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Let’s Talk… Contracts and Why They Are Essential

Contract… it seems to be a little scary word for many of us. How many times have you entered a competition, or joined up a new membership to only sign without reading that teeny, tiny font? Or perhaps you never went ahead with a booking because a contract was sent to you, and it scared you.

Every year, more and more businesses add contracts to their business practices.

It is rare to find a photographer operating without a contract, especially when they are a registered business. Contracts are a crucial part of most, if not all, businesses - big or small. In the creative industry, whether it be Photography, Graphic Design or Videography, it protects both the consumer and business’ rights. Contracts should also be checked over by a Commercial Lawyer prior to the contract being published for business use to ensure the terms are fair for both sides.

Contracts also tell you as a client that the business you are dealing with is transparent and professional with you, and don’t have any hidden terms or surprises coming your way. If you see a contract in your inbox or in front of you, it usually means a good thing; earning trust.

Why do we need a contract for professional photography?

This is a really important one. There are many things that can go wrong in a wedding, small event, portrait session - from uncontrollable events like COVID-19, a sudden event that causes the area or event to be unsafe or unsuitable to photograph in, sudden weather events and so on. Not only do contracts state what happens if these do arise, but also has guidelines on how a job will be done, how long for, what the package inclusions are, payment terms, cancellation and rebooking policy and extra terms such as how the products will be delivered.

Most professional photographers for example include a “No unedited/ RAW” policy. This is by far the most popular term in photography contracts, not only currently, but for many years now. Why? It protects the artist. We would not want to give out unfinished artworks to the world, only for the unedited and unfinished works to find their way in the public community online space where it may incorrectly reflect our true complete artistic style and professionalism in our work. The second reason is that an unfinished product is not what has been agreed to or paid for, and lastly, for copyright purposes – it may turn into a copyright issue for a client to send unedited (or perhaps even edited) images to another party who edits the original creator’s work – which is also another term in our contracts and is really important.

Cancellation, rebooking and payment policies are also another norm found in contracts. Many photographers will not take a job on if a client does not feel comfortable in making a deposit and then a full payment before the work gets undertaken - this is due to us photographers spending much admin time to prepare the booking, and then declining other requests for the same day/time. If a client has a no show, and never made payment, the photographer unfortunately has a loss - both admin and preparation work done as well as the loss of that booking and other prospective clients.

Other terms you should usually see in a contract is Force Majeure; and even a COVID-19 Policy.

At GPP, the contracts I use have been overlooked and approved by a Commercial Lawyer to ensure both parties have a fair agreement, which is crucial. All contracts that are sent out have up to 14 days to read, ask questions, understand and be satisfied; all clients are required to not make any payments until they have thoroughly read their contract and are happy, once they sign they then can make payment to confirm their booking.

Are contracts so necessary even for a small portrait session?

YES! Big or small, you need to know your rights and your vendor’s rights. Anything can happen, as we know for 2020. Having a contract ensures that the business has your interests in their best interest to ensure both of you know exactly what will happen, when and how, as well as acknowledgements and operational requirements like What happens if you’re late? What happens if a storm comes? What rules are there for the studio?

What if I don’t like a term in the contract, or I don’t understand it?

We give 14 days’ time to allow enough time to go through. To give you an idea, house sale contracts usually are under seven days – yet our contracts have a 14 day timeline, which is more than enough time to read through and ensure you understand the terms before signing. Although extremely rare, we do have the odd “what does this mean” or “I don’t like this term, can we take it out” question.

If you don’t understand a term, please contact us in writing so we can document our assistance to you to explain what a term may mean to you and us. Please do not wait until the actual due date, as the due date is strict.

However, if you dislike a term, we will have to discuss as all the terms in the contract have been lawyer approved.

For a wedding, does my partner have to sign or can I just sign for the both of us?

Our contracts for weddings require two signatures; one from each partner. This ensures both parties enter the agreement, and both understand the terms and conditions of the contract. Should anything go wrong, both have the rights to understand what and how things happen. If a partner declines to sign, this will mean that the booking cannot be confirmed. Please note that it is illegal to sign on someone else’s behalf as well, copy their signature or sign without their knowledge.

How do the contracts work?

Our contracts are sent through our fully digital and trackable system. It gets sent to your email address, and if there is a second signer, will be sent to theirs too. The system tracks when contracts are sent, delivered, a link is clicked, viewed and then sends us a notification once it has been signed so we can then sign. The system requires digital signature; however, we also accept paper signatures should your end not be working.

We recommend to actually print your digital contract out to paper as when reading on paper you are more likely to see everything and understand better. Then sign electronically.

What if I don’t sign?

If you do not sign your contract, your booking will then be re-opened to the public after the due date has passed. Failure to sign means that the contract can’t be agreed to, and therefore- we cannot proceed with the booking.

As always, feel free to give us a call if you have any questions regarding your contract - we are here to help you!

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