocate that photographers should not provide proofs to a client until all outstanding balances have been paid.

Likewise, if the expectation is that the client must pay you before or at the time of the event or photog shoot, and they don’t pay, don’t be afraid to leave. Why do any work for them if they haven’t paid you to do so? If you choose to stay, I hope your contract includes a provision that lets you charge a hefty late fee.

No matter what or how you charge for your work, always send a reminder about when payments are due, including a notice about your penalties for late payment.

Contract are relationships management documents. They should address the interactions with your clients, including when things go sideways.

Lights Camera Lawsuit

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.

Manage Photography Client Expectations with Effective Contracts

Photographer by Elicus from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

One of the problems I’ve heard about from a number of photographers is clients not understanding what the photographer will and will not do for them. A way to manage client expectations is to clearly document them in your contract.

Clearly State What the Client is Getting and When

When your prospective client reads your contract, it should be as crystal clear as possible what they are hiring you to do. This includes providing expectations when deliverables will be ready. Your contract may say things like:

  • You will show up on time and prepared to shoot the client’s wedding if they’ve paid your fee for the event in advance, or alternatively, the wedding party will not receive proofs from the event until they’ve paid in full, including any extra fees incurred because they asked you to stay late.
  • Proofs will be ready 3-4 weeks following the event.
  • The model is being compensated for their time and talent with money.

When I review a contract, sometimes I take my notebook and divide it into two columns – one for each party to the contract – and make a list about what each side is giving and getting in return. Your client should be able to do the same, which means the contract needs to be written with verbiage that they (and you) can understand.

Be Clear About What the Client is Not Getting

Along with being clear about what the client is hiring you to do, you may want to include terms that clarify what they client isn’t getting in this transaction. This may include things like:

  • You will show the client the best images from the event. The client will not be allowed to see every image shot at the event.
  • You make no guarantee that you’ll be able to capture every image the client hoped you’d get.
  • Unless the client paid for extra editing, you will not photoshop the client to make them look like a completely different person.
  • If the client only paid for images for personal use, they can’t use them to market their business.
  • The client is not getting a license to modify the images. This includes running the images through a filter before putting them on Instagram.

Additionally, I hope your contract has a provision entitled “Entire Agreement” that states that the terms therein constitute the entire understanding between the parties, and the contract supersedes all previous verbal and written exchanges. That way, anything that isn’t written in the contract is, be definition, not part of the agreement.

Contract = Relationship Management Document

The best way I can describe a contract is that it is a relationship management document. It clearly states each side’s responsibilities, helps manage expectations, and mitigates problems.

Your photography contract is the master document that applies to your relationships with your clients. When a client hires you for your talents and services, they must agree to abide by your rules. Whatever your concerns are about client behavior, make sure to address them in your contract.

An effective contract can save you from stress, headaches, and legal bills. It won’t eliminate problematic clients from your life, but it will help you manage them more effectively when you can respond to their complaint with a copy of the signed contract and saying, “As you can plainly see in the agreement you signed on [date], you acknowledged/agreed that . . . “

You may also want to have a section of your website where you share with prospective clients, “My Commitment To You” where you can lay out your promises to clients. You can even include a section that starts with, “While I promise to do my best for you, I’m not a miracle worker.” From there you can go into some of the things that you can’t or won’t do for clients.

Lights Camera Lawsuit

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.

What if Model Dies Without Signing a Model Release

Strange Photosession Outside the National Theatre, Prague by Staffan Cederborg from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

A photographer recently asked if they could use images if there was no model release signed when the images were taken, and the model has since passed away. Does a persons’ right of publicity survive death?

Anyone who knows me knows the answer to every legal question starts with, “It depends.”

Right of Publicity is a State-Level Law

A person has a right to control how their image is used for commercial purposes. These rights are governed by state-level laws. Unless there’s a contract that specifies otherwise, the state where the images were taken will likely be the state law that applies to your situation.

However, if you use the images without a model release, and the surviving heirs object, they may claim that the state laws where the model resided apply.

The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) created a white paper called Model Release that includes a list of the state statutes that pertain to model releases. Please note, according to the white paper, this list of statutes was accurate as of 2010, so it is best to verify that any laws that are applicable to you are still accurate.

In addition to statutes, there may be state-level common laws that pertain to model releases as well. These are based on case law that has come through the courts. If you need help researching case law, you should visit your local law library or consult a lawyer.

The Model May Have Other Rights

If the model was a celebrity or was a public figure, their name, image, likeness may be protected by other laws, such as trademark and/or copyright.

If the model owned these trademarks and/or copyright at the time of their death, these things would be passed on to others as stated in the model’s will or by statute if the model died without a will.

Websites May Require a Model Release

Even if you are not required to have a model release to use the images of the now-deceased model for commercial purposes – i.e., selling prints, licensing the images, or using the images in your portfolio for marketing purposes – there may be other restrictions on your ability to use the images, depending on where you want to display them.

There are online platforms where photographers can showcase their work that require a model release for every identifiable person in the image. If an identifiable person is deceased, the photographer must get a model release signed by the decedent’s heirs or next of kin.

Always Get a Model Release

Of course, all of these issues can be avoided by having the model sign a model release at the time of the photo shoot.

Lights Camera Lawsuit

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.

New Photographers: Signed Contracts Needed at the Start of Every Project

“He Walks Dogs” by Damian Gadal from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

I recently heard a question from a new photographer. They are new to the business and focused on building their brand and rapport with potential clients. Their question was, “Should I have a contract on hand at the beginning stages of my business?”

My response was an emphatic: “Yes!”

Photography Contracts: Every Job, Every Time

A contract is a relationship management document. It puts everyone on the same page about what each side is giving and getting and sets the expectations about how each side should behave.

I tell my photographer clients to never accept a job without a signed contract, this applies even to TFP shoots (trade for photos). Your contract should outline what the client is hiring you to do, how/when you’ll be compensated, how the client can use the images, and who owns the copyright. It should also have terms that address how problems will be resolved.

If the Prospect Balks at a Contract

If you have a prospective client who says they “don’t think a contract is necessary,” turn and run. This raises to red flags for me: either they don’t understand how the business works, or they have devious reasons for not wanting a contract that could bite you in the butt in the future.

One of the best pieces of advice I got early in my career was, “You never regret the client you didn’t take.” I have had no regrets about declining a representation when a client balks at how I do business. Every time I decline one of these clients, I feel like I’ve dodged a bullet.

Don’t Worry that Requiring a Contract will Push Clients Away

Don’t worry about being perceived as “pushy” my holding firm that a contract is required. You can be polite and respectful while say, “This is how I do business. If you don’t want to sign a contract, that’s fine, but you won’t be working with me.”

You set the rules for how you work with clients. If they balk at your contract (assuming it’s reasonable), they shouldn’t be your client. A reasonable client would expect you to require a contract. A person with any business acumen won’t want to work with you without one.

Let the prospects who don’t want contracts to self-select out. If you have problems with a client at the beginning of the relationship, it’s an indicator that they will be problematic throughout the project.

If the prospect asks for a referral to another photographer, I recommend saying, “All the reputable photographers I know won’t take on a client without a signed contract.”

It’s Cheaper and Easier to Prevent Legal Problems than to Fix Them

This has been proven time and time again in my legal career. When a client comes to me with a business dispute, one of my first questions is, “What does your contract say?” When my client doesn’t have a contract, I have to piece together the terms of their agreement from emails, text messages, and the parties’ actions. Often my client spends more just having me piece these things together than what it would have cost them to have a custom contract template made.

Additionally, in a dispute, it’s much easier to create a demand letter than references the terms the other side agreed to and back them into a corner where they have to try to defend the indefensible rather than assert what the terms of the agreement are from the assembly of bits and pieces of communications and actions that the other side can more easily debate.

Lights Camera LawsuitTM

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.

Photographer Disputes: What Happens If You Don’t Deliver

https://www.flickr.com/photos/76377775@N05/8560939745
Las Fallas Valencia Spain Angry Woman” by Keith Ellwood from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

As I was researching photographers’ legal questions, I stumbled onto a question posted by an upset client: “The photographer hasn’t given me my photos. It’s been six months. What can I do about that?”

Whoa! That sounds exceptionally bad. I’m curious how complex this project was and when the photographer said they’d deliver images to the client.

I don’t know the circumstances regarding this person’s situation, but here’s what could happen if a client is unsatisfied with your work, or worse, you fail to deliver as promised.

Check the Contract’s Dispute Resolution Provision

Whenever anyone comes to me with a business dispute, like “They didn’t pay me,” or “I didn’t get what I paid for,” the first question I ask is:

What does your contract say?

Your photography contract should have a dispute resolution provision that states how disputes are going to be resolved, where it’s going to be resolved, and which state law governs the agreement.

One of the most common dispute resolution clauses I put in photography contracts says if there’s a dispute, the parties will try, in good faith, to resolve the matter within 30 days. If that doesn’t resolve the matter, then the parties agree to resolve the matter is a court located in Maricopa County, Arizona, and the agreement is governed by Arizona law. (I recommend Maricopa County and Arizona law because that’s where I’m located. You don’t want to pay for your lawyer’s travel expenses if you don’t have to.) I usually include a clause that says the losing party must pay the prevailing party’s attorneys’ fees and costs.

Regardless of what the contract states about resolving disputes, my first step in most disputes is sending a demand letter that puts the other side on notice that further legal recourse will be sought. This letter lets the other side know that the offended party is serious and willing to fight, and it gives them a chance to resolve the matter before it will be taken to the next level.

Report to the Attorney General’s Office for Consumer Fraud

You may not know this, but your state’s Attorney General’s Office may have a forum to submit a consumer complaint and report suspected fraud. Arizona has this, and it’s not a fun process to go through the subsequent investigation, which could include being subpoenaed for a deposition under oath and/or having a claim for fraud filed against you. If a court found that you committed fraud, it could have devasting consequences for your business, including your ability to be a professional photographer. Taking a client’s money and failing to provide the images could easily be an act of fraud.

If a client wanted to pursue this option, they don’t need a lawyer to file a consumer complaint. They can go online and get the form themselves. The Attorney General’s Office would foot the bill for the investigation, and likely expect to be reimbursed by you if you lose or come to a settlement. Conversely, if a consumer complaint is filed against you, you should hire a lawyer to represent you.

Bad Review

The least problematic a dissatisfied client could do is leave you a negative review on Google, Yelp, or Facebook, or they could post about you online on their social media accounts or their website. As long as everything they post about you is true or their opinion, it’s perfectly legal.

Hopefully, you never find yourself in this type of situation, but if it happens, please don’t ghost your client. Keep the lines of communication open as you work towards a resolution. One of the most common complaints I hear from customers is that the person they hired stopped responding to emails, calls, or texts, and so they felt like they had no choice but to ask a lawyer or the state for help.

Lights Camera LawsuitTM

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.

Lawyer Responds to Photographers’ Problems

“Photo Shoot” by Cliff from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Last week, I saw a thread in an online photography group that started with a simple question: “What problems do you face as a photographer?” After reading hundreds of the responses, I wanted to respond to some of their problems as both a lawyer and an entrepreneur:

Competition – Other Photographers Offering Half the Price

My first thought when I read this was, “There’s a good chance it’s also half the quality.” You never want to be in a race to the lowest price. Instead of worrying about price, focus on what makes you different from the competition.

If someone wants a cheap photographer to document their once in a lifetime event, like their wedding, that’s their choice. If I were facing a client who said, “I can get someone to photograph my wedding at half this price,” I hope my response would be something like, “This is your special day. You have to choose who you trust to capture these moments for you.”

Personally, I have no problem when a client self-selects out from working with me if they don’t want to pay my rate. It’s better that they decide that early and go with someone else.

This problem reminds me of a sign I saw in a tattoo parlor: “Good tattoos aren’t cheap. Cheap tattoos aren’t good.” The same is likely true for photographers.

Clients Don’t See What We’re Worth

Part of being an entrepreneur is educating prospective client about the value we bring. It’s not that skilled photographers cost so much, but they’re worth so much. Some of the ways you can do this is by having a high-quality portfolio and a stellar reputation.

Remember: You’re not just taking photos; you’re creating an experience – every interaction from the first “hello” to the final deliverable. Your ability to take and edit photos are important, but so are the way you carry yourself, how you communicate, and your creativity, work ethic, and confidence in your skills. All of those things add or detract from your value as an artist. You want to be in a position where people want to hire you, not just any photographer.

I had a similar situation when I hired the designer who created the logos for Scarlet MavenTM and Lights Camera LawsuitTM. I could have used a discount service like 99 Designs or Fiverr, but I didn’t want to entrust a stranger with this task. I wanted to work with Square Peg Creative and Dina Miller. I’d seen and loved the way she created. I was willing to pay extra for that experience, and the resulting logos that I love.

How to Tell People I’m a Proper Photographer

The best way to tell people that you’re a professional photographer is to act like one. Create a business entity, a website with a portfolio, and contract templates for your services. If you want people to take your seriously, you have to act like a professional.

Speaking of Contracts

Contracts are relationship management documents. Once a client signs the contract, they are bound by its terms. Whenever there’s a problem, you can refer back to the contract and the terms they already agreed to. This is where you can put information like,

  • The deposit is non-refundable.
  • The photographer chooses the best images to show client. The client will not get raw images.
  • There’s no guarantee you’ll capture every image the client was hoping for.
  • The client is not allowed to edit the final images. This includes adding filters or stickers or cropping the images.

There’s a video I recommend to almost every entrepreneur called F*ck You, Pay Me, that features a graphic designer and his lawyer talking about how they use contracts to make sure the client pays per the contract’s terms. The suggestions work for many types of professional creatives.

Clients with High Expectations and Low Budgets

While many people don’t like talking about money, it is a topic you want to discuss early in the vetting process by either giving the prospective client your price list or asking about their budget. Don’t be afraid to be frank with clients who have expectations that are way beyond what they can afford. Tell them what they can afford based on their budget, as well as what you could do if they are willing to pay more so they can make an educated decision about what they want.

Clients Who Try to Negotiate on Price

In the photographer-client relationship, they are hiring you. You get to decide what is and is not negotiable in your contract. If your rates are not negotiable, be clear about that the first time they ask.

In my practice, I hand pick who are my pro bono clients and who gets a discount. That’s my call, not the other way around.

Here’s a tip I saw from another photographer: Make your prices all-inclusive. Don’t list separate prices for shooting and editing, because it opens the door for clients to try to haggle on one or the other.

Companies that Want You to Work for Free or Magazines that Want to Use Images for Free

Oh, it’s so cute when people want you to work for “exposure.” You get to decide how you respond to those requests. Here are some of my favorites:

  • Exposure is not a currency that my landlord accepts.
  • I can’t pay my mortgage with exposure.
  • People die of exposure.

Chasing Payments

Ideally, you want to create a photographer-client relationship where it’s easier to comply with the terms of the contract and pay on time, than not. Many photographers charge a non-refundable deposit to book a shoot or event and require the balance to be paid in by the day of the shoot or event. At the latest, I don’t recommend a photographer provide proofs unless they’ve been paid for the shoot.

You also want to have terms in your contract about cancelled appointments, late payments, and non-payments, so that you set yourself up to get paid what you’re owed in a timely manner.

Are You Free Next Week?

You can put the information about how far in advance a prospective client should expect to book you near your contact information or in your FAQs if you have them.  

People Assuming You will Photoshop them Perfect

This problem reminds me of Christian Siriano on Project Runway when he said, “I’m not a miracle worker, lady. I can’t make you have an ass!”

In talking with your client, set some expectations about what Photoshop can and can’t do. Assume your client doesn’t know anything about photography, unless they are a professional photographer themselves. You can educate your clients by showing them before and after images so they can see the type of edits you’ll be doing for them.

It’s ok to have fun with it, if that’s your style, by saying things like, “If you’re 5’2”, I can’t make you 5’10”,” or “If you have a ‘dad bod,’ I can’t transform you into Thor.” On the softer, more realistic side, remind your client that it’s your job to capture them looking their best, not like someone else.

Bonus Tips from my Experience as Model: Posing

Several people said they had problems with posing models or giving direction. As a model, my response is, “Don’t be afraid to try.” You’re the one behind the camera. I can’t see how I look.

If you give a model a pose and it doesn’t create a good image, try something else. I won’t know if you didn’t get the shot you wanted. I’ll think you have lots of ideas.

It’s ok to think out loud and say things such as, “I like how this light is hitting your eyes, let’s try this.”

I’ve you are afraid you won’t remember the ideas you wanted to try from other images, bring notes to the shoot. It shows you’re prepared, and thinking about what types of images might be best for me.

Learning how to pose models and give direction is something you develop over time, with practice, and watching others. Unless you’re doing some extreme work, no one is going to die. And don’t forget – I can’t see how I look, so as far as I know, whatever you’re trying is brilliant.

Lights Camera LawsuitTM

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

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How to Give a Discount on your Photography Services without Discounting your Value

The Belly Dancer with the Fans” by mmockingbird from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Sometimes photographers, like all service providers, want to provide a discount for their services. Perhaps it’s for a friend, someone you’ve always wanted to work with, or an organization you know can’t afford you and you want to help.

Nothing Wrong with a Discount

There is nothing wrong with offering a discount for your photography services, whether it’s a special one-off or a promotion that’s available to any client.

The challenge is you don’t want to cheapen the perceived value you provide. When a person buys an item at a cheap price, they may have lower expectations about it and will perceive it as less valuable than a similar product that performs the same function but costs twice as much. You don’t want your clients to discount the value you’re giving them, even when they get it at a discounted price.   

Have you noticed that it’s often the clients who are getting the biggest discounts who complain the most? I made that mistake once. I quoted someone an exceptionally low flat fee to do their contract because I thought it would be an easy project. The nitpicked so much and requested so many changes, that by the time it was done, the amount I made per hour of work was laughable. (This was also the client who taught me to put a cap on the number of edits I’d do on a flat fee project. If they wanted more edits after that, they had to pay hourly.)

Always Show a Photography Client your Value

Even when you give a client a discount, always include your standard price and then the discount. Being a professional photographer is two jobs in one – you’re an artist and an entrepreneur. The entrepreneur’s job includes educating clients and prospects what you are worth. Photography clients are not just paying for your time, but also your talents. Remind them about the value you bring to the table, regardless of what they’re paying.

This tactic is not offensive.  You see this when you buy things online. The website always starts by posting the price and tells you how much of a discount they’re giving you and the price you’re getting.

How to Write an Invoice or Contract with a Discount

This is how I’d write an invoice or payment section of a photography contract that includes a discount:

Sitting Fee:                       $200.00

I-Like-You Discount:           -$75.00

Total Sitting Fee:               $125.00

You get to choose what you’re going to call your discounts. I encourage my clients to be creative and include their personality in their contracts, but you have to decide what works for you.

Lights Camera LawsuitTM

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

At $497, the course contains nearly six hours of legal information you can immediately apply to your business. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of legal work for clients!  

Please subscribe for more information and to make sure you don’t miss out on any special offers or discounts.

When a Client Threatens to Leave a Bad Review

https://www.flickr.com/photos/yazuu/3053549142
Angry Guy by Adrian Tombu from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

Here’s the scenario: A client hired you for a photography job, which you did, and you provided the deliverables on time. The client is unhappy with their photos, threatens to leave a bad online review if you don’t give them their money back.

What do you do?

You’re a Photographer, Not a Miracle Worker

Your client has put you in a difficult position. You have to work with what you’re given from the client. You don’t want to be insensitive, but you can only do so much. It may be impossible to give the client images that match what they envisioned in their head.

Many times, part of being an entrepreneur involves educating and managing the client’s expectations. Based on the client’s complaint, it may be prudent to review the images and see if there’s anything you can do, perhaps suggest additional edits than what they hired you to do or explain that this is best you could do given the constraints of the situation.

Ask Yourself the Difficult Question

Ask yourself the difficult question: Did you screw up? Do you owe this person additional edits, a re-shoot, or some type of compensation? If so, admit it.

As Peter Shankman says, “There is no greater lover than a former hater.” If you make a mistake, admit it, and make up for it, that person may become your biggest cheerleader.

Go Back to the Contract

When dealing with an upset client, having a well-written contract can help you resolve the matter and remind the client about what you both agreed to at the outset of your working relationship.

If the client is upset because you didn’t provide an image of certain pose, show them the provision that says there are no guarantees that they’ll get every pose or image they hoped for.

If the client wants to see all the images you took during the shoot, show them the provision that says you’ll only be showing them the best images and that they won’t see every image you take.

If the client says they shouldn’t have to pay because they’re unhappy, remind them that they hired you for your time and skills. Payment is expected if you fulfilled your obligations under the contract.

Hopefully, you have a photography contract that anticipated common complaints and addressed them accordingly.

You Can Always Cave to their Demand

Whether you give this person their money back is a business decision, not a legal one. You may decide that the best course of action, regardless of whether you think it’s warranted, is to give this person their money back and move on. That’s your call.

I recommend you decide in advance, just for yourself, the circumstances under which you’ll give a refund. Many photography contracts state that there are no refunds or that they are given only in rare specified situations.

If They Leave a Bad Review

If the client follows through on their threat and leaves a bad review, respond to it in a polite and respectful manner. You can say you’re sorry they’re upset and invite them to contact you directly to discuss it. (Many times, how you respond to a bad review isn’t about the upset client, but rather it’s an opportunity to demonstrate to anyone who reads it that you take client concerns seriously.)

In a perfect world, you’ll have enough positive reviews that one bad one won’t tank your average. But if you’re just starting out, one negative review could have a substantial impact on your score. You may want to invite happy customers to leave reviews about their experience to bring your average back up.

Lights Camera Lawsuit

There’s always a need for quality legal information for photographers. That’s why I created an online course called Lights Camera Lawsuit: The Legal Side of Professional Photography to address photographers’ most important questions. I want you to feel secure in your business, confident in the way you operate day-to-day, knowing that you’ve set yourself up to get paid what your worth without incident.

The course goes live on March 16, 2020 and is $497. That’s less than what I charge for two hours of work and you’ll be getting over ten hours of legal information.  

Please subscribe to make sure you don’t miss out on other fantastic offers and opportunities to interact with me.

Why Contracts Have So Many Definitions

https://www.flickr.com/photos/eleaf/2561831883

Iron Horse Bicycle Race Durango Women 10″ by Eleaf from Flickr (Creative Commons License)

This week, I had a chat with someone who was concerned about the media release provision in a contract to be in a cycling race. It said by signing up for the race, you give the organizers permission to use any video or images of you, your likeness, you name, and your biographic information for any purpose without need any additional information from you. He was worried that the race organizers could sell his life story without his permission.

I’ve seen this provision on every race contract I’ve signed – and it wasn’t one of the ones I altered. This type of provision is on lots of contracts, event tickets, even on A-frame signs around the state fair. Organizers want to use the photos from their event to promote the organization and its activities. They want to be able to make you their poster child if they snap an amazing photo of you. They want to be able to caption a race photo with “Chris Jones, 37, of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico . . .”

These organizers don’t want to sell your story to make the next Lifetime Movie. I know this because (1) they don’t know your life story and (2) they’re not in the business of sell stories for the next movie of the week.

This conversation reminded me of why contracts have so many definitions. Sometimes they start with pages of definitions. They help eliminate confusion and avoid disputes when questions arise down the line.

If there is a dispute about the meaning of a word in a contract, and both sides have a reasonable interpretation of it, the court will side with the person who didn’t draft the contract, unless the contract states otherwise. (Check your jurisdiction’s rules to see if the same rule exists where you live.)

Going back to the would-be racer, I told them if they had concerns about what a term in the agreement meant, they should email the organizers for clarification. (Never be afraid to ask questions about a contract before signing it.) If there’s a dispute later surrounding the meaning of the provision, they would be able to use the email response as the basis for their reasonable belief as to what it meant and to counter any contradictory statement by the other side.

If you’re in a situation where you need to create, draft, or negotiate a contract, please call a contract lawyer for help. (This week, my editor sent me an FYI email about a company in Columbia that is selling a “Pack Of Professionally Drafted Legal Contracts” for $24. I responded with “Let me know how that $24 contract holds up when challenged in court.”)

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