21 January 2012

Best Business Practices for Photographers

Best Business Practices for Photographers4. Best Business Practices for Photographers by John Harrington

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent reference book for the business side of photography. Loads of examples and resources throughout. That said, it's also a bit overwhelming for someone who isn't already in business as a photographer. I think the book contains a lot of great advice for getting things set up the right way from the beginning though.

For the non-pro reader, I would start with the chapter that walks you through copyright registration (chapter 17). It's followed by what to do when you're infringed in chapter 18 with a handy step-by-step to getting an ISP provider to remove your images from a site violating your copyright according to the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) starting on page 329: "Case Study: a DMCA Violation." (You might find this useful, Dave2, since you don't have to deal directly with the infringer.)

Then I would read chapters 6 and 7, "Setting Your Photographer's Fees" and "Pricing Your Work to Stay in Business" to remind yourself what your work is really worth. Most people I know can't hear this enough, myself included.

Then I'd look at the chapters on contracts which include many examples of what clients expect/demand and what you can counter with. Harrington also discusses what the contract language means. There are several ways the language can be phrased so that it says you retain your copyright while you're actually giving all those rights away. Watch out for "exclusive," "transferable," and "sublicensable" rights. Completely avoid "work made for hire" if at all possible.

From there, I might go to chapter 26 "Licensing Your Work." It just depends on what applies most to you. There's a chapter on IRS audits that has tips that would be useful for anyone. Other chapters cover more of the nitty gritty business stuff: lawyers, accounting, insurance, staff, dealing with clients, etc. Make use of the contents and index. (Sizzle, you might find the chapter on contracts for weddings and rites of passage very helpful. Main take-away, get paid upfront so you're not waiting with a bunch of other vendors to get paid after the honeymoon when the couple is broke.)

I really appreciated how Harrington shared his correspondences with clients, and examples of invoices and licenses. "It's not our policy to..." is one of his great ways to say "No" to an unreasonable client request. There are a lot of examples in the book of what you can say to a client who insists on something (often all the rights to your image forever everywhere for one fee) or one who objects to the estimated cost you propose.

I hope Harrington writes a 3rd edition to keep the information current.


On a tangential note, I'm kind of freaked out. I don't think I can do a lot of what it takes to make a living as a photographer according to this book, at least not well which doesn't even account for not wanting to do a lot of it. I was never going to be a wedding, rites of passage, portrait photographer which is the industry's bread and butter.

How then do I make the life of art I want to have work? And what does that life look like exactly? Those are the conundrums.

For now, there are bits from the book I can do, so I'll start there and let the rest sink in more. 500 pages of business talk is a lot to take in.


A year ago on TTaT: Life of Art SitRep #50 the big five-oh

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