As a real estate agent, you found the photographer you like – he takes great photos, shows up on time and sends you the edited photos within a day or two. You’re excited to give him a try for your next listing. What do you do next? That’s right – review and sign a photography agreement.
As a real estate photographer, I regularly hear complaints from both photographers and agents that can easily be prevented by a simple agreement at the beginning of a new professional relationship. The most common complaints are about photo usage – who and how can use the photos, for how long, whom they belong to.
Other common misunderstandings are about the expectations – how much staging, cleaning, rearranging a photographer is expected to do to get the shots, how many photos will be delivered and how quickly. If either the photographer or the agent doesn’t show up to the appointment or are substantially late – what happens then? A last minute cancellation? An inaccessible to the photographer property? What if the agent doesn’t like the photos?
For example, a stager or an architect just love the photos that were taken of a listing and want those photos of the house they’ve staged or a home they’ve custom-designed. They email the real estate agent asking for the photos. Should the agent forward those photos to a third party?
Another real-life example – photographer arrives to a property to be photographed. There is remodeling hardware scattered around the outside of the house. Or the living room has magazines and other personal items left behind. Or the kitchen is not tidy – the counters, floors need to be washed, appliances put away. The bed is not perfectly made up. Should the photographer spend the time tidying up or shoot as is?
There is no one right answer. It all depends on the expectations and the preferences of the photographer and the real estate agent, but there is no need for misunderstandings. A simple photography agreement can set clear guidelines for what is expected from both parties.
I strongly believe in open, straightforward communications. Not setting these expectations – in writing – from the get-go is a sure path for misunderstandings down the road. If we don’t set these expectations in writing – in the form of an agreement – they don’t exist, even if they were agreed upon verbally. We forget, we misinterpret, no matter how good the intentions are, the expectations need to be in writing.
The agreement doesn’t need to be in legalese. For me, it’s a two-page summary of what the real estate agent can expect from working with me and what I can expect from working with the agent. It outlines what happens before, during and after the shoot, how the images may be used, if there are any fees and how they apply. It helps prevent surprises.
Before starting to work with a new agent, I ask her to read over the agreement. We discuss any questions she might have and I address them by clarifying and, in some cases, modifying the agreement. Once we both sign off on the agreement, I am ready to book the first shoot.
Here’s the photography agreement that I use:
Do you use photography agreements? Why or why not? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.