Why Do You Need Contracts?

The Case of Poon v. Tang 2011

If you haven't heard of the famous Poon v. Tang lawsuit, I promise that after you hear about it, you will never shoot without a contract again! 

In 2011, Karen Poon was planning her perfect wedding and decided to hire photographer Nelson Tang. Poon and Tang agreed to $3,800 for the Tang's wedding photography services. This was a big opportunity for Tang, but he made one huge mistake. He did not get Poon to sign a contract!

When Poon received her photos, she was not satisfied. Well not satisfied is truly an understatement. Here are some snippets from the letter Tang was served with.

“YOUR ENTIRE LIVELIHOOD IS ON THE LINE”

“We are demanding $3800 plus $15,000…here’s what will happen if you do not pay. Your reputation will be ruined, your livelihood destroyed, your life will be miserable defending a huge lawsuit, and you will be in financial ruin. I know you English is not so good, so you may need everything spelled out for you.”

“I will hire a person who specializes in Search Engine Optimization. I will post all of our photos up and blog about this extensively. Be guaranteed that anyone who searches for ‘Nelson Tang’ will find my web page and what a disaster our wedding photos were.”

“I will hire a person who specializes in Search Engine Optimization. I will post all of our photos up and blog about this extensively. Be guaranteed that anyone who searches for ‘Nelson Tang’ will find my web page and what a disaster our wedding photos were.”

“I am a partner at this firm; that means I have- ZERO – out of pocket expenses for suing you. It costs me NOTHING.”

“I guarantee you, by the time this gets to a jury, it will cost at least $50,000 in lawyers’ fees. YOU WILL NOT GET THESE FEES BACK, EVER.”

“I will get my judgment of $300,000. I will file a Writ of Garnishment with all your employers and banks, place a lien on your houses, subpoena you to court for supplementary proceedings to find out what assets you have, and pursue this matter until all $300,000 is paid in full.”

When news broke to the photography community, everyone banded together to help Tang hire a top lawyer and he was able to escape this mess. But it's safe to say that in today's lawsuit heavy society, contracts are an absolute necessity for any service business! Even though it's unlikely you will have a client go this overboard, It's well worth it to protect yourself!

What's Included?

Long-form General Photography Contract

Suitable for baby, senior portrait, engagement, and family shoots. It covers all your bases in explicit detail.

Short-form General Photography Contract

The shortened version of the general contract for simple photography shoots where a huge contract isn't necessary.

Model Release Contract

Typical model releases are ridiculously long and unnecessary unless you are shooting a celebrity or another high-risk client. This one covers everything you need for nearly every model!

Real Estate Photography Contract

Similar to the general photography contract but made specifically for real estate photography.

Photo Licensing Agreement

Few photographers bother with this contract, but is critical to have! When you sell a photo to a company for use on a website, or you allow a photo to be used commercially, a good photo license agreement is necessary to spell out exactly how you're allowing the company or individual to use your photo.

Wedding Photography Contract

Since weddings are usually a higher-dollar shoot and involve many more complicated parts, wedding photography needs its own special contract.

Second Shooter Contract

If you ever have a photo assistant, you absolutely must be clear as to what photos they own and how they can use the photos from the shoot. You also need to be clear about how much you pay them, what they can and can't do, and how they should deliver the photos to you.

IMPORTANT LEGAL NOTICE: By purchasing this product, you understand and agree that Improve Photography LLC is not a law firm and no part of this transaction constitutes legal advice.  These contracts are offered merely as templates for you to customize for your situation and to match applicable law in your jurisdiction.  Jim Harmer is a lawyer, but is not your lawyer, and you should seek individual legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction before making important business decisions such as writing a legal contract.  This is provided merely as a template for you to adjust to your needs.

"Photography contracts have been an absolute life saver for me and the person I am working for! I have just started charging for photo shoots and these contracts outline exactly what I expect from the client and what they expect from me. Thank improve photography for creating contracts that are not too lengthy and easy to understand!"
Andrew Riojas

Common Questions

There are a lot of shoddy contracts available on the internet, usually written by bloggers who have absolutely no idea the type of meticulous language that needs to go into a contract.  That can spell DISASTER for a photographer.  Worse yet is a contract written by a lawyer who doesn't understand the common issues that photographers face.  Since I'm both a full-time photographer and a licensed attorney, I think I'm in a unique position to provide you with the ULTIMATE contract package for photographers.

The key to any good contract is simply to explain in ABSOLUTELY CLEAR fashion what each party to the contract is expected to do.  Therefore, it would be foolish to take these contracts exactly as they are written and implement them directly into your business.  I have carefully written these contracts to work in many situations, but you need to go in and customize them to fit what you do.  For example, I always ask for a 50% deposit when booking a shoot.  If you do things differently, you'll have to go into the contract and change that to be the amount you ask for as a deposit.

I include the contracts in both PDF and doc format.  If you want to simply print the contracts and fill them out on paper, the PDF is the best option because it's already nicely formatted.  If you'd like to fill out the contracts yourself, I include the doc version as well.  Very few lawyers allow their contracts to be downloaded in a DOC format because they don't want you to alter and steal them.  I'm not worried about that.  I want you to be able to customize the contracts to meet your needs.

You certainly can, but you could also make some massive mistakes by doing so.  For example, many photography contracts say that a client needs to pay a DEPOSIT and then a final payment.  Then the contract states that if the client cancels the shoot, the photographer doesn't have to give the money back.  WRONG!  In many states, the photographer would have to give the money back.

However, a simple change of wording can make it so the photographer keeps the deposit if the client cancels.  All you need to say is that the payment is an INITIAL PAYMENT and state that the purpose is to reserve the photographer's time which he or she will not advertise as being available.  Otherwise, it may be treated as an unearned retainer.

Definitely not!  I intentionally made these contracts dead simple to use.  I'm a photographer too.  I know how people look at you cross-wise when they see a 3-page model release and may not want to sign it.  I intentionally wrote it in as short and simple a way as possible while still covering the bases.

 

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About Author

Jim Harmer

Jim is a world renowned photographer, once listed as one of the 10 most popular photographers in the world. His landscape and portrait work has been featured in some of the world's most popular publications.

He famously graduated law school, passed the bar exam, then gave up law to pursue his passion for photography. Next, he founded Improve Photography and has helped millions of photographers improve their photography over the last decade.

This puts him in a very unique position to protect photographers from possible litigation by providing extremely valuable resources to the Improve Photography community.

(Not Legal Advice: Read Important Legal Notice)

Important Legal Notice

By purchasing this product, you understand and agree that Improve Photography LLC is not a law firm and no part of this transaction constitutes legal advice.  These contracts are offered merely as templates which you must customize for your situation and to match applicable law in your jursidiction.  Jim Harmer is a lawyer, but is not your lawyer, and you should seek individual legal advice from a licensed attorney in your jurisdiction before making important business decisions such as writing a legal contract.  This is provided merely as a template for you to adjust to your needs.

These contracts are being made available without any guarantee that they cover all legal questions your business may face.  These contracts are not guaranteed in any way.  By downloading these contracts, you agree that you will never host these contracts online, distribute them to any third party, transmit them to any third party, or sell these contracts.  By downloading these contracts, you are granted a license to use these contracts for you personally, or for a photography business that you own.  You are not authorized to sell these contracts or to publish or transmit these contracts to any third party except as provided in Fair Use.  Basically, I want you to be able to use these contracts for your business, but understand that I still own the copyright to these contracts.  These contracts are written and published and owned and distributed by Improve Photography LLC.

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