As well as weddings, I shoot some commercial work and always have done. So what do we need to know about the legal side of commercial photography? Here we are going to look at some of the implications, how to hold onto your copyright and what you need to include in a contract. I have included a download of a sample contract as an example of what you could include in your own.

So you have been approached by someone to shoot some commercial photography… this could be for a venue, some products or a shoot for a business to use to promote themselves. This can be a great string to your bow and fill in those gaps when the weddings are not so busy. They might not pay as well per day as weddings but they don’t usually take up your weekends and can bridge the gap in your income in the quieter months. While I’m not particularly keen to tackle corporate head-shots, I have a steady stream of commercial work over the year including food and restaurant photography, product photography and work for wedding related companies. A couple of advantages for me are, I can pick and choose the work that I like the look of and find challenging plus a lot of it is repeat bookings… unlike weddings which is a one off gig, if a commercial client is happy with you and your work, they are highly likely to come back to you when they need more images.

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A lot of companies or people who are not used to booking commercial photographers might ask you for the copyright to be included and all too often inexperienced photographers will hand it over. NEVER include the copyright unless you include a juicy buyout fee in your day rate. It is not industry standard to shoot and hand over copyright and if you do, you have absolutely no rights to use your own images anywhere. Meantime the client is free to use them in anyway and even sell them on without your permission. They very rarely need the copyright and it is more typical that you would issue them with a commercial license along with a contract.

So what does the contract need to contain? [private] After stating your company name and address and theirs then set out the details of the services that you are providing.. try to be as precise as possible as this can save any misunderstanding later on. Set out how you will deliver the images and when. Cover how much post production is included and if anything specialist will be an additional cost to the client. State how the fee should be paid and when. Include your VAT details if registered. Unlike weddings, it is typical that you will be paid after the job is finished so feel free to explain any penalties for late payment. Also detail what expenses may be included and when the payment for those would be due. If you like, include a rejection fee. This covers you if you spend time producing test shots and then don’t get the full booking or there is an issue over the style of the final images. This is also why I advise doing test shots where possible. You are also perfectly within your rights to charge a fee if the client cancels the job for any other reason. If you think there may be future work with the client then this should be waived.

Finally, explain that you hold the copyright but the licence will set out the terms of use. The licence MUST be issued at the same time as the contract. I always write that no use may be made of the images until full payment has been made so that my invoice doesn’t end up at the bottom of a pile of others. This needs to contain the full details of the job, the territories and media that are acceptable and have been pre-agreed with the client. It should also have a set term that can be renewed.

I send both the contract and license over before the job begins so that we are all clear on how things will progress. Be prepared that the client may want to change a few points to suit them more. This is perfectly normal so be flexible but do not give in on copyright and the payment terms.

Download a sample of my commercial contract below.

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