Ask An Agent / Do you need to specialise / T&C's
Ask an Agent is a regular monthly column that answers all your dilemmas about the business of photography - a sort of photography agony aunt. Whatever area of the industry you are in, if you have any questions you’d like to ask a photographers agent please send them to firstname.lastname@example.org
This month Ask an Agent considers if it might be off putting for a photographer to shoot three different subject matters and at what stage do you present your business terms to prospective clients.
I am reviewing my direction as currently I shoot food, still life and jewellery and I believe I now have to concentrate on one area. Trouble is, I love shooting all three but maybe clients see me as too general?
A Photographer, Anonymous
You don’t sound too general at all to me. It’s not like you shoot fashion, wildlife and business! All three are ‘still life’ in a way. And, interestingly, I have recently received a few briefs for my still life photographer to shoot food as the client likes the style of his still life work.
Conceivably, there could be two problems in shooting several different subject matters. But both are resolvable.
Firstly, if the style of your work was very different between the subject matters - graphic simple still life, elaborately creative jewellery and ‘editorial’ food for example- this might muddy your identity and not help in making your ‘brand’ memorable.
Secondly, if you show irrelevant work to commissioners, this will be wasting their time ( as well as yours). What you could do however, is showcase all subject matters on your website divided into user friendly categories but tailor a portfolio for speculative meetings and potential jobs. For example, you could have one portfolio that includes all three subjects which might be presented to an ad agency with relevant accounts or a design agency that specialises in packaging ; but adapt a portfolio for an agency that only specialises in luxury goods by leaving out the food.
I suspect the first reason isn’t too much of an issue ( from having a peek at your website), although there’s no harm in strenghthening the link even more with new personal work. So it’s just a matter of tailoring your portfolio when you need to.
The fact that you say you love shooting all three confirms to me that you should definitely continue with all these areas, as I’m sure your passion for will come across in your work.
I'm a young assistant with aims to start working for myself as a photographer. I attended your 'Business of Photography’ workshop which really helped in giving me a clear sense of direction and lift the fog that my degree left. I would like to move into the editorial world when I stop assisting. But after hearing about the 'Business Terms and Conditions' you highlighted I feel grossly unprepared. Do I need to approach every prospective client with a healthy list of legally binding terms?
Good to meet you at my workshop last week Callum, I’m glad it helped. I was surprised how interested everyone seemed to be and how many questions there were in the ‘Business Terms and Conditions’ part of my presentation. So I suspect you’re not the only one who feels they might perhaps not be as prepared as they should be in this area.
As I mentioned it’s crucial to have a set of your own business terms and conditions. They are the trading terms between you and your clients and include legally enforceable obligations which protect your rights, limit your liabilities and help to avoid any disputes as everything is clearly set out from the onset in writing. Once you have agreed business terms with a client, this then becomes a business contract.
Usually the first time you present your business terms is when a prospective client requests an estimate for your photography. So always attach a set of terms to any costs you provide. And the time to ‘agree contracts’ i.e make sure both yours and your clients terms are mutually acceptable, is when a job is confirmed. At this point you will probably receive a copy of your new clients terms when they send you a purchase order to confirm the job.
Having said this, there might be occasions when you are presented with a client contract without having been asked for costs, for example if you are being considered as a regular contributor to a publication or a client wants to put you on their roster. At this point you need to negotiate mutually agreeable terms.
There isn’t any need to present a set of business terms when you are simply promoting yourself. Besides the fact that no one will have the time or inclination to look through them unless they are actually about to enter into a business agreement (i.e commission you), it might put prospective clients off.
There’s a full set of photographers terms that you can refer to plus an explanation of the terminology in my new book ‘Setting Up A Successful Photography Business’ ( available from Amazon and high street bookshops) and also some tips on how to negotiate client contracts.
Once you are familiar with the terminology and the areas that can be potential pitfalls, contracts are pretty straightforward.
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This advice should be taken as a guide only. Lisa Pritchard and LPA take no responsibility for any omissions or errors. Please seek professional legal advice should you require it.