A few tips today about doing business to business transactions or working together in a business partnership. This post is based on a very true story, the names of the parties will be changed to protect the innocent. This story is about the photographic industry, but applies equally to other industries.
Dave (not is real name) a professional studio photographer was just locking up after a long day in the studio when he got a tap on the shoulder from John (not his real name) a business tenant in the same building as Dave. John runs an online business selling specialist clothing to private individuals
John tells Dave he has been looking for a photographer to go into business with and he has a fantastic business proposition for Dave which will make both of them heaps of money. Dave is intrigued and decides to meet with John to discuss.
Over the next few weeks they meet regularly to discuss Johns proposition, the business idea evolves into a tangible plan of action to move forward. Johns business idea is to use models (supplied by Dave) to model his clothing lines and have professional location based photographs taken (by Dave). The finished photos to be sold on a subscription based website (by John) They agree on a 50/50 partnership with all profits split equally
Dave wants to put something down in writing and set up a company, but John wants some test shoots completed first. Dave organises a test shoot, finds a model who will work on a TF basis (TF = time for, model works for free but receives edited photos for her time) finds a location.
Everything goes well and a few days later John receives the edited pictures, he is blown away by the quality of the photography and the editing. He asks Dave to organise more shoots ASAP
There is still nothing written down or agreed in writing, but Dave is happy to organise more shoots. The next shoot goes as well as the first, John loves the photos but then out of the blue Dave receives an email from John saying that as the pictures are so commercially saleable they must not be released onto the Internet, the models must not be allowed to have more than a single image, John requires all the RAW images along with full Copyright of all the images.
Dave gets straight on the phone and explains to John that the industry does not work like that, models have to have the images else they either won’t work, or need to be paid, a photographer should never give up RAW files and there is no need for copyright assignment as a license to use agreement could be put into place.
A heated argument takes place, John does not understand any of this and just wants all the images and all the copyright. Eventually Dave convinces John that a license agreement is sufficient, RAW files are not needed and models will receive a limited number of finished images.
Dave had booked three shoots the following day with three different models at three different locations, all models were working TF and were travelling up to 50 miles.
On the morning of the shoot Dave receives yet another email from John saying after he had slept on it he wanted joint copyright to the images or he was not prepared to shoot. This was 1 hour before the first shoot of the day. As a photographer dealing with models he has a reputation to uphold, not just for quality of work, but also for reliability. So with that in mind Dave agreed to joint Copyright, sent an email confirming and got ready for the shoot.
During the shoot the tone of the posing and direction from John changed dramatically and Dave ended up shooting images he was really uneasy with. Upon reviewing the images after the shoot Dave said he was not prepared to shoot this type of images – John was angry, said shoot it or don’t work again, Dave walked away.
Dave spoke with a solicitor concerning the joint Copyright and asked if he could stop the images he was uneasy with from being published – he could not.
So, both parties ended up with joint Copyright of a single set of images, but the business idea failed as the two would never work together again.
Some lessons to be learned, know the industry you want to work with and if you don’t know it well, then trust that the person you wish to work with does actually know the industry and listen to them. Put written contracts in place before you agree work, not after you have started and photographers, never ever sign away Copyright before you have shot!
If there were binding contracts in place then Dave and John would more than likely be running a successful business together making lots of money.
But sometimes you just have to walk away – Dave didn’t and should have done, he ignored the alarm bells because he thought he’d make lots of money – which turned out to be a poor business decision.
Best – Colin