Often I get messages asking me to shoot events, portraits or what not for them. More often than not they are friends or friends of friends or people I have networked with. I have always just trusted my clients to pay me, my rates aren't outrageous by anyone's standards (well maybe for the people who think "exposure" is sufficient payment, but that's for another post). I had heard of photographers saying, "everyone you work for should sign a contract, people will screw you." I even had a subject tell me the other day that "you're too nice, people will push you around man."
One thing I have always overlooked is contracts. They sound scary and to be quite honest for the small amounts I usually charge it didn't seem necessary.
Flashback to November 19th, I get a message on Twitter from a basketball coach asking if I could come take some photos for his website. I'm always happy to meet new people and when money is offered Its hard to say no.
I head out the next day to go photograph his practice at a gym about 30 mins away from me. About halfway through the practice Aubrey comes over and introduces himself. He explains to me that he loves my work and found me through a friend of mine. "I'm going to be using you a ton, I want to get you gigs with pros and coming players as well." I was so excited, getting a chance to work directly with pro athletes at 18 years old, that's incredible.
But then the bomb hits. He tells me "Hey man, I have to pay my rent for my gym, I can pay you at the beginning of the next month." Maybe I was blinded by what he just said, or maybe I just trusted him.
Imported, edited, posted! I send the files off to him with the idea that I would be paid very soon, it was the end of November already. Well, I sit here 5 months later still unpaid and unsure what to do.
Left on delivered for months on end. No response or some kind of excuse. I know that $150 isn't much, and I'm sure I could have charged much more, but this is theft, this is stealing from me.
Not only did I take photos I also produced a video for him, my friend went out to go shoot the video and I promised him pay as well. Yet he is still stuck waiting here just like me!
And this brings us back to the contracts, something I wish I had right now. I'm stuck, I don't think I can take him to small claims and I doubt he's going to pay up anytime soon. That contract could have saved me and my friend from being screwed.
I wanted to provide a timeline of what happened, so here it is.
I hate getting taken advantage of, everyone does. At the end of the day, the lesson learned is to always have a contact, big or small it's worth it to protect yourself. I wouldn't even be in this uncertain position if I had asked him to sign something that day I shot. If anyone has any advice on what to do feel free to contact me through my about page or anywhere else.
Keep your images safe, and keep your money safer.