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3 Legal Mistakes Photographers Make

26 May 2020 No Comment

Everyone, meet Magi. You might already be familiar with Magi’s gorgeous wedding photography work, but this multi-talented lady is also a lawyer. A wedding photographer with a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law? What a brilliant combination and we’re so thankful she’s here to share some incredible insights into the legal side of things. Magi also provides 1-1 legal services which is a complete luxury to know someone with both wedding industry knowledge and one to make sense of all the legal jargon that you might not be able to sort through!

THREE LEGAL MISTAKES PHOTOGRAPHERS MAKE

As a wedding photographer, it’s probably a safe bet that you consider yourself a creative and got into the industry because of your love for composition, lighting, styling, and connecting with couples. Which means that dealing with the legal side of running your business might make your head spin. Sound about right? What do you need to know if someone tries to sue you because they don’t like your photos? What if your associate photographer breaks his ankle at a wedding he’s covering with you? Where do you even begin!? Don’t stress. As both a barred attorney and a wedding photographer myself, I’ve got you covered. Here are the three mistakes most commonly made by photographers – and how to avoid them.

1. NOT USING LAWYER-COMPOSED CONTRACTS

When you run a wedding photography business, contracts aren’t just a good idea – they’re essential. Not only do they protect you, but a thoughtfully composed contract makes expectations, services, and deliverables clear from the get go. This means your client knows exactly what they’re signing up for and can communicate any questions, concerns, or priorities before officially enlisting your services. Sounds ideal, right? Happy clients are good for business.

But hiring an attorney to create a custom set of contracts for your business can be extremely cost prohibitive for a small business owner, especially when you’re just starting out. It feels like a catch 22, but there is a solution – contract templates. Whether you need an NDA, a release form, terms and conditions, a GDPR-compliant privacy policy, an independent contractor agreement, a full service contract, or an individual clause, a quick Google search will instantly populate a plethora of template options to purchase and download.

When choosing a legal template to purchase for your business, make sure it is written in easy to understand language (legalese is a headache for you and your client – do they even know what they’re signing!?) and presented in an organized fashion. Remember, these contracts aren’t just fail safes for your business – your client needs to be able to understand the terms so they can enter into the agreement with confidence. Additionally, make sure it is customized and comprehensive for you as a wedding photographer. For example, your contract should include detailed policies that cover location limitations, cancellations, rescheduling, weather, harassment, safety, force majeure, and other emergencies.

You also need to consider your source. It is never acceptable for a layman to provide legal counsel. You wouldn’t go to the owner of a clothing boutique and ask him to give you a medical treatment plan for your high blood pressure… Even if his mother is a pediatrician. That seems obvious, right? Likewise, you shouldn’t purchase contracts from anyone other than a barred attorney; bonus points if the attorney’s expertise is on creative, small businesses (let’s chat!). Why? Laws and regulations are ever-changing and require a full-time professional to stay up to date on them, and contracts require specific language and meticulous composition. Not only will a document written by a non-lawyer leave you and your business at risk, but creating and selling a legal template as a layman is a massive liability for their own business. My advice in a nutshell: Steer clear.

Instead of using an unqualified source for your legal contracts, purchase one from a currently practicing lawyer who understands the needs of a wedding photographer. Because it was so hard to find comprehensive, affordable, legitimate contract templates, I decided to fill the gap and create some myself, which are available at MagiFisher.Com/shop.

One final tip: Whether you use my templates or someone else’s, make sure you revisit them yearly with your attorney to make sure they stay up to date with current legal best practices.

2. MIXING BUSINESS & PLEASURE

This one is pretty straight forward – and it’s actually really easy to do! Keep your business accounts separate from your personal, even if you don’t have a single employee. Why? Mixing your expenses is not only a bookkeeping nightmare (Was that gas charge on the debit card in April for my personal use or for traveling to the Smiths’ wedding?), but it also puts you at risk for losing the liability protections of your LLC. And I’m talking ALL your accounts – checking, savings, credit cards, Paypal, Square, etc. All you need is an EIN (employer identification number), which you can apply for online directly through the IRS website and will receive immediately.

3. BEING UNDER INSURED

There are three types of insurance your wedding photography business needs – liability, professional liability, and equipment. Here’s a quick breakdown of what these mean: General liability insurance covers bodily injury and property damage (i. E. A client sues you because they slipped on the step of your studio and broke their ankle during your consultation session), professional liability insurance covers against financial loss (i. E. A client sues you because they’re unhappy with the services you rendered), and equipment insurance protects the gear essential to doing your job (i. E. Your camera lens gets scratched by a rogue branch incident during an outdoor wedding). Try reaching out to the company that provides your personal homeowner’s, renter’s, or auto insurance as a first quote or reach out to a trusted local insurance agent who can help point you in the direction of a company who specializes in policies for small business owners.

MAGI FISHER BIO

Magi is a lawyer, educator, photographer, storyteller, traveler, and entrepreneur. Her journey has taken her from photographing professional surfers while swimming in some of the world’s most epic waves to receiving a Juris Doctorate from Rutgers Law. If she’s not photographing a wedding with her husband, Scott, in a remote locale, managing her team of Associate Photographers at Magdalena Studios, or providing legal counsel to creative business owners via Magi Fisher, she’s probably eating an acai bowl, chasing her pup, Arti, around the beach, or watching SVU reruns in her bungalow.

LEGAL DISCLAIMER

This information is made available for educational and general informational purposes only; it is not legal advice for an individual case nor does it guarantee any future result. This material may be improved upon or updated without notice, and Magi Fisher will not be held responsible for any outcomes as a result of this education. Do not act upon this information without seeking individual advice from a lawyer licensed in your state. You understand that viewing this information does not establish an attorney-client relationship between you and Magi Fisher.

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