Thursday, March 1, 2007

A responsible island in the wild-wild-west that is the world-wide-web

Today was an interesting day. I spent the morning with an electron microscope, the afternoon with an ambassador, and this evening with a Member of Congress. I am currently sitting in the lobby of a hotel that is far more expensive than I can afford, crafting this missive. What prompts me to write today? Oh, the world-wide-web. Yes, that wild-wild-west of the photographic landscape, where people with pictures are under the impression that the fact that they have a JPEG means they can put the photos on Flickr, MySpace, or their own company website. Oh, so wrong.

I experienced something interesting – and responsible – by a congressional staffer today. He was tasked with taking photos of the congressman for their website, and what was he doing? Collecting signatures on a “web release form” of every person that he photographed.


For years, I’ve been espousing this issue. In fact, I’ve been doing it so long that the graphics on that web page are from my site two iterations ago. My explanation, which is a part of EVERY estimate I send to clients, can be seen here:

Many of my clients just don’t understand this. They think that they can put whatever they want on the web. They do not understand that the web – especially a company’s website – is just like a printed brochure or corporate sales sheet, and everyone appearing in images there must have releases, or they are at risk of a claim.

When clients just insist, saying they are sure it’s ok, I, not wanting to stand between me and an assignment, but wishing to protect myself from legal risk, send out a form which they are required to sign as a part of the contract/estimate we send.

They are sent a one page document titled:

“Assumption of Risk and Liability Agreement”
"This is an agreement between {my name/address} and {company name/address} regarding the assumption of risk and liability for any claims arising out of the use or misuse of photography by client. Client understands that Photographer has advised them that the use of photographs on internet or intranet web-sites may require releases from recognizable individuals who appear in the photographs.

Client hereby accepts all liability and risk involved in using photographs created by Photographer on their web-site, for which no releases from individuals exist. In the event of a legal claim regarding the use of the images Photographer has created for
Client, Client hereby indemnifies and holds Photographer harmless against any and all liabilities, claims, and expenses, including reasonable attorney s fees, arising from its use or misuse of any of Photographer's work created for Client. Client assumes insurer's liability for all loss, damage, or misuse of any photographs.”
I sign at the bottom, and they sign below this sentence:
"I, Client, also hereby state that I have full authority to enter into this agreement, and be bound to these terms."
I have sent this out since 1999 a handful of times, less than 50 to be sure. Almost all of my clients, upon consultation with their legal department, acknowledge my points, and don’t sign, and don’t put the photos on the web. Many of them thank me for the insights they had not had before.The remaining few? They sign the document, and I feel safe(r) being protected.

I have one client that knows about the form, and has returned more than once asking for an estimate, AND the above form, which they sign.

It was, however, good to see that other responsible people are out there ensuring that they too are not subjecting themselves to potential legal claims down the line.
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Readership Poll: What Status as a Photographer are you?

I'd Like to Poll The Readership!

What Status as a Photographer are you?
Working Professional, over 3 years
Starting Professional, 1-2 years
Aspiring Professional, paying bills with another job
Assisting Photographers, hopefully one day shooting
Serious Hobbyist - Maybe I'll go pro one day
Serious Hobbyist - No plans to turn pro
General Hobbyist - Enjoy learning more, no pro plans
Student - One Day I'll Be A Pro free polls

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Wednesday, February 28, 2007

REMINDER - I'm Presenting at the NPPA's NSC Next Thursday & Friday

On the road to that little state called Rhode Island. Next Thursday (March 8th & 9th) marks my sixth time presenting at the National Press Photographer's annual program with a regional name that has grown to reach a national audience, the Northern Short Course. This past fall, I participated in the Flying Short Course, and I continue to enjoy making these presentations.

This year the slate of presenters is exceptional, but the portfolio review that takes place during the three day gathering is one of the hidden gems of the whole event. Close to two dozen photo editors from around the country will sit down and review your portfolio (whether on a laptop, or printed) and give you advice on how to improve it. Think yours is all that it can be? If it actually is, and one of the PE's is looking for someone, this could be the first interview for that job that you didn't even know was happening.

Among the many presenters are Baltimore Sun photographer and Strobist blog operator David Hobby, who will be showing you amazing techniques to employ with compact light sources (i.e. speedlights and other small, easy to carry lights), and Bill Foster, who was recently appointed as the photographer to California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. Foster will take a break from that busy schedule to show you how he reached the top listings on Google for sacramento editorial photographer, as well as on MSN for the same sacramento editorial photographer, and, yes, on Yahoo also for sacramento editorial photographer. I will be presenting on, yes, Best Business Practices for Photographers. In the "the future is now" category, photographer Will Yurman will talk through how to use audio to integrate it with your still images.

You can visit the Northern Short Course website to download PDF's of the various program offerings, or visit Northern Short Course Registration to sign up. Southwest Airlines has flights right into Providence for $50 one way (from Baltimore, for example) and no car rental is needed to get to the hotel from the airport.

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Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Watch What You Say and How You Act

Many a time I've been heading into a client's office for a meeting, and stepped on the elevator with one or two other folks. On the ride up, I was concious that, maybe one or two of the other folks I am in the elevator with may end up being in the meeting with me, so I'd better not say anything that would put me in a poor light. My tie better be adjusted, or I shouldn't be finishing a donut or soda while heading skyward.

Sometimes, I am rushing to get somewhere I am late for, and I am concious for this same reason about holding doors for others entering and leaving. Going up in an elevator, and having the assistant ask "so, what's this we're doing", and then a casual/short-hand remark like "oh, it's just another press conference" could be easily miscontrued as my not caring about it, and perhaps the person in the elevator is involved with the organization that hired me. I do care about the press conference, I wasn't saying "...just another..." to be critical, just matter-of-fact, but it's easily misconstrued.

On one occasion, early in my carreer, I was heading to photograph a wedding, rushing to get the the reception before the bride and groom's limo so I could capture their arrival. I was behind a slow-poke, and when they were not "off the line" after a red light, I tooted my horn to alert them to the green. Sadly, I remained behind them until we both got to the reception, where they turned out to be good friends of the happy couple. Now, I was able to explain that away, but I forever learned to not make a mistake like that again.

Following an event, my assistant often wants to talk about the assignment once we leave the shoot location, and often we're either in an elevator going down, or walking to the car. I always raise my finger to my lips (a la the photo) and we discuss it only once we're safely ensconced in our own cone of silence that is my Jeep. You never know who's in the elevator, or will walk past you while you may be making a casual remark that could be misconstrued and then conveyed to the client.

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