Sunday, August 12, 2012

The client is the one paying you

You are hired by a person not a company

One of the most difficult things to understand is who the decision maker that hired you is who you are working for and not the company.

If John Smith of a project team hires you to photograph a project and John Smith works for Coke, you need to know that Coke didn't hire you, but John Smith who works for Coke hired you.

A few years ago I worked for Georgia Tech and this problem of who paid for the photography came to my attention in a very messy situation.

The Research Institute which was a separate part of Georgia Institute for Technology had asked our department to photograph a project. Since I was the only photographer on staff that meant I was hired by them to shoot a research project.

The research was being done in the College of Engineering at Georgia Tech. Important that you notice this is a different department. The Research Institute had built an incredible reputation as being able to get work published in major popular news and science magazines like Popular Mechanics, Business Week and other publications.

The Research Institute's writer contacted me and they paid for the photography.

Unknown to me at the time the College of Engineering had contacted my department to also help in promoting the project. The writer in our department when hearing I had been to the researcher and shot the project went to our files and pulled the images and sent these out with his story.

This was when we had a very messy situation. The writer who had his department pay for the photography didn't get to use the photos first and the other writer not only scooped the story and got a feather in their cap they used photos that another department had paid to have produced.

New Policy

After that fiasco, we put a new policy in place. Which ever department paid or initiated a project was able to use the photos first and anyone wanting to use them had to have permission of that department.

Since this was all with tax dollars it really belonged to the state and not a department technically. However, we realized we needed to address this or have another solution. The problem was that if a department was using their budget to create something and another department didn't spend any money it was creating ill will.

My Policy

No matter who is requesting photos, I always let them know I am more than willing to help and want to help them. However, I tell them it is not my call and I would encourage them to contact my client and I am more than willing to help once my client has approved the use.

The Politics

The more you know about the company and the organizational structure the easier it is to handle these requests.

When you know that the client's boss is the one making a request I can handle this much differently when it is just another department.

Handling a request

Take the request: When someone comes up to you while you are working and requests something, I usually had them a business card and ask them to contact me by email and put their request in writing. I explain I would love to help them but right now am busy shooting.

Often the request will disappear because they do not follow up with you. This is a great way to handle most photography requests when it is more often someone asking for a favor than them truly wanting to compensate you for the work.

This will buy you time to have the time to properly respond to them by email or giving them a phone call. If you are like me and someone asks you something while you are busy in a project you are not able to process the request properly and give a well thought out response.

Let the client know of the request: Before responding to the request let your client know of the request. Ask them if they would prefer to handle the request themselves or would they like you to handle it.

Usage Rights: When you contracted with the client you most likely will need to address if they have one-time rights, exclusive rights, unlimited rights, and you also have the time limit of these rights that you agree to work with the client. I cannot think of a situation where you have been hired by a client that you will not need to wait until they use an image before you start selling it on the open market.

Wedding Photography

If the parents of the bride are the ones paying for the photography, this is important when it comes to requests from them. The dynamics change a great deal when the bride and groom are paying and then the mother of the bride comes asking for special photos outside your agreement with the bride.

In summary, you need to know that just because a person at a large company hired you to shoot something for them and even if you have given them unlimited usage, this does not mean that if another person from the company asks for the photos that you just give them to that person.

As long as you honor the client relationship you will gain the trust of this client.  How you handle the requests from the other people in the company can help them see you as a professional who has ethics and solid business practices.

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