On the legalities of your work

As a follow up to my last posting I thought it would be useful to include a few notes on legalities. I have no legal qualification so you can’t sue me if you take what I say as gospel. I accept no liability. This is just what I have learnt in the course of both my modelling and styling work over the past few years and what I have picked up from both professionals and amateurs alike that I have worked with. It pays to learn from your collaborations in so many ways.

When you’re starting out doing TF (or if you’re lucky even paid work) you probably won’t be asked to sign a contract or release form. A lot creatives don’t even think about it (I know I rarely do) but it is something you should seriously consider if your reputation and potentially your career depend on the world seeing only your work.

Without a contract or release form signed by your creative team whether that’s the photographer, model, MUA, hairstylist, clothing designer or shoot stylist you are pretty much leaving the results of your work open to all sorts of abuse. Without one you don’t have much say in how the final copy is used, edited, rebranded or manipulated.

It’s as if an invisible code of loyalty exists between teams which suggests no one will use the images to their own ends. Hang on, this is exactly what will happen eventually if you’re not careful. There are some very unscrupulous people out there.

As a photographer you need to consider how you distribute the results of your work. I have worked on shoots as a model and at the end, have not only not signed anything, and been paid,  but then also been given a CD with every single shot from the day downloaded straight from the camera. I might go home with 500 images. Fewer than half will even make it off the CD. Of those I have even had to edit my own finals. This is very bad practice. What if I have no discretion whatsoever and publish them all as they are or worse with some horrendous photoshopping thrown in, with your name against them??? Not only have you lost all your cred as a photographer because you clearly don’t care who sees the unedited finals, but it’s a very poor advertisement to anyone you approach to work with you in the future.

I don’t believe there is such a thing as a photograph that doesn’t need some sort of post production work. Even if it’s a bit of cropping and a colour enhancement. Images straight off the camera are rarely finals. As the photographer to an extent you should make the final decision. Never turn everything over to the model or team you worked with.

As a model you should NEVER take the whole stack of images you are given and throw them straight onto your Facebook page or into those fateful profile albums. I have seen this done time and time again and it’s painful to see. Not only do I NOT want to see that unflattering arty shot that makes you look like you only have one arm, I certainly don’t want to see 30 images that all basically look the same. If I give up the will to live before I get to the end of your portfolio I probably won’t book you. Keep it short and snappy. Make me want to see more.

One, two, perhaps even three finals from a set if there is enough variation is all you need. Remember what I said in my last blog about not being precious about your work. Be ruthless!

Don’t demand extra images of a photographer unless they are happy for you to pick and choose. I have done all day shoots and only had a handful of finals but if those finals are good, why do you need more? Those images will have been released to you for a reason. Generally, the photographer will have had a concept in mind and you will have been booked to fit his or her criteria. It is not for you to decide on the final look unless your input is requested or it is an even way collaboration and you come to a mutual agreement on those results.

I feel I should also include a few notes on paid work for models and working with ‘professional’ teams for TF. There seems to be a general assumption that you have the same rights for TF as paid. You do not.

If you have been paid for your time at a shoot that is all you need ever ask of it. It is not a TF shoot, you have not worked in return for images. You have worked for money. Once you have been paid, your work is done. You may be given images if the photographers sees fit, you may see the final results of your shoot in whatever context it was meant ie magazine cover or advertisement.  But essentially that is it. If you don’t like the final results you cannot do anything about it except choose not to include them in your portfolio (and that is at your own discretion). The shots used will have been chosen for a reason. Do not question them.

I will probably add to this stream of writing as time goes on, it’s a minefield but I hope some of this is proving useful to some of you out there. Like I said, this is just from my own experience. I am a learner, I do observe and I do try to educate.


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