Pixels, Pictures, and Paper: Business Practices Every Photographer Needs to Starting Doing Now

So you want to be a photographer, but you are not sure about the business part. Never fear, because there are a few simple things you can start doing to make everything go smoothly. Welcome Materials Try introducing you clients with an awesome package of information that they can use to prepare for a photo…

So you want to be a photographer, but you are not sure about the business part. Never fear, because there are a few simple things you can start doing to make everything go smoothly.

Welcome Materials
Try introducing you clients with an awesome package of information that they can use to prepare for a photo shoot. You want to address questions like “what should I wear?” Let them know what to expect, and what is expect of them as clients. Doing this can save you time and make you appear more professional.

Receipts
Keep copies of all receipts for purchases you make for your business. This includes props for shoots, equipment, advertising costs, and anything else you spend money on for your business. If you do not have a file cabinet or another place to store important papers, now is the time to get one. This can help you when its time to do your taxes later.

There is also a different type of receipt you should think about, and that's the kind you give to your client. It's a good idea to have proof of payment to give the client, and also to have a copy for your own records. This will also help with taxes and professionalism.

Releases
I can not stress this point enough. You must, must, must have your clients sign model releases. Do not forget to bring all necessary paperwork to the photo session. You might even want some releases permanently in your camera bag just in case of impromptu opportunities as well.

The reason model releases are important is that they are the only way you have a right to use the likenesses of the people you've photographed. In other words, it can help keep you from getting sued by clients who do not like to have their photographs posted to your Web site or Facebook.

Requiring clients to sign model releases gives you protection and allows you (if you put it in the agreement) to use the photos you take for advertising your business. Otherwise, you better keep those photos off the web.

Another important thing to remember is that you must have a separate model release for each person in the photo. In addition, anyone under 18 can not sign for themselves, and must have a parent sign for them.

Once, a “professional” photographer posted photos of one of my younger family members to her web site and Facebook without asking me or the child's mother. My family and I were outraged, especially because the photo session had not even been for this particular child. This is an occasion where the photographer could have avoided disgruntled customers by simply following correct protocol.

Since I sell stock photography, I am always on the lookout for photos I can take for my stock photography business. However, I sometimes miss opportunities because I do not have a model release with me. I know that I can not use photos for stock if there is no release. Take a lesson from me and please always have releases with you when you are photography.

Contracts
Another piece of paperwork you can consider is having an official contract that clients sign as part of their beginning paperwork. You want to have the terms of your agreement in writing. This will be different for every photographer. For example, you might want to state that the client agreements to pay “x” amount of dollars in return for you providing “x” hours of photography coverage or “x” photos. This is additional protection for you in case something goes wrong with the client later. In that case, you can refer back to your contract to consider whether or not there has been a break.

Post-Session Follow-up
After the session, you could consider sending a package of thank-you materials to your client, even including a discount for future sessions with your business. You may also want to add your clients to a mailing list that you keep in case you want to send notifications of special deals or offers. This can make your client feel extra special and help to develop a longer-lasting relationship. After all, people rarely need photos only once in their lives! There are countless times where having a go-to photographer can come in handy. Your goal is to be that person they trust.

Try It!
It may sound like extra work at first, but having the correct paperwork and keeping it in your home office can save you many heads down the road. In addition, you will look (and be) more professional.