Online contracts for photographers are legal documents that outline the relationship between a photographer and their clients so that both parties are protected. 

Why Have Photography Contracts?

Essentially, photography contracts have three purposes:

  1. Setting the rules of the photographer/client relationship.
  2. Describing what both parties find acceptable
  3. Detailing a solution for conflict resolution.

With a solid contract, you can reduce the likelihood of a miscommunication between you and your photography client. Before using a photography contract, you should make sure to have it reviewed by an attorney. Investing in a quality attorney will make sure that your contract is valid, which can protect you from lawsuits in the future. 

Are Digital Photography Contracts Legal?

Fortunately, digital photography contracts are completely legal and are an important tool for photographers everywhere. As in most professions, a photographer's time is their most valuable asset. However, it's impossible to be everywhere at once, which is a fact that technological innovators understand very well. To help maximize people's times, companies that develop technology are creating solutions to help people complete traditionally time-consuming tasks quickly and easily. One of the best ways to keep your small photography business in the black is taking advantage of these automated and digital solutions.

For instance, tracking your documents digitally will virtually eliminate the need to complete physical paperwork, allowing you to focus on your photography. In addition, you can email digital documents directly to your client, including legal documentation that cannot be altered from its original form. All your client will need to do is go over the document and then digitally “sign” it by clicking a checkbox.

The “E-Sign Act” is a piece of legislation that states that electronic signatures are just as valid as physical signatures. While the legal effect of an electronic signature cannot be denied, there are certain exceptions to this rule. Because there can be differences between cases, you should talk to your lawyer to make sure your electronic signature is legally valid.

Before the federal government passed the E-Sign Act, 40 states introduced similar legislation. Now that there is a federal e-signature law, these signatures should be treated the same throughout the country. However, because the federal law does not eliminate the state law, it's possible you will need to comply with strict state regulations depending on where you live.

While the E-Sign Act is the most recent law related to electronic signatures, it is far from the first. For instance, the Uniform Electronic Transactions Act (UETA), was passed in 1999. 

It's important to understand that there is a provision of the E-Sign Act that states that the intent of the electronic signature determines its legality. When an electronic signature is disputed, courts will closely examine the circumstances that were in effect when the signature took place.

According to court rulings, there are several types of documents that can have an electronic signature that is legally binding, including:

  • Emails.
  • Documents that have been signed with an e-pen.
  • Accepting an End-User License Agreement.
  • Using an e-signature on an online document.

On the FTC website, you can learn more about e-signatures, including when they are and aren't legally binding. 

Government Rationale for Legalizing E-Signatures

Research indicates that the government had three motivations for legalizing e-signatures:

  • Making signing online contracts legally binding.
  • Increasing the speed of the contract process to improve the efficiency of businesses.
  • Improving protections for consumers by mandating accurate record keeping. 

What is the Best Evidence Rule?

The Best Evidence Rule states that the original document copy is the strongest form of evidence during a court hearing. Under this rule, the original copy of a document will be submitted to evidence and that any other copies can only be submitted if finding the original copy is impossible. This rule also allows the party filing the lawsuit to object to copies other than the original being admitted as evidence, requiring the defendant to explain why the original is not available. Scans, copies, and other non-original documents are considered secondary evidence. You can find a full explanation of the Best Evidence Rule in the Federal Rules of Evidence Article X, Rules 1001-1008.

Generally, state laws will use the federal Best Evidence Rule. The Best Evidence Rule is based on 18th Century common law, and since it was conceived, it has been used very successfully.

If you need help writing online contracts for photographers, you can post your legal needs on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.