How To Write A Photography Disclaimer

The fun part of photography is taking pictures and seeing the final results. When it comes to protecting the rights of your photographs, its easy to ignore the business part, and hope you’re customers will do the right thing. Yet in today’s technology driven world, the line is blurred, and its more important than ever to spell out exactly what is and isn’t acceptable, and get a signature to make sure everything is in place.

Why do you need a photography disclaimer?
A photography disclaimer is protection for both you and your customer. It tells them what they can and can’t do with a photograph, and also what you will be doing with the image as well

The lines have been blurred in recent years with the advances in technology. When you take images at a wedding or a portrait sitting, or work on a commercial level with a company, chances are you hand over some or all of your work in digital format. With a couple of clicks, those files can be emailed anywhere in the world, or shared on Facebook or Flickr, or even uploaded to a place like Shutterfly for instant printing capabilities. Because it’s easy to do, its done every single day. And most clients today assume they have the right to do so because they have the file. They never think twice about the process.

Steps for putting your photography disclaimer together
Start by looking around at other photographers’ disclaimers. You can find them easily by doing a search online. Less is better, and the fewer words, the greater chance of the disclaimer actually being read.

Thanks to the Internet, you can also purchase a variety of legal forms for your photography business online that will give you a starting point. Because these forms are written by lawyers, you can buy them at a fraction of the cost of hiring a lawyer, and you simply fill in the blanks with your detailed information. As you grow bigger and more successful, I would also recommend touching base with a lawyer to make sure you are fully covered, and your disclaimer will stand up in a court of law if it ever comes to that point.

Once you have your disclaimer written, make sure you place it where it can be easily read. Place your disclaimer in your Terms of Service on your web presence. Also place it in all of your contracts. You may also wish to include a copy on your CD/DVD or other media source when you are turning over photographic files to your customers.

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clientexperience@todaysgrowthconsultant.com' About Virtual Photography

We're the co-founders of VirtualPhotographyStudio.com and have been writing on this blog since 2004. We started Virtual as a way to help photographers stretch beyond a part time income, and develop strategies to become a Five Figure Photographer or a Six Figure Photographer. Ultimately its all about lifestyle, and if your goal is to live as a photographer 24/7, we think you should have the knowledge and the tools to do so. Welcome!

  • Ed Congdon

    As a relative novice to this business, I guess I need some education. What are the downsides to giving a (wedding or portrait) customer a CD/ROM and telling them they may make copies as they see fit? I’ve only done a couple of weddings so far, but my concept is that the customer is buying the images I shoot.

    Is this wrong? In my mind, it’s just my way of running the business. Can you enlighten me?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Ed

    When you hand over a CD with the digital files, and tell your customer they are free to make images as they please, you are giving up several things.

    First, you are giving up creative control. As a wedding photographer, I told my clients that shooting was half the service – the other half was creating a storybook album of their wedding. A bride has one wedding – she’ll print off a handful of images, and put them into a book of pictures. We created 3 to 6 volume sets for each wedding client, showcasing hundreds of photographs that actually told the story of their wedding. The money is always in the creativity.

    Second, you are giving up quality. A bride will take the disk down to the big box store, print on cheap paper, and handle the images like paper. No value there. If you mount every image, place them in a keepsake box, and handle them like original artwork, they have more value. People won’t value a piece of paper – its what you do with it that adds the value.

    Third, you are giving up a revenue stream. If you charge $50 for a photo session, hand over the disk and expect them to come back for enlargements, you’ll be waiting a long time. As a photographer, you need to be paid what you are worth. I know some very high end wedding photographers that charge a $10,000 shooting fee, and hand over the files. That’s great – he’s paid what he’s worth. But if you charge virtually nothing, you’ll never be compensated for your time, expenses, equipment, energy, retirement fund, insurance, etc.

  • http://www.perezstudios.com Manuel Perez

    Very good post! I loved the information. I wrote my disclaimer a long time ago and now I am going to go through it again and retouch it and make the changes you pointed out.

    Thanks,

    Manuel

  • Ed Congdon

    Thanks, VPS. This is good information, and gives me something to think about.

  • Charisse Laverdiere

    AMAZING POST!!!!!!!!! I loved “Never Give Up Creative Control”!!!!! Thank You for those words….

  • Clair

    Brilliant post, thanks so much, people who are willing to share their advice and experiences are such a credit to the profession.

    Thanks again also for the additional posts, very informative.

    :-)

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Thanks Clair – glad you are enjoying the posts!
    Lori

  • Ginger

    We are trying an approach that is a little different. We shoot for ***FREE*** but charge for prints and digital copies only, even for weddings. How do I nicely restrict the couple’s wedding guest from shooting while we are doing our professional shots?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Hi Ginger

    The easiest way to do it is to include a clause in your contract

    http://virtualphotographystudio.com/2009/10/how-to-handle-too-many-photographers-at-the-wedding/

    Point it out to them and tell them why they can’t have additional shooters – I tell about it in my post above.

    Lori

  • Jacqueline Pena

    Amazing post!!!! Thank you for the great advice, it gives me a sense of security to be able to seek prof. advice on many subjects that can assist me in my new photography business.

    I am an amateur photographer and for the past 3 1/2 years I have been working with my partner on his production company. Our major clients are mostly artists, musicians but we are slowly expanding to include models, videographers and anything that has to do with the musical/artistic community. One of my main concerns (this has happened many times, not only for our photos but videos as well) is basically copyright issues and/or infringement. Since I am new in the business I need as much education regarding this issue and the necessary steps needed to avoid such things from happening over & over again. Another major concern for my side of the business is social media since I have to work directly with artists/musicians that use social media extensively for their promotional purposes.

    My question is: How can I add a disclaimer to let them know that before they can use my photos (for both artist & their media friends), they need to ask us for permission?

    This is the reason why: We recently uploaded a You Tube Promo Video to FB that my partner/Executive Director did to help an artist promote his event & to show that he was being backup by our company who would later represent him as his own Publishing Co to promote his music. But the next day, the artist took that video, used it to announced another locale & added additional information without asking for the company’s permission. How do we, as a Publishing Company, deal with these issues? What is the liability between the two parties?

    Thanks in advance for any information that would help me deal with these important issues.

    Jackie

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Jackie

    I’ll start by saying you may want to talk with a lawyer about these issues. Make sure you get one in the industry that understands business, copyrights and social media.

    From there, I will say its very difficult once you post something on a social site. Because they can grab, copy, share etc at any time, its equally important that you lay everything on the line before you move forward and put your info up on a sharing site. What is the client buying? What are you having them sign before you do business? Make sure they understand all the rules before you take them on as a client. Get your contract to cover you, then enforce to keep your business running smooth.
    Lori

  • Claire Jackson

    I have a slightly different scenario.

    I’m by no means a professional, not do I have any kind of photography business, but I like shooting, and my friends think I’m not half bad. I attended a dance event for my friend who was performing. She confirmed with the director before I attended that it was ok for me to take photographs of her and the other dancers, which she said it was. I use flikr to store my photos, and I sent the link to the director, who promptly asked me to ensure they weren’t publically available, and wanted to know why there was no disclaimer signed for use of images taken.

    Now, this is probably my fault for not understanding that I would need to this, but I wasn’t engaged as a professional – but if I own the copyright, is she able to demand that I remove them?

  • http://virtualphotographystudio.com Virtual Photography

    Claire – That’s a touchy one. If its a private event, you probably do have to adhere to the company’s guidelines. I know at many performances they state right at the beginning “no photographs”. While you probably wouldn’t have trouble with your friend, its the other dancers that could be a problem. If she pushes it, I would take them down – you don’t want to end up in a law suit.
    Lori