As a photographer and business owner, do you know how to protect your photography business and images? Whether you have been running your wedding photography business for years, or are just learning how to start a photography business, you should always remain up-to-date with your legal responsibilities. Although it may not be the most exciting topic to think about, you are running a photography business, where you work closely with couples, families, and possibly other businesses and organizations. Even if you are familiar with legal concepts and what you need to have in place (like a wedding photography contract), do you know how to defend your photography business and images if someone violates your copyright?
In our Online Training: 10 Legal Traps you Might be Falling into, Rachel revealed some of the legal traps you may not know are happening (or have happened) to you. Rachel is a lawyer, photographer, and business consultant for professional photographers. She helps creatives initiate, strategize and implement strategic business plans through mediums of consulting resources and legal direction.
Throughout the Online Training, Rachel also shared how to:
- Avoid issues so you can spend more time on your art
- Effectively use copyright registration to defend your work
- Apply other necessary legal tools to protect your images
- Understand the process of cease and desists
So you can protect your wedding photography business and images, we’ve put together the top 5 tips for protecting your images from Rachel’s Online Training.
“You don’t know what you don’t know.” – Rachel Brenke
1. Make Wedding Photography Contract Updates
As a photographer, a strong wedding photography business plan is necessary to ensure you reach your goals and achieve growth. In addition to the necessary aspects of the plan, there are plenty of legal matters you need to consider and take action upon. A perfect example of this is your wedding photography contract. Each year, as you work with clients and go through different experiences, it is likely you will make changes to your photography business policies.
Often times this happens based on experiences you have throughout the year; whether those are with clients or other vendors. The changes may occur because you learned new ways to make communication easier with clients, or you have an experience that makes you want to protect yourself from further situations. When you make adjustments, such as how you deliver images or handle post-event sales, are you updating your wedding photography contracts? If your contracts do not reflect your current policies, you could find yourself dealing with conflict from clients who were unaware of the changes.
A contract shares relevant information for both parties involved, namely you and your clients. It is the way for you to clearly communicate how you operate your photography business and what can be expected of you. Your wedding photography contract can share in detail what your clients can expect from cost, to turnaround time for images, to how many pages will be included in their album. It is up to you what is in the contract, but it is recommended to include as many specific details as possible. A clear and detailed contract eliminates problems before they begin and allows your clients to have a positive experience with you. If anything should happen, your contract can be a reminder to clients for what you originally agreed on together.
When you schedule the time to work on legal matters, such as updating your photography contracts, you help prevent issues from clients. You also protect yourself and your wedding photography business from any further complications. How often should you update your contracts? Rachel recommends updating them quarterly or at the very least, once a year. Like anything in your business, make updating your wedding photography contract a consistent process that fits naturally with your workflow.
Tip: Here at ShootDotEdit, we believe your workflow should be fast and efficient, no matter what you are working on. Make it easier for yourself to update your contracts regularly when you use wedding photography contracts templates. Templates allow you to quickly make adjustments based on what changed in your photography business. Rather than having to construct an entirely new wedding photographer contract every time you have an update, use a template to speed up the time it takes you.
2. Use Copyright Registration
When you shoot during the wedding day, you take photos of your couple, their family and friends, as well as other vendors. If you share photos with vendors, they can place the images on their various platforms for potential clients to view. What happens when they share your photo outside of what you agreed upon?
Also, much of your copyright can be violated when someone uses your images for their own personal gain and do not give you the proper credit. This can happen with clients, too, especially because a majority of them likely are not wedding photographers and do not know the importance of including credit along with the images.
Because Rachel sees this happen on a regular occasion, she recommends using copyright registration. This can help you to clarify the rules of your agreement with clients and other vendors, so you are all informed about how your images will be used. Without copyright registration, if you find your images online, it can often be too late to make it easy for you to fight for them. Take the steps now to make changes in your business so your images are protected.
3. Implement Trademarking
As a part of your wedding photography business plan, you spend much of your time on perfecting your brand and finding ways to stand out in the saturated photography industry. Every aspect of your business should showcase your unique brand, including your website, social media platforms, and more. As you share about your brand more and more, ideal clients may start to recognize it. When you implement trademarking on parts of your business, such as your business name and logo, you can ensure those items are only yours to use for representing your brand. According to Copyright.gov, “a trademark protects words, phrases, symbols, or designs identifying the source of the goods or services of one party and distinguishing them from those of others.”
Trademarking certain parts of your photography business can be valuable for when you decide to expand your business or book clients in other states. Although it can often be costly to trademark your business name and logo, it may prevent issues from arising. If your business name and logo are not trademarked, you risk someone else taking your name. This could cause confusion for ideal clients and may prevent you from working in the area you desire.
Additionally, with much of your photography marketing online, Rachel recommends using trademarking so your ideal clients are not confused when they look for you and your business. Everything you do in your photography business is to ensure your clients have a positive experience with you. This includes easily finding you online and accessing your website or blog. When you take the steps to secure your photography business name and logo, you can work on atracting additional ideal clients. Then, you can spend your efforts on booking them, which ultimately helps in growing your photography business.
4. Focus on Important Issues
Since copyright infringement is a large issue in the photography industry, it can be crucial to your success to fight for your business and your images. One major point Rachel brings up is to know what battles are most important. As mentioned earlier, your clients may not know the importance of adding credit to your images when they share them on Instagram or Facebook. If they accidentally do share on social media without proper credit, but they agreed to it in your wedding photography contract, this may be a miscommunication between you and the client. Rachel recommends reaching out to your client in this scenario and educate them on the process of sharing images so they will not do it again.
This is something you can do from the beginning with your clients. When you have your first planning session, discuss the topic of sharing images on social media. Let them know that they will be the first to know when the images are ready and that you can’t wait until they share them with their loved ones. Mention how photo credit is a part of your wedding photography contract, but make sure to do it in a way that keeps the conversation positive and makes them excited to do so.
After the wedding day is another opportunity to share a friendly reminder about photo credit. Once you receive your images back from a wedding photography editing company, you can reach out to your clients, and that is where you can share the reminder. When you incorporate reminders into your workflow, it will ensure you cover all the bases with your clients, which can eliminate the possibility of any issues.
Outside of issues that happen accidentally with clients, there are situations that require you to take action. If someone takes your images from the Internet and uses them on their site for their own gain, that is when you should fight it. You can use a DMCA Takedown notice, which informs the Internet service provider to take down the person’s site with your images. If you have a business who violated your copyright, using this option helps pull the image from their site so they cannot use it without your permission.
5. Learn About Taxes
As a topic that is unpopular with more than just photography business owners, taxes are something that often gets pushed aside. As a business owner, it is vital to your longevity and success to stay on top of your taxes, especially when it comes to what you pay for yourself and your photography business. In our Online Training, Rachel mentioned there is a list of taxes you need to know about. These include Federal and State taxes. Depending on where you live, your state may or may not have sales tax. There are some states where the equipment you purchase for your business is taxed, so that is something you would want to know in advance. There can also be a franchise tax for your photography business as an LLC or Corporation, again depending on where you live.
With this list of tax information, it is important to look up this information for your state. And even though you need to be aware of these things, you can always outsource taxes to a specialist. This one of the items that you may not necessarily be an expert at (which is fine), and would be a better use of time for you to trust an expert in the subject. While the specialist takes care of your taxes, you can focus on the things you thrive at (and that your business requires you to do).
When you understand your rights as a photographer and business owner, you can more easily protect your wedding photography business and images. When you protect your business and images, you can spend less time on issues that may arise from your wedding clients. With legal traps behind you, you can spend that time on other important items in your photography business.
Because every photography business has a different plan, the most important items for you will differ from other photographers. Gain more insights from Rachel and more about how to utilize contracts to protect your images, your business, and your clients when you download our free Guide: The Do’s and Don’ts of Wedding Photographer Contracts! Click the banner below to get your copy!