Do parents have to legally come to a senior photography session?

Aug 27, 2015

Topic: Senior Photography, General Legal 
Time Investment: 4 Minutes
Suggested Product: Senior Photography Contract Bundle


Interacting with a senior in their custom- planned photography session is critical to a successful outcome. There is a fine line in wanting to please the senior graduate but also needing to please mom and dad. This is especially true when Mom and Dad are typically the legal clients on the contracted session. But, as many senior photographers well know, seniors have a busy schedule, as well as the parents. So how do we get around this? Can we legally shoot without the parents there? If legally, should we even do it anyways?

As a business owner, as long as you’re within the law, you can make choices that are best for your business. Let’s investigate these situations for their legalities and to help you make the best decision possible for your senior photography business.

Contract Privity 101

Before we can investigate the variety of situations that may occur, let us do a crash course on the theory of contract privity.

In the theory of contract privity, the only person(s) you are responsible to are parties of the contract. Parties to the contract, the ones you are contractually responsible to, are those that are a part of the agreement itself. You become responsible to these parties by signing the agreement and promising to all terms within the contract. In an ideal situation, the parents would sign the contract and pay all monies. Simple. That means the “privity” would run between you, the photographer, and the signed parties.

However, things get complicated when other parties sign and/or pay the contract monies without doing both. In the case where a senior or another individual pays, contracted party doesn’t (or vice versa), there may be a third-party that the contracted party intended the benefit of the photography session to.

Confused yet? Let’s look at some situations.

Note: Contract law does not necessarily demand that the contract include a provision when an alternate person wants to assume responsibility for payment because, by theory, the person signing is assuming responsibility for the entirety of the agreement – which would include payment. If a person wants to pay the monetary obligation that is where it can get tricky. Simply, the signing person is agreeing to all of the terms, including payment. An additional clause is not needed. If Person A signs a contract with Photographer, Person A is responsible to the photographer. If Person B wants to pay and hasn’t signed the contract, Person A is still responsible to the Photographer. If Person B fails to pay then, there would be a conflict between Person A and Person B. Not between Personal B and the photographer. I’m going to spare you a completely additional legal theory that involves assuming of responsibilities in contracts. Just know- whoever signs is the person on the hook to you as the photographer. If Person A does not want to be or is unable to be responsible for the monetary portion then they should not sign the agreement. – Please note this example is merely to clear up a little bit of the cloudiness that contract law brings. If you have further contract questions for this type of situation, always seek a local attorney.


Is it legal to photograph without the parents at the session?

Barring any specific state laws, fulfillment of the senior session without the parents should be legally permissible. This is especially true if the senior is above the age of majority (which in most states is the age of eighteen).

Most states do not allow minors to enter into contracts, therefore, if the high-school senior signed the agreement then it is most likely invalid and unenforceable.

In this type of scenario, the contract is with the parents, who are your clients. Your legal obligations are to the parents.


What if the majority-age senior has paid for the session, but parents signed?

This is even true if the high school senior is paying a portion of the session; the parents are still the contracted party.

In an ideal situation, it would be the parents signing and paying, but this is not always the case. As you can see above, the senior may have some rights as the third-party who brought the money to the table.

Always check local state laws before accepting any monies from non-contract signature parties.


What if the parents cannot attend the session?

While it may be legal to shoot the senior without the parents there, it may not always be best. Not just because they are the contracted parties but because of the potential risk that may be involved. By not having the parents present at the session there is great risk in them failing to feel like they received “enough” for their monies, opens up the door for potential complaints (such as missed shots), a vehicle or other accident, as well as accusations of impropriety.

While you can contract indemnification for liability, you can’t contract a potential perception of impropriety and reputation damage.

We must be smarter when choosing to engage with a senior on their lonesome.

It is not recommended, for the reasons listed above, to engage in a senior photography session without the presence of the parent or legal guardian.

As you can see, having or not having your senior’s parent at the session can have adverse business effects, if not legal ones. It is always best to have all parties to contract at the contracted senior photography session. If nothing else, how else will you show your value to those that are inevitably paying the bill?


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