OK guys n girls.
Business 101 right now.
I just got an email from a really dope online magazine that I like alot and respect creatively. They just sent me a contract, for a shoot we did over a month ago. In it were many dubious terms, rights, and exclusivities that shed alot of my freedoms over the image(s). This happens all the time and perhaps I will broach this specific subject another time.
The kicker was late late late in the contract at the very bottom. I won’t copy and paste verbatim because it’s not prudent or wise, and because usually contracts are proprietary things that often have a clause about not sharing the contents of a contract (I see you, AMEX!).
But anyway, the contract stated that the client wouldn’t have an obligation to pay me for 30 days after the piece ran, and also stated that there was no guaranteed date of when the story/images would run. So it could take _______ months to get paid. Fill in the blank. Two months. Five months. Whatever.
The reality of it is that the piece will probably run in the next two months (maybe not after this post!!!). But the terms of the contract, and the fact that it was sent post-shoot, were so discordant with me that I had to write the following email back:
“Hey XXXXX- Just saw this contract… let’s revisit the next time we do a shoot together. I can’t sign a contract about a shoot that happened a month ago, it needs to be signed and agreed upon before the services have been provided. However, in the meantime, the terms of getting payed 30 days from the end of the calendar month that the shoot is posted on, with no guarantee of when it will run, will not work for the business I run.
I can’t ask, and would never ask, for that kind of payment schedule of my assistants, my studio assistant, my rental house, or any other vendors. It’s not kind, fair, reasonable, or rational.
With all due respect and kindness, I’m not a bank. I can’t help but launch into small diatribes on this subject, but I want to stand up for all photographers when I say that we are already front enough money before shoots as it is, it is simply not acceptable to wait on money for unspecified amounts of time after a shoot as well.
Again, with kindness and respect, please do make sure to pay within 30 days of the invoice I sent you, it’s an industry standard. I love working with creative publications such as XXXXX more than anything. However, I have to stand by certain (very reasonable and very standard) business guidelines. I hope you understand, and I hope continue to work with you and the team at XXXXX again in the future on these terms. All the best.”
So that’s that. But what mostly wanted to share, discuss, and bring up was the idea of STANDING UP FOR YOURSELVES AS PEOPLE, AS PHOTOGRAPHERS, AND AS CREATIVE PROFESSIONALS, FOR THE SAKE OF THE INDUSTRY.
Honestly, I hope I don’t burn the bridge of this client by writing this post because they were great and gave me tons of creative freedom (which often comes at a lower fee, which is fine and I understand that), but regardless… don’t let the clients you shoot for shit all over you. Stand up for yourself.
I’m not trying to start an uprising, but if we photographers (or any creative) maintain rigorous, strong, and professional legal terms on our work and in our contracts and do no cede on payment standards and billing cycles, we keep our “force” unified, healthy, and legit. The more we cede, the more we let other people control the rights and usages to our images, the more we let clients delay payment, the more we will continue to collectively lose our integrity as businesses and as an industry as a whole.
So the next time you get a contract, make sure you retain your rights, make sure you get paid on time, make sure you stand up for yourself, for your peers like myself, and everyone in the photography industry. Y’heard??