When shooting a family session do you often wonder who is your client and who should be signing the client contract? Well, this is an issue we see come up in family photography and we want to help you navigate this situation.
Should the client who is paying be the one signing?
Though there are many types of contracts within the photography world, they all have one key similarity: Contractual obligation. What is that?! Well, essentially a contract’s main purpose is to hold your client accountable for retaining your services. The client signing the contract is the one responsible for your fees, policies, and any other guidelines you may have. The client is also the one you hold liable if the contract is breached. There could be people you are taking pictures of that may not be your ‘client’ but rather people within the photographs connected to your main client. Typically, the client is determined by who is paying for the session and they should be—for most all contractual purposes—the only one who signs your photography contract. To determine who needs to sign the contract you simply should follow the money.
How does this play into family photography contracts?
Family photography contracts may be phrased differently but overall it stays with the same rule; people who are retaining the services are the ones who need to be on the contract. In smaller family shoots (i.e. small children and parents) the parent would obviously be the one paying and will be responsible for signing the contract. And, most family photographers only get one parent to sign. This would be the parent that is communicating with you to book the session. However, it has come to TLP’s attention that issues may come up when both parents don’t sign. For example, if a couple gets divorced and one parent that did not sign the contract now does not want their photos on your website or, going even further, says no to their kids' likeness being on your website. That can create quite the complication with your model release only being signed by the parent you originally communicated with. So, if you’re concerned about these types of predicaments, it's best to have both parents sign the contract because then you have gotten legal consent from all parties who agree to model releases on behalf of their children.
It also gets more complicated when you are shooting a multi-generational family (i.e. grandparents, aunts and uncles, parents and children). If the family members are splitting the bill then each and every payer needs to be a signer on the contract. Thus, it is important to ask your client from the beginning how they are paying for the shoot and who all are paying. Because it is complicated figuring out the logistics with multiple signers to a contract, you can always have just one person sign and pay on behalf of the entire family and then have the family deal with paying each other back. Furthermore, if just your main client is signing the contract and you have separate family units in the photos, you need to ensure that all parents and/or legal guardians are signing a model release on behalf of their family (they don’t need to sign your big client contract, just a simple model release)!
What if someone wants to help pay after a contract has been signed?
In situations where say Melanie is booking you for their family photo session but then grandma is gifting them the session, you should either (1) have grandma reimburse Melanie on her own, or (2) have a third-party addendum ready to go that grandma can sign. A third-party addendum is applicable after you have already established who your client is and the initial agreement has already been signed, but then someone comes to you and wants to contribute to all or a portion of your fee. For instance, if a grandparent calls you up close to Christmas and would like to assist in paying for your services, they will need to sign a third-party addendum, and then you could send them the invoice. A third-party addendum adds that third-party to the contract for financial and payment purposes only, so they are subject to only those terms and conditions on the original contract. It comes down to this simple rule if they pay they either need to sign the original contract or a third-party addendum. If you need a little more information on this addendum, check out this Legal Paige Blog: Third-party addendums.
Do not let the number of people at the photoshoot confuse you on who needs to actually sign the contract. If the person is communicating with you, booking you, and paying you, they need to sign the contract. If they are just paying as a gift, then they need to sign a third-party addendum. And, if you’re concerned about all people in the photographs being subject to a model release for your company to have full legal rights to use the images for promotional purposes, then you need to have all parents and/or legal guardians sign a model release on behalf of themselves and their children. The goal is to keep your business protected and legally legit.
THIS BLOG POST IS NOT A SUBSTITUTE FOR LEGAL ADVICE. EVERY SITUATION IS DIFFERENT & IS FACT-SPECIFIC. A proper legal analysis is necessary based on your location and contract. Consult an attorney in your home state for advice regarding your contract or specific legal situation.