[by Shawn Henry]
The major point of confusion between clients and photographers with many photo assignments, both editorial and commercial, is the scope of the usage allowed by the photographer and those expected by the client. This confusion often results because the photographer fails to address the usage issue up front, instead relying on “boilerplate” terms and conditions on the invoice to limit the use, while clients are sometimes ignorant about the issue of usage altogether, believing “we paid for it, we own it.”
There’s no reason for this confusion to occur. As professionals, it’s our responsibility to address the scope of usage up front while we’re discussing our fees and production costs. In fact, the usage should figure prominently in how we determine our fees for the assignments we’re offered — the greater the usage, the greater the fee is the general rule of thumb.
The process needn’t be confrontational nor confusing. When I’m working with a new client, I simply ask how they plan to use the photographs — for magazine work, is it print only or is there a web component; for corporate work, will it be limited to the web, do they expect to print brochures, any advertising use? I then clearly outline those uses specified as well as a period of use in my estimate/contract, which I forward to the client prior to the job. If there’s an expectation of greater usage from the client, we negotiate the issue then.
Over the years, I’ve reduced the “boilerplate” language to a minimum because I’ve found that it’s often the paragraph after paragraph of boilerplate terms and conditions that frighten the client or in many cases prohibit the frontline editor or corporate contact who’s hiring me from signing the agreement. Once I reduced the boilerplate, I found that I had very little resistance…