By Victor S. Perlman, Esq.
The General Counsel to the
American Society of Media
Photographers (ASMP) is also
co-author of the book Licensing
Photography (Allworth Press).
If you work in the realm of senior portrait photography, one perk of the new school year is getting contracted to shoot all of a
school’s official senior (and other) class portraits.
You may be under the assumption that only
a relatively small number of studios get these
contracts and thus have the local market
sewn up. However, remember that no school
contract lasts forever. Don’t be afraid to ask
for the business, and don’t stop asking just
because the client says “no.” When that happens, think about ways to convince the client
to say “yes,” and keep asking.
If you do manage to land such a deal, be sure
that your contract with the school gives you
everything you need, and if this is your first
time dealing with a school contract, consider
investing in a document review by a lawyer
who is familiar with such contracts. You’ll
probably have to deal with issues like gaining
access to the school, getting insurance for
anything that could go wrong (see my column
in last month’s Rangefinder) and obtaining
permission to photograph. Also, be prepared
to deal with anything additional the school
insists upon as a condition for agreeing to the
contract, probably including indemnifications
and specific insurance requirements.
The school is only one part of the paperwork
equation; you also have to deal with the students’
parents and guardians. When creating your
paperwork for the parents to fill out, remember
that the school probably does not have the legal
authority to allow you to use images of the students outside of the school grounds. The school
can give you permission to make photographs
on school property, but it probably cannot grant
you permission to use the recognizable like-nesses of any of its students. Because of that, you
should include model release language in the
paperwork for the parents.
For example, if you want to use a student’s
image on your website, in your print portfolio
or on promo pieces, get a model release signed
by the child’s parent or legal guardian. Also keep
in mind that if you are doing senior or post-high
school portraits, you’ll need model releases from
any student who is 18 or older.