“Hi! This is So-and-So from XYZ publication. We’ve seen your work and would love to have you cover a photo project for us!”
Well thank you for noticing my work. Where was it that you saw my work? (I’m always interested in finding out which images others find compelling.) Please tell me a little about your project.
“We have a couple of stories that need accompanying images for our upcoming issue, including a cover shot. Would you be available in the next week or two?”
Checking my schedule, I mention several dates that are open. Now comes the fun part…
What kind of budget are you offering? What’s involved and how much time will be required? I ask.
“Oh, we’re pretty tight, and this will be used for editorial. It shouldn’t take more than an hour or so!” says the happy voice on the other end of the line.
With this in mind, we agree on a price for our first collaboration, and then I ask about how their accounts payable would like to have the invoice and how quickly I may expect payment after the shoot. I find out that they normally pay after the issue comes out which can be a month or more. At this point, I give my little speech about not being the Bank of Stan, and that they can have price or terms, but not both. The happy voice tells me that they can expedite it if needed. It’s needed. Before bidding each other farewell, they mention that they will need to have me fill out their W9 and sign a contract. I’ve seen a lot of contracts, and there’s never anything in it for the photographer.
When the contract shows up in my e-mail, sure enough, they want it all and are giving no quarter. A couple of things get my attention. If they decide not to publish the images, no pay will be forthcoming. They require all copyrights to be transferred to them in perpetuity and the photographer may not use them whatsoever. All of the liability during the shoot lies with the photographer (which isn’t really an issue as I have liability and E&O insurance), including securing all model & property releases. Most people tend to glaze over when reading any sort of contract as the boilerplate is mind numbing, but when it comes to your livelihood, I highly suggest taking the time to examine it thoroughly.
So maybe the next time you get the “opportunity “ to do Work Made For Hire, you might take the time to look out for your interests as well. Just remember, if you don’t, nobody else will!