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What Legal Documents do Photographers Need?

What Legal Documents do Photographers Need?

If you’ll allow us to break the fourth wall for a minute, we just want to say how proud of you we are. Why? Because the fact that you landed on this blog post means that you’re at leastthinking about learning what you need to do in order to make sure your business is legally protected, and legally set up. And that’s something to celebrate!

When it comes to being legally protected, obviously contracts are a must. (Check out our suite ofcontract templates specifically for photographers.) But did you know there are also other legal documents you’ll need to secure as a photography business? Let’s walk through them.

Photography Contract/Service Agreement

When it comes to your photography contract, you’ll want to make sure your bases are covered. Then, there are some additional agreements that you may want to consider having in place.

Property Release

A property release is required when you’re photographing private property or locations that are recognizable and owned by someone else. Some public gardens and parks may require the use of a release as well, so be sure to double check before photographing, and get a property release signed if necessary. It grants you, the photographer, permission to use the images commercially - aka within your own marketing.

Model Agreement

Similar to a property release, you will want to have a model agreement on hand for when you host model calls. This release grants permission for you to use their likeness in photographs or videos, and ensures that you have the right to use the images within your marketing. 

Print Release

A print release, on the other hand, is for your clients (although it’s there to protect you!). It grants them the right to print and reproduce their gallery images for their own use. Be sure to outline the specific limitations such as size, quantity, and purpose of the prints, if necessary.

Business Structure Documents

When it comes to legal documents outside of yourphotography contracts, you’ll also want to ensure that you have your business structure documents in place. What are those? They vary by the type of business structure you implement, and can also vary by state so be sure to check with your local government for more details.

Legal Documents for a Sole Proprietorship

A sole proprietorship is the easiest type of business entity to form because it’s not seen as a separate entity from you. (Although this does mean more risk, because if someone sues the business, they’re suing you.) Often, forming a sole proprietorship means simply setting up a DBA or “Doing Business As” and a business license with your local government, but again check your state and town for their exact requirements.

Legal Documents for a Limited Liability Company (LLC)

When it comes to an LLC, they’re a bit more work to set up, but also help to protect your personal assets much more than a sole prop does. Three essential documents for an LLC are the Articles of Organization, the Operating Agreement, and your EIN.

Articles of Organization - These create a public record of your business information that are then filed with your state. They include things like your business name, purpose, place of business, management structure, and more.

Operating Agreement - Not all states require operating agreements, but some do. This document outlines the business’ financial and functional decisions and helps to govern the internal operations of the business. You may want to include how many members there are and what percentage of ownership they each have, how profits and losses will be distributed, how the LLC can be dissolved, and more. 

Employee Identification Number (EIN) - Every business, regardless of which structure they select, will need an EIN. It’s similar to a social security number, but for your business.

Once again, check with your town and state governments for more information on what their exact specifications are.

Legal Documents for a Non-Profit

Articles of Incorporation - Similar to an LLC’s Articles of Organization, Articles of Incorporation include basic information about your non-profit. Additionally, you may want to include any important tax exemption information.

Bylaws - These are your operating manual for running your non-profit. They should include everything from how long a board member can serve in their position, to when and where meetings are held, to outlining various procedures such as voting. 

Organizational Meeting Minutes - These are formal records of the proceedings and actions taken within meetings for your organization. You’ll want to take minutes at each meeting, and keep them safely and securely stored in case you’re audited by the IRS in the future.

Federal Tax ID Number - Instead of an EIN, a non-profit needs a Federal Tax ID Number. You get this from filing with the IRS. 

Some states have further requirements for their non-profits so check with your local government for exact requirements.

Legal Documents for an S Corp

S Corps are a type of LLC, where they can help you avoid double taxation with your taxes in addition to keeping your personal assets safe. After you’ve filed to become an S Corp with the IRS, there’s an additional document you’ll want to put in place.

Articles of Incorporation - Similar to the Articles of Incorporation for a non-profit. These will include basic information about your business such as the name, address, shareholders, directors, officers, business purpose, and amount of stock that will be issued.

Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy

If you have a website, you need Terms and Conditions and a Privacy Policy. They communicate your operations to third parties such as customers, lawyers, and competitors. Terms and Conditions aren’t a legal requirement, but it’s a smart business plan to have them. 

However, a privacy policyis legally required if you’re collecting any type of information from buyers or website visitors. It outlines what data you will collect about your website users, how you will use the data for business purposes, and what rights users have over the collected data. These are not a contract, and therefore don’t need consent or agreement from website visitors to be valid.

Amanda Warfield
Amanda Warfield

Amanda Warfield is a simplicity-focused content marketing and launch strategist, author of the book Chasing Simple Marketing, and host of Chasing Simple - a podcast to help creative entrepreneurs uncomplicate their marketing and business. She traded in her classroom lesson plans for speaking and educating creative entrepreneurs on sustainably fitting content marketing into their business, without it taking over their business - so that they have time to grow their business.

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