Protect Your Business with Photography Legal Forms | Introducing Rebecca Koegel
We are really excited to introduce everybody to Rebecca Koegel of CreatePro Legal Forms! Over the past few weeks LSI has been putting a lot of focus on teaching our members and followers more about the business side of industry. I was really excited when Rebecca emailed us to introduce herself and her product so I began picking her brain about her background (to help verify the accuracy her knowledge) and about the legalities behind legal forms etc. I was so excited about what I was hearing that I really wanted to do an interview with her to share all this information with all of you!
So, without further ado… Hello Rebecca! Can you tell our followers here a little bit about yourself?
Hi! Thanks for having me! Sure, I am a lawyer, a photographer, a mom (to an almost 3-year-old little boy), and a wife (to name a few). Clearly, I like to be busy! I’m super analytical but also very passionate and emotional. After many years of being unhappy with my career path, I recently made some big changes, I finally have my dream job and I’m loving it!
Ok, Can you tell us a little bit more about your legal background?
After receiving a B.A. in art history, I went to law school to study art and museum law and cultural property. Over the past 8.5 years I’ve practiced at two large international law firms, at first practicing general commercial litigation (lawsuits) and then moving to the corporate transactional group, where I practiced general corporate work, mergers and acquisitions (where companies buy and sell each other). I left the large firm in January to focus on my photography business and to open my own law firm, specializing in small business start up and general corporate work (like corporate/LLC formation and maintenance, contract review/drafting, guidance w/ business licenses, etc.) for creative professionals.
Can you give us some details about your new product “CreatePro Legal Forms“? Including all the types of forms you offer…
CreatePro = Creative + Professional. I feel so strongly that people should be able to make a living doing what they love, following their passions, that I wanted to provide a product that could help them do just that. I currently offer a Wedding Agreement, Portrait Agreement (that includes optional wording to make it usable with a Baby Plan), Birth Photography Agreement, Event Agreement, Second Shooter Independent Contractor Agreement, High School Senior Agreement, Model Release and Print Release. I’ll be adding other forms as time goes on and I’ll also be adding forms for other creative professionals, such as graphic designers, videographers, event planners, web developers, etc. Each form is downloadable in a Microsoft Word format, is easy to read, and comes with extensive instructions and directions for how to fill out the blanks and the brackets. The forms are fully customizable so that, with little effort, the form will mirror exactly how each photographer runs their business. The forms also provide provisions that help photographers make decisions about how they should run their business. The forms can be branded with a photographer’s own logo and design elements, or the text can be cut and pasted into a photographer’s own branded templates.
Are they valid from state-to-state?
Yes, contracts and most provisions found therein are mostly standard from state-to-state because two people can pretty much agree to any terms they want (with some exceptions, one being that a contract to commit a crime is not valid and unenforceable). Copyright law is federal law so it applies to everyone in the country the same. However, there are certain things that vary from state-to-state, and that includes law on liability (provisions in contracts that attempt to extinguish or limit one’s liability are called exculpatory clauses). In Florida, exculpatory clauses are generally disfavored but will be upheld in court if written a certain way and if it includes specific language. Most of the portrait and wedding agreements I’ve seen floating around do not contain the required language, leaving the photographer open to liability. While I cannot state that I guarantee (for my own liability reasons) that the liability provisions are iron clad for everyone in every state, I feel very comfortable saying that a photographer is more likely to be protected using my forms than the others I’ve seen floating around (especially because I don’t think the majority of those forms were written by lawyers). Moreover, if you are going to hire a lawyer, it’s cost effective to purchase these forms and then have a local lawyer review those provisions than to hire a lawyer to draft a contract from scratch, especially if that lawyer (which is most likely the case) knows nothing about the photography industry or what should even be in the contract to begin with.
Can you give us some thought provoking examples of accidents that can happen and why a photographer should use the legal forms to help protect themselves?
My first blog post actually discusses photographers potential liability at length. The first thing that comes to mind is a client’s personal injury due to a photographer’s negligence. Now, it’s true that someone losing images from a wedding due to theft or camera malfunction or the like would also result in the client claiming damages and the photographer being liable. However, when it comes to portrait photography, it seems that the place where photographers are at the biggest risk of financial loss, is through the personal injury of a client during the session (because if you lose images, you could technically re-do a family shoot, or even a newborn shoot, whereas wedding images are irreplaceable). Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that newborn safety has been a huge topic of discussion as of late. A myriad of things can go wrong during a newborn session that could result in photographer liability, including the following examples: baby gets overheated or burned from the space heater or heating pad; baby falls off prop, out of sling, etc. and breaks a bone or gets a concussion; or the baby’s umbilical cord gets pulled from getting caught on a blanket while inside a bucket and starts bleeding and later gets infected. During a maternity session, mom-to-be falls and gets hurt walking in a field, requiring bed rest. During a family shoot, a little girl gets bitten by a snake and requires medical attention. The list goes on.
Some of these things might seem to be extreme, but what’s not to say that any one of them couldn’t or wouldn’t happen? Why leave it up to chance? If you don’t have a signed contract addressing liability (and addressing it properly as discussed above), then there’s absolutely nothing protecting you and a judgment against you for damages based on personal injury could be devastating to your business and personal finances.
Why should someone use your forms over typing up their own?
Lawyers are by nature risk adverse. Part of a lawyer’s job is to sit down and think about everything that can go wrong in a situation or business relationship and then determine the best way to protect their client if something does actually go wrong. I wrote these forms from that perspective. They are extensive and detailed and I included everything I could think of (and that I’ve heard being discussed in photography circles) that might come up during the course of a photographer-client relationship. If you’re JSO in business then you might not be familiar with what policy decisions you should make regarding how you run your business and what provisions should go in the contract. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you might have missed something or not have it worded properly. But in either case, unless you’re a lawyer or had a lawyer review your contracts, you cannot be guaranteed that it is fully encompassing and that you are actually protected in case something happens. The overwhelming majority of small businesses seek out a lawyer’s advice prior to going into business and a photography business should be no different.
Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview for us Rebecca! There is such a strong need for your new offerings here and we are so thankful to have come across you. I look forward to continuing to pick your brain personally and be able to work with you on future posts!
Rebecca has been kind enough to provide us with a discount code a perk for LSI members. Please visit this thread at the forum to take advantage of that! Be sure to like the CreatePRO Legal Forms Facebook page as well!
DISCLAIMER: This is not legal advice, just a general discussion of legal and business issues for educational purposes.