Rachel Brenke is the lawyer & photographer owner of The Law Tog, a site is dedicated to providing legal, marketing and biz advice to photography businesses with maximum efficiency and results. Through business consulting services and her published book “The Laundry List: A Mother’s Guide to Balancing Family and Business,” Rachel provides guidance in practical ways for photography business owners to succeed. Check out Rachel’s Facebook page.
The phrase “the client is always right” just may be going out the window as more of society seeks to push the boundaries of what they can ‘get’ for their money. As business owners we have to balance customer service and standing-our-ground to protect our business.
This balancing act can be tiring and have detrimental results if not handled correctly. However, a major client concern that carries a legitimate argument revolves around the publication of minors on the Internet. In this digital age there is a very real worry for parents as photographs are placed on the World Wide Web with little to no control over who views or possesses these photographs. Despite photographers taking measures to watermark and right-click-disable their websites, intellectual property thieves and child predators possess tools to get around these precautions.
As a portrait photographer having a portfolio is a necessity but the question to ask is … at what cost? On the flipside, why shoot if you’re not going to be able to share that session and gain new clients? This situation puts photographers between a rock and a legal place.
Whenever a photography session takes place that is a private contractual relationship and the intention is to use the pictures on website, portfolio, studio samples or any other marketing avenues the photographer should obtain a signed model release. Unless it is otherwise written in the contract in similar language, if the photographer does not obtain a signed model release the photographer is unable to use the photographs for marketing or portfolio use until such release is obtained.
It is always best practice to get it before hand. In this case, with clients insisting on not publishing photographs of minor children on the Internet, it is important for the photographer to balance potential word of mouth against whether it is worth turning down the session due to the inability to use the photographs publicly.
#1 Eliminate Model Releases – No Questions Asked
Yes, photographers need portfolios, however, at what cost? This is a personal business decision each photographer will have to make. A good rule would be to err on the side of the client’s wishes, as they are legitimate concerns, honor the elimination of a model release to inspire future word of mouth clientele.
#2 Charge More For A Session Without A Model Release
An alternative would be too charge more for sessions that are not accompanied with a signed model release to compensate the photographer for potential lost marketing that could have occurred with the publication of the photographs.
#3 Written Agreement To Not Divulge Names, Faces Or A Combination Of Both Names & Faces
The last option is a middle-of-the-road that requires an amendment to the model release by agreeing in writing to not divulge identifiers such as names, faces, personal characteritistics or a combination of the above. This can be partnered with a discretionary fee to the client or not.
Bet you thought I’d give you the be-all and end-all answer, huh? Sorry.
This is something that each photography business owner has to weigh and determine what is best for their clients and business. These are just few of the options available to photographers that can respect the client’s wishes, photographer’s or both.
Feel free to leave in comments any other ways you have found to successfully navigate this precarious area of client management and the law!
“If the photographer does not obtain a signed model release the photographer is unable to use the photographs for marketing or portfolio use until such release is obtained.”