Outsourcing Editing & Other Legal Considerations
When considering outsourcing your editing or offering photo editing services to other photographers there are some legal issues to consider and things you may want to think about before you enter into a contract involved outsourced editing services.
Let’s start with some questions to help frame our discussion and provoke you as you consider, reflect, and make the important decisions when it comes to outsourcing the editing of your images, or offering photo editing services to other photographers.
- How does outsourcing editing or offering editing as a service fit within your business model?
- What exactly do you want to do?
- Is this editing or is this retouching? The distinction between retouching and editing and which you choose may change the price or the parameters.
- What licenses do you need to provide/be granted for outsourced editing to occur?
Definition of Editing
Before you even begin searching for a provider of editing services, it is helpful to define what you mean by “an edited image.” Some suggestions include: a) adjust levels – contrast, highlights, shadows, b) sharpen (if needed), c) Boost or tone down saturation (in accordance with style), d) a presentable image, e) remove sensor dust specks, f) white balance adjusted, g) crop (to specifications), h) color corrected, i) density adjusted.
Whether you are outsourcing your editing or seeking to offer photo editing services, what you mean by the definition of editing is a question you will need to be able to answer.
Let’s talk about what should be in the agreement.
No editing service worth working with will begin work without a license from you as the copyright owner. This is a matter of basic legal and business principles. Editing an image if you don’t own the copyright is illegal.
As a consequence, cover yourself by setting clear boundaries on the service you are requesting and what uses, other than editing to your specifications you are licensing – for example, are you willing to give a license to the editor to use your image in their portfolio to advertise or promote their own work.
It is important that the agreement also states that you own the exclusive copyright to the derivative work credited as a consequence of the application of the editing service. For a more detailed explanation of copyright, see this article.
As a photographer and business owner outsourcing the editing of your images, you will likely want to ensure that your intellectual capital, your workflow and the exact components to the editing process and business practices of your photographic business are kept confidential and are protected.
It is a good idea to make sure that the contractor signs a non-disclosure agreement before any business specific information or images are exchanged. You can do this even before you have a specific service agreement negotiated. It may also be important to include a clause in the agreement that ensures that the names and information about your clients are not released or in any other way used inappropriately.
Make sure that you have a guide to the quality you are expecting, and that the service provides evidence of test images demonstrating that they are able to follow your specifications. Indeed, when working with a new editor request test images (often for a prorated payment) to confirm.
General suggestions for outsourcing photographic editing
- Ensure your agreement contacts appropriate License to allow for the images to be edited, with the copyright owner granting a license to edit and alter the image(s).
- Prepare a Non-Disclosure agreement for the negotiation stage, and make sure that the agreement includes a confidentiality and privacy clause.
- Specific expectations about quality and consistency of finished product
- If outsourcing outside of the US, be sure to check with your accountant about any implications. Check also for a cultural match, especially ensuring that there are no communication barriers.
- Be clear on milestones and delivery dates for finished images.
- Make sure the contract is as detailed as it needs to be (from your perspective). Be aware that some things should not be included in a contract. Speak to an attorney about what specific details should or should be included in the text of the contract.
- Include a clause addressing the policy for requesting revisions.
- Identify liaisons on both sides.
- Be aware that outsourcing for “cost savings” alone often fails to be worth the significant effort required to set up. Be clear about your own expectations.
- Make sure agreement addresses license to use edited images (including before and after) in any way by the editor.
- Speak to your attorney about whether you need a key personnel clause to prevent subcontracting.
- Set milestones for contract review and feedback. An initial contract period may be helpful.
- Ensure that you have developed a risk mitigation plan
- Lay out the upfront cost, efficiency and effectiveness you are aiming for through outsourcing. Ensure that the agreement details the responsibilities of the client and service provider, a standard of finished product and definitions of editing, deadlines and timing of service delivery and contract review.
- Think both short and long term. For the long term, make sure you have a plan if your editing service is not available, or you need to exit the contract. Consider termination and notice of termination clauses, for example, include a clause that ensure that in the case of a change of ownership you are not bound by the contract.
Offering Photo Editing
As you have read the above and consider what you need to offer editing services, consider the way some of the suggestions above might be helpful for your business.
- Prepare a draft agreement that provides you with the licenses you need to do this work.
- Ensure that you do not accept liability for editing images to the required standard if they are technically sub-par.
- Develop an intake process to ensure that your understand the needs of your clients and their rationale for outsourcing.
- Make sure that the clause about revisions is sustainable for your business – balance the desire to deliver great customer service with the time parameters you need to stay within.
Make sure your ducks are in a row…
The demand for outsourcing photo editing is on the increase. On both sides of the equation, as the photographer seeking to find skilled photo editors, and the photographers who are interested in offering photo editing services, it is essential that the appropriate licenses are granted and that the agreement explicitly and clearly details the services being contracted. Cover yourself and you can make the best use of outsourced services in a way that adds value to your business.