This Photographer Built a Checklist to Help You Not Get Sued

If you’ve ever worked in commercial photography, you know how complicated relationships with brands, agencies, and sub-contractors can be. In this 11.5-minute video, photographer Chris Hau details how he almost got sued as a result of those relationships and what he has learned since.

In order to fully understand how and what Hau was sued over, it’s first important to hear how many commercial client relationships work. Very rarely is a photographer reached out to directly from a brand. In Hau’s case, and in the case of the majority of situations like this, it’s more realistic for a photographer (Company D in this example) to be hired by a photo/video production agency (Company C) that has been subcontracted out from the larger marketing firm (Company B) that the brand (Company A) employs to create marketing materials for a product launch.

When Company A goes to Company B with a budget, Company B takes a cut of that budget and uses the remainder to pay Company C, who takes a cut and gives the rest to Company D who will actually create the art Company A was originally looking for. By the end of this chain, Company D, the artist, actually takes home only a small percentage of the full budget that Company A created.

This was exactly Hau’s situation until the Marketing company, Company B, decided to end their relationship with the photo production agency, Company C, and work directly with Hau going forward. For Hau, this was a huge change. Not only would he be in direct contact with the marketing agency and the larger brand, but also he would also be paid more because one whole link in the convoluted chain was removed.

That is, until the photo agency threatened to sue him for violating a non-compete clause he didn’t know he violated.

After the photo agency eventually chose not to sue Hau, he still used that opportunity to learn from what could possibly have bankrupted his business. While not legal advice, Hau says that the goal is to cover all the main things that should be included in the contract, what you should be looking for, and what you should be thinking or questioning about a contract before you sign it. You can download that here.

Though yes, the video is sponsored by Adobe, the content of the video is still valuable to anyone who is considering working with commercial clients.

For more from Hau, you can subscribe to his YouTube channel.