Smile! It’s In Your Contract!

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I recently was hired by a photographer to draft a template contract that she could use for all of her wedding photo shoots. When we were chatting about her needs, I couldn’t get one of her stories off my mind. She was shooting an outdoor wedding with a great big wedding party that included a cute little ring bearer and a flower girl. The wedding day went perfectly: the weather was excellent, the couple looked like they just stepped out of a magazine and love was in the air. The photographer knew that the pictures were going to be amazing. Except for one thing. That cute little ring bearer was not very happy. He did not want to be wearing a suit and he really did not want to be  posing for pictures. Needless to say, he was not all smiles in any of the photographs.

girl holding her skirt

After the wedding, the bride was upset that this cute little ring bearer was crying in all of the group photos. In true Bridezilla fashion, she demanded a discount on the photographer’s services because she felt this little guy ruined the pictures. Ouch! Poor kid. It didn’t matter to the bride that all of the other pictures captured smiling and happy people. The photographer did her best to explain that she would not provide a discount. She had done her job: she had professionally and artistically captured the event in photos. Clearly, the boy’s emotions were out of the photographer’s control.

This got me thinking, how can a photographer protect herself from these types of irrational requests?

When I draft service agreements for my artistic-type clients, (think graphic designers, photographers, illustrators, etc.) I include provisions that eliminate the type of situations that came up with Mrs. Bridezilla. I include language wherein the client agrees that the photographer will use her personal, artistic judgment in providing the service. In photography contracts in particular, I also make it clear that the images are not subject to rejection merely because the client does not like them.  

For this particular client, I decided to take it one step further. I included a statement that the photographer cannot guarantee that the subjects will be smiling or happy in the photographs. Although this is likely not necessary given the provisions outlined in the previous paragraph, I think it helps to make it crystal clear: if a kid isn’t smiling in the photo, it’s not the photographer’s fault. My photographer client was happy to have this sentence added and I smile every time I come across a screaming kid in photos.

For more information on the types of legal contracts I draft, please click here.

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