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Legal Documents that a Photographer Needs

written by: Mayflor Markusic•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/31/2013

Photography is a fun hobby and a delightful job. But it would be wrong to assume that there are no legal matters to take care of. Here we will examine the most common photography agreements and contracts used by photographers.

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    Photography is serious business

    Whoever thought that photography is all fun and adventure probably has never seen the business side of it. This business side, of course, is optional. That is, if a person wants to keep his photography a hobby and simply wants to take thousands of pictures of his family and his dog, then all he needs to worry about is the capacity of his memory cards and the cooperation of his pet. Beyond the hobby, if photos are to be used for commercial purposes and to earn money, then a photographer must realize that he will need an array of legal documents at his disposal. As an example, let’s say a photographer is asked by a middle school soccer league to cover the finals. He would be expecting to have the sole rights to take pictures of the soccer game, as well as the option to sell them. What if there are other photographers that were invited too? What if an eccentric parent demands that the photographer must pay for taking pictures of her child? Issues such as these could be easily addressed if the photographer has legal documents to present or has formed a legally binding contract with the client, in this case, the soccer league. So what documents do photographers need?

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    Legal documents

    The documents described here are the most common contracts and agreements that a photographer will need.

    • Model Release Agreement – This is a contract that is obtained from a person whose face is recognizable in the photograph that will be displayed publicly or used commercially. Below is an example of a simple model release agreement that is suggested by the PPA or Professional Photographers of America.

    (Click on images to enlarge or the links for each to download a copy)

    model release form 

    • Property Release Agreement – If a photographer plans to take pictures of a private and recognizable property for commercial purposes, the needed document is the Property Release Agreement. This agreement obtains the consent of the property owner.

    property release form 

    • Photography Services Contract – If the photographer’s services are requested on a certain venue, date, and time, the legal document that must be ready on hand is this generic contract. The services can range from portraiture photography to a school yearbook project. Below is an example of a portrait contract suggested by the PPA.

    portrait contract 

    • Event Photography Contract – If the photographer is asked or assigned to cover a certain event, such as a wedding, a sports competition, or a house warming party, the needed document is broadly known as the event or assignment photography contract. Below are samples of such legal documents, the wedding photography contract, and the sports event photography contract.

    wedding photography contract 

Protect Yourself as a Photographer - Legal Aspects to Consider

This article series is about the legal aspects that a photographer must think about when (s)he intends to make a business out of photography. Including information on legal documents, such as the model release form and photo contracts.
  1. Legal Documents that a Photographer Needs
  2. Understanding the Model Release Form
  3. Photographing Underage Models - Model Release Forms
  4. TFP Contracts with Aspiring Models