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Need liability advice

This is the second year I am shooting images at a private school for their marketing purposes. I am being paid for the events I cover and give them the very best images onto a shared drive that only the development and marketing team has access to. These images are fully edited and ready for them to use in print and internet marketing. The school told me last year that a release is not needed as the parents sign a blanket release in the paperwork packet for the school, allowing images of their child to be used as such. I went to a Joe McNally seminar yesterday and asked him about the arrangement and he said I was crazy...way too much liability risk on my end. What forms should I be using or should the school provide these to me. Should I have an attorney draft something up?
There is not much juice left in the squeeze after time, equipment, processing and then if i have to purchase liability insurance as well. Maybe i should just take a pass on the whole arrangement?


  • I have only been in a situation for one organization who has an assistant follow me around with release forms for people whose photos I take, but they tell me it can be limited to groups of 3 or more. They still want this even though there is a sign on the door leading to the event venue that tells people their images may be used in promotional pages, publications, etc. That's my only experience with a release form.

    That being said, I don't understand what the liability would be that you would have to get insurance.

    When my kids were small, they were in a day-care center that had a photographer come in from time to time. When I enrolled the kids the first time, right in the paperwork was something to the effect of "when the photographer comes in, is it OK to use photos of your kid in publications about the center, yes or no?" We would be told at drop-off time if a photographer was coming. No big deal.

    So again, I don't know what you would be liable for if you took a photo of some child whose parents already told the school "don't use my kid's photo in any published materials". If the school published this kid's photo, wouldn't they be liable?

    My two cents - Dave
  • Thanks Dave,
    I thought I would be fine with the school having the blanket release on file too but I had this nagging feeling in the back of my mind so I asked the presenter at yesterdays seminar. He ask if I was on schools staff or independent, and I told him independent, and he said "They will nail you to the wall"! 

  • StephenStephen Member
    edited August 2015
    School administrators will always find a scapegoat if *something* goes wrong.  Since you're an independent and not directly a school employee, the school administrators will probably throw you under the bus if someone regarding someone has a problem with your photos.  (Not all schools will necessarily do this to you, but the probability is certainly not zero.)

    Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer. The following are just my gut instincts.

    1) Ideally, every photoshoot needs a model release form with the date of event, name of event, purpose of event, and any other relevant legal terms and disclaimers.   You should have your own release forms.   Given that school administrators can throw you under the bus at the first sign of a problem with a parent, I would not assume their forms will pass legal muster if a parent challenges the school.

    2) I would advise you talk to your attorney and describe the situation you told the presenter at the Joe McNally seminar and see if you need to provide your own release forms or get liability insurance.

    3) I am not sure how you would pass on the arrangement.  Having you been paid already?  Did you sign anything that describes the photos you took?  If you decide to pass, can the school go after you for anything?  (i.e. breach of contract clause, etc.)

    Good luck!
  • Wow... is it really that litigious over there? I shoot horse events over here in the UK, and there are often children entered - all that's done is on the entry form there is a point that says there is a photographer, and your child may well have pictures taken. There is no signature or form etc.
  • Thanks Stephen,
    Thats what i was afraid of and echoes what McNally said. The school will just point my way and wash their hands. I bill them in thirds, after I finish up each sporting/event season. I gave them a basic contract (same as last year) which they have not gotten around to signing yet and I have only shot 2 small events as of yet. They are very happy with the imagery I provide them but one small issue is that I am a parent of the school as well.

  • I have a standard contract, which I suppose has release language in it. But I don't think I would run into a problem where someone hires me, they and I sign my contract. I take the pictures that they want. It's hard to imagine a situation where someone comes after me. That's why I appear to be throwing out random thought and comments, because I'm having a hard time imagining this.

    Maybe you come up with a form that you and the school signs which contains something like "... the school has forms from individuals stating they will/will not allow their child's/children's photos to be used. In the unlikely event a photograph is taken of a child who's parents don't want the photos used, and the school uses those photos, the photographer is not liable in any way ..." or something like that.

  • TrevTrev Moderator
    edited August 2015

    Yep, I reckon it sadly is.

    I have been shooting class/individual photos of a couple of local small schools for over 10 years now, (Australia) no legal forms, no parents to worry about, no contract, school rings me, I send an 'Order Form' to school, they photocopy it and it's given any parent who wishes their child to have picture taken, fills it in, the class teacher has a list then of each child, I turn up, take a class photo, then individual shots and am done.

    Sometimes they hold an event also, and photos taken, maybe on a 'sports' day, and I am paid a 'set' fee for the day, and provide all images on USB for the school's discretionary use like slide show, any they charge the kids a nominal fee for any prints.


  • StephenStephen Member
    edited August 2015
    Julieo, why has the school not signed your contract that you have provided in previous years?  That seems to be another red flag.  Of the few working photographers I know, contracts are signed before any work starts.  You don't start work and have the paperwork done later.  That leaves you vulnerable to legal problems down the road. 

    You also said this is the second year you're working for the school.  How did you handle this last year, and what makes this year different that would cause you to ask the presenter and post this question to us?  Is it because kids are involved in the photos in this year's assignment? 

    I think you will want to talk to an attorney about your situation, but that's my layman's opinion.  

  • Trev, :( That's depressing that it's needed. Solution - prevent lawyers from ever advertising :)
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