The #1 mistake most photographers make that puts them in legal trouble.
It honestly is not what you think..
In fact, some of y'all opened this email and already closed it ..... directly committing this mistake. If you've stuck with me these three sentences - be proud of yourself. You are doing more than majority of "professional" photographer's out there are doing.
Many jump into this industry for a combination of the following reasons:
- quick money
- low barrier to entry
- want a side gig/hustle
- love photography and need money
- want to run a business using their passion
No matter where you're at or what your motivation, legal sh*t happens. I am not saying this as just a lawyer - but as a fellow photographer and entrepreneur who would rather spend time, money and energy on my business, clients and life than cleaning up legal messes.
So, what is this big mistake then, Rachel?
Glad you asked. It's having the mindset of "that will never happen to me."
Not ground-breaking sounding, is it? But let me tell you. We've had over 100k members come through our free facebook community over the years and if I had a penny for every single time a post started with "I never thought this would happen to me"....I....well I was going to say I wouldn't be writing this email...but I would..because I love what I do.
This perspective is not only potentially damaging but honestly, unprofessional. As a profession, photographers are already battling against society's access to phones and the "race to the bottom" of so many photographers attempting to penetrate the market.
I get it, legal stuff is overwhelming and frankly, seems like it is something that will never happen to you. It's time to make shift if you are truly going to call yourself a professional.
I want you think of doing the "legal things" as insurance against the worst and building buyers confidence to your potential clients.
So far, you've downloaded the roadmap. This is a 80,000 foot level view to getting you on the professional path. It's a great guide to piecing together all the things you need. However, the real overwhelm and stress is in the action items isn't it?
TheLawTog has your back, friend. I've boiled down action items into checklists on business set-up, contracts, marketing legalities, taxes and more here.
It really is simple. You'll download. Then go one-by-one until you're legally protected. Then I won't need to come at you with all the scary stories of how photography businesses have had to close or a single mom photographer had to pay thousands of dollars to a client due to a crappy contract.
You're a pro, let's get you professionally protected together.
But, maybe you're not ready for action yet. That is fine, too. Keep reading and make note of issues you definitely want to avoid.
Top Legal Mistakes
Here's a list of the top legal mistakes that come out of this un-professional mindset so you can try to avoid making these real life mistakes that other photographers, like you, have made.
- Not taking a non-refundable initial payment + contract before putting client on calendar = waste of time
- DIYing a photography contract, needing to enforce but didn't include any provisions regarding legal fees = photographer on the hook for their own lawyer fees even if in the right. See Photog Frank's full story here
- Not updating contracts yearly = photographer got stuck with 2 year-old wedding pricing because never updated contract to reflect new pricing
- Client sending barrage of texts less than 24 hours after session asking where photos are and threatening lawsuit.
- Client uses photographs (with only a personal print release) for use in contests without photographer permission.
- Photograph(s) stolen but fails to pursue due to lack of information.
- Large corporation steals photograph for use in marketing, Photographer fails to register copyright and large corporation knows they can ignore with little threat of law suit due to photographer's position as a small business.
- Photographer fails to comply with email marketing laws and gets entire email marketing account shut down.
- Local business and photographer have referral fee arrangement that is not disclosed to potential clients - discovered when disgruntled client sued photographer for unrelated issue.
These are not all-inclusive of legal issues that photographers face but they give you some good insight into situations you want to avoid.
So right now, we are going to put on our Pro Photog hat and work through actions to prevent these issues. Cause honestly, wouldn't you rather money for a new lens than padding the pockets of some lawyer while you cry into your keyboard? Yes, yes you do.