Rights which are sold should be specified in writing. That can be done by a letter or contract form. If the agreement is outlined by letter, the terms should be clearly stated including the fees to be paid and when. An invoice should accompany the letter. An inventory of the images should also be included.
Contracts are usually much easier to use than trying to specify everything in a letter accompanied by terms and an inventory. Contract forms cover the most commonly practiced use of rights. If a contract form is used which does not cover all aspects of a certain agreement, the additional terms may be written on the face of the form to make a valid contract.
“When should I use a contract?” is a question often asked. The answer is “always.” Never, ever sell your photos or rights to use your photo without a contract. A client should always understand what he is receiving as well as what he is not receiving. Without a contract, that cannot be perfectly clear. Also, if a letter has to be written to cover each transaction, it is often easy to omit it and take your chances.
Often photographers are intimidated by anything that sounds like a contract. They immediately think of numerous pages of fine print full of “whereofs” and “hereinafter” or “from this day forth.”
A good contract should be simple, straightforward and easy to read. There is no need for “whereof” etc. The photographer and the client should easily understand the terms without question. Both parties should honor the terms as written and each keep a copy of the contract. This practice should protect the rights of the photographer and the client.
A single popular print can produce income for years if handled properly. If the use of a picture will benefit a photographer in some way other than money which has value, that should be considered too. As in all things, common sense must prevail.