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Back to Business
A business and resource guide for professional photographers
Published by
Michael Connors, Pres., MorePhotos
Drew Warner, Marketing/SEO, MorePhotos
Harry Markel, Eastern U.S. Sales, MorePhotos
Mike Smith, COO, MorePhotos
Zack Wessels, Director of Sales, MorePhotos
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Back to Business – A Success
Series of Articles for Modern Day
1. The Basics - People always ask me what they can do to
create more business and be more successful. Well, there are
many things. We are going to publish a series of ideas
covering a broad range of subjects…. read more
2. Get your work in front of more eyes - Here’s how you
can gain new eyes viewing your work, and thus more potential
clients – through hair salon marketing. Huh? ………….. read
Knockin’ on doors - A photographer called me and told me that his business was going
down the tubes. He said he had been shooting weddings and portraits for over twelve
years and it had never been this bad. He asked if I had any ideas……read more
A guide to photography trade shows and seminars - Trade shows give you the
opportunity to be involved with other industry professionals, seek out new technology
solutions, and try out……….read more
How to get repeat business - It’s hard to make a living off of a bunch of one-off’s,
especially in an industry that is becoming increasingly flooded with Pro-Sumer
competition…………read more
So, I do this for money? I am kind of amazed at the number of “Professional”
photographers who simply don’t pay any attention to the “Pro” part of their business,
which means you get paid to do this……… more
Where to Advertise - Choosing where to advertise is one of the biggest (and hardest)
decisions to make when it comes to running a business………… more
8. SEO basics for Photographers - “how do you get found online”? read more
9. “Old School” – This week we’re taking a look at some “ old school” basics which if paid
close attention to, can be worth more than any class in Photoshop…..…read more
10. SEO for Photographers – Volume 2 - We want to get a little bit more specific in regard
to SEO, and cover some things you can do within your site pages……….read more
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11. Looking and Acting the Part - We can always improve our techniques to achieve a
better look from our photography. But did you know that your appearance and actions
can influence the outcome of your photography? more
12. Surviving this Tough Market - How many times have you heard or thought this; “The
amateur photographers are taking over and killing my business! ………read more
13. 4 Ways to intimidate your Competition - What are you doing that your competitors are
too scared to attempt? ……………read more
Index or Resource Toolbox
Listing and Contact Info: Organizations for Professional Photographers.
Valuable on-line resources.
Listing of educational resources
21st Century Worries; Digital Editing, Sensitive Subjects - reprinted courtesy of
the ASMP
5. Business Resources: Property and Model Releases - reprinted courtesy of the
American Society of Media Photographers
a. Introduction
b. Which Release to Use
c. Adult Model Release
d. Model Release for a Minor Child
e. Pocket Model Release
f. Simplified Model Release
g. Photographer’s Portfolio Release
h. Property Release
6. Copyright Information and forms to use – reprinted courtesy of Photo Marketing
Assoc., International
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Organizations for Professional Photographers:
Professional Photographers of America (PPA):
About PPA: Professional Photographers of America
(PPA) is the world’s largest nonprofit association for
professional photographers, with 22,000 members in
54 countries. This association seeks to increase its
members’ business savvy as well as broaden their
creative scope, advancing careers by providing all the
tools for they have since 1869.
Membership allows you to enter print
competitions and earn various levels of excellence
culminating in a Masters of Photography degree as
well as their monthly magazine and access to many
business and professional resources. PPA annually
sponsors Imaging USA, the premier show for photographers in January of each year.
The show features a week long education track, print displays and competitions and an
all-encompassing trade show. The show currently rotates between New Orleans (in
2012), Atlanta, Phoenix, Nashville and San Antonio.
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Wedding & Portrait Photographers International (WPPI)
About WPPI: The organization was founded in 1978 in response to industry wide
demand for an organization devoted solely to the special interests and needs of
wedding photographers. WPPI and Rangefinder Magazine (the parent company)
annually sponsor a trade show and convention in February. The convention features
educational seminars, demonstrations and learning opportunities in many areas of
interest related to both the technical and business sides of photography. The convention
will be held at the MGM Grand Hotel and Convention Center in Las Vegas, NV.
Photo Marketing Association International (PMA)
About PMA: PMA refers to itself as “An International Association of Imaging
Professionals”. PMA is made of up various member organizations ranging from state or
regional groups to separate organizations for sub-specialties within the trade such as
DIMA (Digital Imaging Markets), PPFA (Professional Picture Framers Assoc.), SPAA
(Sports Photographers), PSPA (School Photographers), AIE (Imaging Executives) and
NAPET, a certification program for photo equipment specialists. PMA membership
includes all of these organizations, their monthly magazine and access to a wealth of
business resources at little or no cost.
PMA sponsors an annual convention and trade show currently co-located within
the CES show in Las Vegas, NV. Dates vary, but are always within the January time
frame. The convention contains educational opportunities and a large trade show. This
convention is a great place to meet and network with our international peers and get
some fresh ideas.
American Society of Photographers (ASP):
About ASP: From the ASP website they are “Dedicated to fostering the Ideals
of professional photography as a science and an art”. ASP is a group of
photographers that are members of PPA and have already obtained their Masters of
Photography degree from PPA but still want to exhibit, train and mentor other
professionals both practicing and aspiring. They sponsor exhibits and maintain a loan
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collection of prints from Masters of Photography holders that can be used to further
appreciation for fine photography.
American Society of Media Photographers (ASMP):
About ASMP: From the ASP website “As a member of ASMP, you are a part of
the premier trade association for the world’s most respected photographers. Your
membership offers you enormous benefits that save you money, put dollars in your
pocket, help you run a more profitable business, protect your interests, and extend your
AMSP offers a wealth of business and legal resources for photographers either
free on their website or in an editable form with a membership. Thank you to ASMP for
allowing us to use their legal forms in our Back to Business resource guide.
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Resources for Photographers
Printed Marketing Materials:
Marathon Press –
Marketing Materials, Studio Supplies, Educational
Cameras, Accessories and Supplies
for Photographers:
Photographers Market Place –
Online classifieds for all things photography related:
Canon – All things Canon camera and accessories including support and software
Nikon – All things Nikon camera and accessories including support and software
updates along with the Nikon store and information on Nikon School sessions.
Major Camera, Camera Accessory and Supply Retailers:
B&H Photo and Video -
Adorama -
Calumet Photo -
Best Buy -
Studio Backdrops, Supplies and Props – Denny Manufacturing -
Professional Lighting Supplies – Lumedyne –
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Educational Opportunities for Photographers
Nikon Schools – Nikon offers low cost seminars and workshops in various locations across
the US. These are open to all photographers; you do not need to be a Nikonista. This is a great
place to get very focused training from industry professionals.
Great Lakes Institute of Photography (GLIP) – GLIP is based in Michigan but
attracts photographers throughout the Midwest to its week long program run each summer. A
program designed by photographers for photographers offers real world, practical training for
shooters at all levels.
New York Institute of Photography – The world’s largest and oldest photography
school now offers courses ranging from comprehensive home study training regimens to short
term fundamentals classes. NYIP utilizes on-line, workbook and dvd based classes along with a
portfolio evaluation program.
Shoot Smarter TV – Well known professional Will Crockett has produced a series of
programs ranging from basic to advanced covering many aspects of the industry ranging from
on-camera flash to marketing and business basics. All-online, subscription based.
Washington School of Photography – WSP offers programs and workshops in the
Washington DC area along with opportunities to view shows of fine photography.
Mid-America Institute of Professional Photography – MAIPP is based in Iowa
and offers a week long, intense training program for all photographers from beginner to
advanced. Training classes are offered on a college campus for a great learning environment.
In addition to the above listings, the Professional Photographers of America has several affiliate
schools that offer classes, generally one week a year. For a complete listing, visit the PPA
website at
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21st Century Worries: Digital
Editing, Sensitive Subjects
Reprint permission of American
Society of Media Professionals 2011
In recent years, two changes have come to
pass, one technical and the other social. Both
require special care in the wording of your
Digital manipulation
It used to be said that “the camera cannot lie.” No one says that Photoshop can’t lie,
however. Nowadays it is routine to alter colors, morph shapes and assemble scenes by
compositing portions that were separately shot. Your release should state that the
subject gives permission for this to occur.
“I hereby release Photographer from any liability by virtue of any blurring, distortion,
alteration, optical illusion, or use in composite form, whether intentional or otherwise,
that may occur or be produced in the taking of such photographs or in any subsequent
processing of them.”
We’ve included a version of the above language in our general Adult and Minor model
releases, because Photoshopping has become a normal aspect of advertising
photography. But that’s pretty broad language: It allows every conceivable digital effect.
Depending on the model’s concerns (and the client’s needs, of course), you may need
to accept certain limits on the digital reworking that may be done. For instance,
“However, this compositing or distortion shall be done only by Photographer or by
persons working under the direct supervision of Photographer, and it will be limited to
images and image components that are photographed on the same day.”
If you need the “however” part and you are using a pre-printed release, you can handwrite the extra sentence, and both you and the model can initial and date the change.
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There’s nothing magical about this particular set of limits. If you and the model have
reached a different agreement on what may and may not be done, you should write it
down in plain language. If it’s a short statement, you can write directly on the release. If
it’s long, write it on the back or on a separate sheet of paper, and on the front, put a
note that refers to the extra material. (Get the model to sign the extended statement and
initial the note.) That way, the deal is recorded and there’s less chance that you will later
be accused of doing what you promised not to do.
Sensitive uses
There are certain subjects about which many people
have concerns about being associated. Typically, they
are subjects related to sex, religion, politics and health.
In some cases, appearing in the “wrong” ad campaign
can spell ruin for a model’s career. For those reasons, if
you are going to use a photograph for any purpose that
some people may find discomforting, offensive or even
distasteful, you should make sure that your release
specifically authorizes that use. Since the nature of that kind of permission is specific,
having a general authorization to use images for “sensitive uses” would probably not be
Instead, when needed you should insert language similar to the following, on an asneeded, case-by-case basis, filling in the blanks and changing words like “suffer” to fit
your particular situation:
“I understand that the pictures of me will be used in public-service advertisements to
promote AIDS awareness. Knowing that such advertisements may intentionally or
unintentionally give rise to the impression that I suffer from this disease, I nevertheless
consent to this use.”
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Your licensing agreements should contain language that disallows using your photos for
any sensitive subjects except those specifically identified. You would then grant such
permission only where you have a model release that covers that use.
Business Resources
Property and Model Releases
Why you need releases
A release is a written agreement between you and the person
you are photographing, or the person who owns the property
you are photographing. The purpose of the release is to protect you from any future
lawsuits the person might file for claims such as defamation and invasion of privacy.
A model release says the person being photographed has given consent to be
photographed and to the use of the images you capture. It doesn’t just apply to
professional models or situations where people know they are posing for photos. You
should seek to get a signed model release any time that your photos contain
recognizable images of people, unless you are certain that you will never want to use
them for anything other than editorial purposes.
A property release says that the owner of a certain property, such as a pet or a building,
has given you consent to take and use images of the property. You don’t need one for
public property, such as government buildings (although you may run into problems just
from photographing them, for security reasons). But for images of private property —
and particularly of objects that are closely identified with specific people — you are safer
if you get a release.
The releases you obtain should be saved forever and should be linked in some way with
the photographs to which they relate. You can expect to be asked to produce them
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whenever you license an image, and you will need them if you ever have to defend
yourself in court.
The Right of Privacy
Although the laws of the 50 states vary, all states recognize that individuals have a right
to be let alone in their daily lives and that harm (in the form of embarrassment, scorn or
loss of status) can result if that right is violated.
However, the right of privacy is not absolute. In particular, the courts have long held that
news reporting and social, political and economic commentary — the things the First
Amendment was designed to protect — are more valuable to society than an
individual’s right to be let alone. Therefore, images that are part of the public colloquy
about events have usually been exempt from privacy lawsuits. In contrast, the courts
have generally held that making money is distinctly less valuable to society than the
right to be let alone.
Thus, privacy issues typically arise when an image is used for purposes of trade or
advertising. That is, it’s not the picture, but how it is used that determines the need for a
release. For instance, an image that is printed in a newspaper, shown in an exhibition or
reproduced in a book might well be immune from a privacy suit. But the commercial sale
of coffee mugs or t-shirts with the same image would probably not enjoy such
protection. An advertisement almost certainly would not be immune.
Therefore, if you are on an advertising assignment, you will need to collect releases
from every person in your shots. News assignments are a little trickier. You are always
better off if you have permission to photograph your subjects and can prove it. But it’s
not always possible to get permission and, in the U.S., you can report the news without
it. Lacking a release, however, you are limited in how you can license the image later
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These days, even editorial clients are requiring releases — and releases using their
specific forms — with more and more frequency, so you need to check the terms of your
agreements with your clients and stock houses to see what is required.
The Right of Publicity
In an increasing number of states (California in particular), a famous individual has an
additional “right of publicity”: the right to control how his fame can be exploited for
commercial purposes. Unlike rights of privacy, which die with the persons to whom they
belong, rights of publicity survive their owners and can be passed along for generations.
Rights of publicity also tend to be more specific in their prohibitions than rights of
Attorney Andrew Berger offers a more in-depth explanation of this right, with examples,
on the Editorial Photographers web site.
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For photographers and their clients, the right of publicity can become a problem when
people become celebrities after you have taken their picture. It can especially be a
problem with crowd scenes.
A defamation lawsuit alleges that a person has been portrayed falsely or maliciously in
such a way as to damage his reputation. (The term “defamation” includes both slander,
which is spoken, and libel, which is published in some tangible medium.) The falsity
may be direct, such as by compositing several images to depict a scene that did not
happen, or indirect, such as advertising a rehabilitation clinic with a picture of someone
who has never been a patient there. As always, there is a distinction between
commercial use and editorial use, with commercial uses being held to stricter standards
of truthfulness.
Property owners’ rights
Privacy and defamation cannot apply to objects (although defamation can apply to
business entities). Things — cars, buildings, statuary, costumes, animals, etc. — don’t
have legal rights. But the people who are closely associated with those objects do have
rights and could claim that your photo of their property has caused harm. This is a tricky
area of law, with few precedents to guide us. We discuss property releases in more
detail on a separate page. In general, though, we advocate following the cautious rule,
“When in doubt, try to get a release.”
Why we take this seriously
Most of the time, you take your pictures, everybody gets paid and that’s the end of it.
Once in a while, though, things can go very wrong.
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An article in the Los Angeles Times for Feb. 1, 2005 (no longer available online)
described how Nestlé got slapped with a $15 million jury award because it used a
model’s picture without taking care of the paperwork. In this case, there was no blame
on the photographer; rather, the client (Nestlé) was accused of failing to pay all the fees
that were specified in the model’s contract. But the size of the verdict shows that juries
do take model’s rights very seriously.
The passage of time doesn’t necessarily reduce your risk. In the Nov. 22, 1999, edition
of the New York Observer, an article relates that Peter Beard was threatened with a
lawsuit for a photo he’d taken a dozen years earlier. In 1987, Beard had photographed a
17-year-old girl near Lake Rudolph in Kenya. But by 1997, that girl had moved to Los
Angeles, where she was waiting tables and looking for work as a model. A New York
friend called to tell her that a SoHo gallery was selling her picture for thousands of
dollars. She reacted by hiring a lawyer and demanding $50,000 plus 15 percent of
Beard’s sales. (It appears that the matter was settled out of court, so we don’t know
what really happened.)
Which Form To Use?
We offer four model release forms, a photographer’s
portfolio release and a property release, ranging from
the lengthy and legalistic to the short and simple. To
use one of these releases, copy and paste the text into
a word processor. Phrases in red are intended to be
replaced by new language that is appropriate to your
specific business. All releases reprinted courtesy of the American Society of Media
Photographers (
1. General model release for adults. Use this for commercial shoots with professional models.
There is an optional clause for sensitive uses.
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2. General model release for children. This is almost identical to the release for adults, except it
is signed by the child’s parent or guardian. (One parent is sufficient, but get both
parents to sign if you can.) There is an optional clause for sensitive uses.
3. Simplified adult release. A shorter version of the general release, this form is adequate if
the use of the images is restricted to “safe” contexts and straightforward applications.
4. Pocket model release. A very short document, this is useful for spontaneous encounters
with members of the public.
5. Photographer's portfolio release. Although professional models will almost never sign
a general release, you might negotiate a restricted release to use images for your
portfolio, with no other commercial uses.
6. Property release. Use this to record the property owner’s consent for photos of places,
pets, automobiles, works of art and so forth.
Copyright Issues – reprint courtesy of
confusing. Determining “Who owns what?”, “How can
copies be made?” and “Why is copyright even important?”
are questions that frequently arise for image processors and
These documents can help answer these questions and
provide resources that can be presented to customers to help them understand why
some photos or digital images cannot be copied or altered without the owners’
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United States
Copyright Rules Summary (U.S.)
Copyright Transfers
Customer Copyright Declaration Form
Copyright Tri-fold Brochure
PMA Copyright Report (Canada)
Photo Lab Copyright Law Summary
Photographers and Copyright
Copyright Release Form
Copyright Rules Summary - Spanish Translation
WD Web / MorePhotos
10850 E. Traverse Hwy., Suite 2225
Traverse City, MI 49684
Office: 231-932-0855
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