Friday, 6 April 2012

Contracts and agreements

The other day I had an e-mail from one of my regular clients.  Not angry as such, but well, this is what he wrote:

“I have received an invoice from you for the use of an image on billboard advertising. I feel that this seems a bit excessive in the context of the other fees that we pay and would request that you reconsider this invoice.”

On the face of it I could have reacted by being angry and cross, but instead I thought it would be best dealt with by explaining to my client why he had an invoice.

So this is what I said to him in reply.

"I have as requested given further consideration to the invoice.

The fees that I charge your business during the process of providing you with a photographic service, cover the specific needs outlined on each occasion, and for each individual shoot.  As you know these requirements vary from internal editorial uses to a small number of advertising publications.  The requirements are set out by yourselves before each job is undertaken.

I understand that you are unhappy with the invoice issued to cover the billboard advertising (adverts that have already been in place for some months), and for which no agreement currently exists between us.

The billboard use was never mentioned when the initial commission was discussed, and had it been then I would have negotiated a higher fee to cover this extra use of my work, (as you will agree, the more work done and used, the higher the fee).

The fee charged in this case is a heavily discounted one  - on what is a bespoke image, and is not covered by any existing agreement that I have with your business.

I have been concerned ever since the initial work was done, that the contract for the work itself needed discussion and revision, because your photographic requirements have changed over the past year. 

When the work was commissioned by your management team and agreed by myself, it covered a wide range of uses, as we discussed, and the fee paid reflected those requirements, and the work done to acquire the imagery in the first place.

The specific uses licensed were:
  • Your company website
  • Brochures and leaflets promoting ‘your business
  • Annual Report
  • Advertising in external regional publications, e.g. Nottingham Evening Post, NG3, NG5 and similar, for the duration of the license
  • Duration of the license will be for one year from date the contract is signed 
  • Storage in an on-site DAM system (to be agreed)

Under the circumstances I believe that the invoiced fee is very reasonable considering the extra unforeseen advertising use of the image and the circumstances. If your business were to obtain an ‘off the peg’ image from a photo agency, it would expect to pay anything from £500 to £1500 (maybe more) for billboard usage of this kind.

A bespoke image (photograph) such as the one used has considerably more value.

The fee I have charged, (and the substantial discount already included), reflects the fact that it is an image that has been used by yourselves once before, even though there is currently no contractual agreement for it to be used on a billboard between our two businesses."

It is sometimes very difficult as a supplier of created works dealing with clients. One tries to advise them of the most effective way, and the most economic way to get the best use out of bespoke imagery, but sometimes they simply do not listen.  I know the old adage:

“The client knows best”.

But do they?  Do they really?  Do they always? Why hire an expert and then ignore the advice they give?

Photographers more than almost every other creator are under huge pressure at the moment.  On top of the perception that everyone with a mobile phone is now a competent photographer, we also have the added difficulties of a world wide recession, more specific in many ways here in the UK.

If I hire, and pay for a car for a fortnight and then decide to take an extra weeks hire, is it reasonable to expect that extra weeks hire for free?  No, of course not.

It is absolutely essential for photographers and clients to spell out exactly what each party expects from the other, including exactly what service is required, and what remuneration is to be made for that service.  Business is based on supply and demand, and the terms and conditions are spelt out in contracts.  They protect both sides.  To do business without those requirements, including terms and conditions in writing, even if it is little more than three sentences stating specifically what service is to be performed, to what time-scale, and how much and when remuneration is to be paid, is plain daft.

You know it makes sense :-)

Pete Jenkins


  1. Nice reply. What was their response?

  2. I have a meeting, but I know the client is already looking for alternative suppliers - such is the way of things.

    The business needs changed - they do, but client made a fundamental error and wants the mistake to be mine (I suspect). After all (in his head), I am another one of those money grabbing, greedy photographers. It is only photography after all :-)

    I always regret losing valued clients, (all my clients are valued), but sometimes one has to stick to principles. Working under cost etc never pays dividends