The wisdom of any Image Makers operating without proper legal documents like a Contract in place or even a Public Liability Insurance, including insurance for your valuable equipment even on the smallest job does not appear to make sense anymore.
If Photography helps pay your bills then please make sure your kit is insured & that you have back up kit, because "Shit Happens"
It's about finding a company that suits your needs, especially if you are an Event Photographer, Wedding Photographer taking photography kit abroad, or even leaving them in your unoccupied car or van for a limited period of of time.
Many household insurances will cover you as well if you do not earn money from your equipment sometimes, but some may not cover you if you don't; ask the question since it may be cheaper if you are a hobbyist photographer.
The other good practice is to have a copy of your kit and serial numbers for the Police and Insurence company for your claim.
For many years I have operated without having a contract in place, mainly due to ignorance on my part, and always thinking it could never happen to me, until a few years ago.
When I look back over the years on some of the jobs I have done, I am truly embarrassed when things have gone wrong for me, I hang my head in shame, some example’s below of my shameful experiences.
For example, I remember turning up to do a wedding at Wolverhampton Registry Office, with my Mamiya C330 medium format camera and my trusted Metz, with a mouth full of blood due to having one of my back teeth taken out by one of Wolverhampton Dentist Butchers on the day before the Wedding which was a Friday. My mouth was in pain and I kept spitting blood into a tissue all through the wedding.
You can imagine how bad my images were, even though some did feel sorry for me since they had heard of the dentist the butcher.
I have had images go missing in the post when back in the day when we use to use film and not digital like today.
I can remember being very late for a job with Business Link, and I forgot to buy batteries for my Metz flashgun, I struggled due to very poor lighting at a conference.
I remember when I did my first job for the Freemason with my new digital kit as well as Kodak printing machines, for whatever reason my equipment would not work properly, and I did not have the knowledge to put things right.
I have turned up to a conference, forgetting my camera and I had to use a camera from another Photographer who was also attending the same conference.
We have been to jobs and then realised we have forgotten, printers, computers or laptops as well as monitors, even a laptop power cable or as well as USB printer cables.
We use to have our laptop in a similar Jessop black case as our camera equipment, and for whatever reason, we turned up to a job without any camera kit, since I put the wrong Jessop black case into my car, and we had to travel back home. We have also forgotten studio lights as well as backdrops, you name I think we may have done it.
Some of the things that have gone wrong in the past were due to my immaturity as a Photographer or human weakness in being forgetful.
I consider myself very lucky that none of this has affected my business, but then again it could have been so different for me and those associated with my business over the years.
However, I know of other Photographers who were not so fortunate, especially in the new world of social media. Unhappy clients talk and once their negative comments are in the public domain there is not a lot you can do about it except some type damage limitation.
What I found challenging to deal with on one occasion regarding The Image Makers Network, was having an open website that clients could comment on freely.
When an Image Maker had an issue with their private client, and that client used the Image Makers website to vent their issues that were deleted once it was brought to my attention.
This demonstrates how some unhappy clients can behave, and sometimes you need professional legal help if a client crosses the line of what is considered as reasonable behaviour, and sadly court action may be the only option.
Within the Photography Industry there are so many sad stories of Photographers who were not as fortunate as me, and for many of them, they failed to either have in place.
I think one of the main differences from when I started in Photography and today, is that more people are aware of their Legal or Consumer Rights today, which means it is so important that Image Makers today, do all they can to protect themselves from being sued or finding themselves in court.
Signed Photographers Contract will vary depending on the categories of Image Making we are in, i.e. from Wedding Photography to Commercial Photography and so on.
It’s important that regardless of the Contracts we have that the necessary wording is in place that will protect “you” as well as your “clients”. Most of us can acquire a template being used by another Photographer or Photography Association and then tweak it to suit our personal needs, even better to get a legal person help you with the wording if we are unsure.
I think there are times when photographers have to accept like with any job, things can go wrong, which means we need to address this in our contracts just in case it does, and suggest options how we would deal with the situation.
For example, many Photographers will have a network in place that they will rely on, just in case the worse was to happen and they cannot attend a job like a wedding, or they realise at the last minute that they are double booked, having the mindset as one photographer that he would still turn up with a broken leg, sound a bit silly.
Videographers sadly will have their own issues to deal with, and that is why it is more important for any videographer or photographer to do a site visit to make sure that they will be able to locate their video cameras at the right place within the venue, to get the job done.
Sadly one of the reasons why so many videographers have had complaints is due to poor lighting of their videos or poor sound quality, due to not taking into account the level of low lighting or access within a venue.
Another issue I have encountered on the day of an event is when you have so much light coming into a room, and you have no control over it because the windows are too high up.
Like on one funeral we did, the videographers were doing a live feed into the overflow room and nobody could see the images on the screen, that was an issue for the videographers after the event that they had to deal with, with the clients.
The other issue regarding lighting is if the organisers change the mood of the lighting and the videographers have no extra lighting to assist him or her in doing their job adequately.
Different video cameras being used will always be an issue for the finish video quality of a job, however, good editing can help with showing clients a quality piece of work. If you have a crowded venue and you have agreed to capture key part of a job then you need to be able to move easily and quickly without any hindrance.
It’s more and more popular these days to see videographers with some form of stabiliser kit, to help with the amount of movement that they may need to do when roaming with a video camera, so you can imagine the importance of having such a kit, when working in an overcrowded venue with people all around you.
If any Image Makers has a signed Contract in place and things go wrong then hopefully we can look at our contract, with view it may protect us, if we had no control of crowd control, or lighting of the venue, if it was changed from what you agreed, as well as the timing of the job goes on longer than what you were contracted to work for, or something else that you had no control over.
It is hoped however all Image Maker will have a backup such as a camera's, batteries, memory cards, as well as a video light for low light conditions etc.
Even making sure that our transport is fit for purpose and in good order, I know in the UK we have breakdown motoring policies that we can buy into that can help with the cost of the repairs, or if our car broke down and it was not repairable in time for your next job, then a loan car will be offered to you.
If all goes wrong and a client is unhappy with the work we have produced or not done properly, and they are not willing to come to any mutual agreement, to solve the situation, then we have our Public Liability Insurance to fall back on.
That is why sometimes it is good to be part of a good knowledgeable photography network when it comes to getting sound advice, especially if we are taken to court, providing the situation we find ourselves in meeting the clauses within our Public Liability Insurance.
I think it important to stress that we are only as good as our last job and if anything goes wrong that we do all we can to fix the situation, even if it means we have to refund back some money or give away some token of value that they would appreciate.
Since word of mouth can damage our good name so easily, even working for a good friend for free, can end up in court, if our friends are not happy with the work we have produced.
I believe we owe it to ourselves to make sure whatever insurance policy we have, that it meets our needs, for the right level of Public Liability, since some venues can be very particular how much Public Liability you must have before they allow you into their venues to do a job.
I had this problem once at the ICC in Birmingham, along with my PAT TESTING certificate was also out of date for The Commonwealth Awards. In the end, we were allowed to do the job with two fire extinguishers, next to our workstation.
Because of that experience we made sure in future our house was in order when it came to Public Liability Insurance value, as well the PAT Testing of our equipment's. along with fire extinguishers.
And just an add-on, it looks unprofessional if you have experienced some financial loss to your business if you have to set up a Gofund Page to replace equipment stolen or being sued by a client.
Please remember, if Photography helps pay your bills then please make sure your kit is insured & that you have back up kit, because "Shit Happens", as well as Contracts, Public Liability, and if you employ anyone in your business, you may be advised to have Employment Liability, even if its just your partner in the business because "Shit Happens".