Friday, April 11, 2008


One of the things that I've been big on lately is communities. Communities for geeks, communities for photographers, communities for just random social coffee drinking. You know, just groups of people getting together for no other reason than having a common passion for something beautiful.

Today was the meetup of the Austin chapter of ASMP. ASMP is the American Society of Media Photographers. A few of the local pros and a handful of the amateurs were there, including Kirk Tuck and Jay B. Sauceda. It's fascinating to listen to these guys talk so matter-of-factly about photography.

So, this morning, we're all sitting around the table BSing and Kirk brings up a story about one of his friends (who's a psychiatrist by trade ... we'll call him Bob because I didn't catch his name) who's doing a shoot with some models around a pool for some company. Kirk happened to be there and was talking to Bob as the shoot was wrapping up. Kirk asked if Bob remembered to get the model releases signed.

"Model releases?"

Oy. So, Kirk ran off to get a stack of his blank releases to loan Bob and made sure that everyone shot signed them. Later, Bob was in discussions with the hiring company about the job. We learned that Bob had taken the job on a verbal agreement. Double oy! Well, during the discussion with the company, they basically stated, "We paid you, we want all the rights and there's nothing you can do about it. We'll use the photos however we want." They appeared to be in a position of power. With no written contract it looked like Bob was up a creek.

"But, you don't have the model releases. I do."

Without those releases, the photos couldn't be used commercially. The tone of the meeting changed immediately after that into one where the company was more agreeable to negotiation. Bob had his trump card in the model releases.

This story was quite eye-opening. I can't say that I'm very savvy on the business side of photography (but I'm getting there!) and I'm learning more everyday. But, the story reminded me of how important it was to do two simple things: always have a written contract and always get a release for the photo. What's even more amazing about this story is that, had there not been someone who had previously gone through this to tell the story to others, I'm sure I would have encountered the same situation at some point in my budding photography career.

While there, people were passing around a book, How to Succeed in Commercial Photography: Insights from a Leading Consultant. It's apparently one of the best books out there dealing with commercial photography. I think I'll be getting it soon. I didn't get long to look at it ... mostly enough time to take a picture of the ISBN for later. But, it certainly looked short and too the point.

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