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Photography as a business and form of communication has a tricky hold on the legal world. Much of being a photographer is balancing your commitments to your craft and to your business, which is unique in that it tries to connect the standard goals of a commercial enterprise with an art form that is usually less focused on that. To do this, many photographers keep a cache of legal and business documents that they use to keep their work on track and reduce any legal liability that may come up because of their work. Here are some of the most common business and legal forms for photographers trying to stay on top of their work.
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Photo Release Form
The most standard, and probably most important, of all the business and legal forms for photographers is going to be the photo release form. The photo release form basically says that the photographer has the rights to use your image under the specific circumstances listed in the form, which is usually a blanket release for any purpose that the photographer sees fit. This photo release form is incredibly important if you are using the photo of a person for a purpose other than being chartered by that person. For fine art photography, corporate photography, constructed image photography, use in graphic and web design, use in advertising or product development, or any other use it should be the first photo legal form that you will need. In photojournalism situations you may not need to focus on this as much since you will be in public areas or events where the assumption of image privacy is not assured. This will often also be called a model release form or a model consent form, and will require quite a bit of information about the model and the person that the rights are being signed over to.
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Property Release Form
A property release form is not always used in photography, but as with anything it is better to have it when you are able to get someone to sign it. What a property release form will ensure is that you are legally allowed to photograph a piece of property that will be well known to the public and whose image will be deemed a piece of financial capital in and of itself. The property release form will usually only be used if the piece of property itself is the main focus of the image, not just the setting for other subjects or objects.
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Image Release Form
An image release form, also called a photograph release form or other titles, is a form to sign over the rights to use, reproduce, alter, manipulate, or otherwise use a photograph. Since the photography is either owned in rights by the creator or another party whom the rights have been sold to or otherwise bestowed, the use of that photograph by another requires an agreement between the two parties. The image release form is then going to be important for a professional photographer on both sides because they will want it on hand when agreeing for another to use their photograph, and if they want to appropriate another's photograph for their own constructive purposes. This stands out as one of the business and legal forms for photographers that you will need to have quite often if you expect to sell your photography.
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If you are working for a client, as most professional photographers will, you will want to have a service agreement between you to outline what is expected of your services and what is expected in return. Here you will outline specifically what type of work you will produce, when it will be produced by, what it will be used for, how much you will be paid for it, and everything else in the job that you were hired for. This agreement will often be provided by the client who is requesting your services, but if you are doing a lot of freelance photography for things like magazine spreads, advertising, and photojournalism, you will want to have a clear idea of what is on the service agreement.
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Photography Business Plan
Putting together a photography business plan is a lot more vague then other business and legal forms for photographers, especially since every business is different. You will want to use a photography business plan if you are going to be starting a company or providing a consistent service that you want to track the progress of. This means that you will want to put together a photography business plan that outlines what your startup costs will be, what type of consistent business you expect, and what your perceived profits are so you can chart exactly how to operate.