Editor's note: the following is a tongue-in-cheek, oftenirreverent, question and answer column published in the ASMP News solelyfor the entertainment of our readers. It does not necessarily reflect theviews of ASMP, the local chapter or other ASMP members. All opinions andanswers are solely those of the author, and he is welcome to them.

Readers' questions about any aspect of photography, or life ingeneral, are welcome and Dr. Photography will answer them in future columns,if he happens to feel like it. Send mail to:
Dear Dr. Photography

Dear Dr. Photography,

I've been a professional photographer for 15years. From time to time, while on location, someone will come up to meand ask me to take their picture with their camera. I guess they figurethat since I do photography for a living, I wouldn't mind giving them thebenefit of my expertise by doing a quick snapshot. How should I deal withthese situations?

Fed Up in Foster City


DP: This has become a serious issueof late. There is probably not a single photographer, who sometime in hisor her career, has not faced this dilemma.

Most of us are familiar with "Good Samaritan" laws, whichare designed to protect the average citizen from liability when renderingfirst aid to an injured person. These laws were created to encourage usto help those in need of immediate medical attention and to protect us ifour well-intentioned assistance somehow causes further injury to the victim. Medical professionals, such as doctors and paramedics, are not, however,as well protected by these laws. Their profession mandates that they givea higher standard of care and assume a higher level of exposure in the eventof negligence.

What a lot of people don't know is that professional photographers areaffected similarly by these laws.

If the average citizen on vacation at the Grand Canyon approaches youto take their family picture, you should be aware that, as a professional,you have a responsibility to render a professional level of care to thatpicture. Any other member of the general public could accidentally puttheir thumb over the lens or cut off the top of grandpa's head without sufferingmore than a simple "oh, this shot didn't come out" from the victim(s). However, as a professional, you could find yourself in court faster thanyou can say "autofocus" if you make such a mistake. You couldalso be held liable for the entire cost of your victims' vacation, alongwith punitive damages for emotional distress.

This is no small concern to the professional photographer. Legally,if you accept such a request for your services, even though you are notreceiving compensation, you have a responsibility to deliver professionalresults. You must control the lighting, test the camera equipment and film,carefully monitor the storage, processing and printing of the exposed film-- just as you would if this were a paid client. It becomes your responsibilityto give them studio quality results from their waterlogged, disposable cameraand to "do no harm" to their precious vacation photos.

One option for handling such a situation is to do as many doctors dowhen they witness an accident -- don't walk, but run as quickly as you canin the opposite direction and avoid giving any indication that you mightbe capable of rendering aid. If you can make your escape unnoticed, youmay avoid any legal responsibility whatsoever.

The second option for a photographer is to clearly present himself tothe poor pilgrims. Saying something like "I'm a professional photographer...what can I do to help you?" is a good introduction. Once they've takenthe bait, you can then ask them what their usage of these photos is goingto be. Most will respond that the pictures are only for display in theirhomes and offices. They might also send a few copies to relatives. Now,you have them pinned and can invoice them for a minimum half day at your$1,500/day corporate rate with additional duplication and national distributionusage fees. At this point, your responsibility has begun and you must pushthe shutter button at least once in order to collect your money.

Granted, most tourists will think you're a real jerk if they receivean invoice like this out of the blue -- so you are better off advising themof your rates prior to accepting their request for your assistance. Thepractical photographer will carry pre-printed forms describing liabilitiesand limitations for such requests, which he or she can simply hand to thetourist, saying "please read this and sign at the bottom." Whilesuch a form is not currently included in the ASMP Business Practices Guide,most creative photographers can put one together pretty fast.

At the very least, such a practice will work as a "tourist repellent"for those of you who would really rather not be bothered by pesky membersof the general public. However, with a little bit of luck, you might evenget a new client out of it! Granted, it's a somewhat sleazy practice --not unlike an ambulance chasing lawyer or a doctor asking for your creditcard before rendering aid in an emergency. But what the heck -- it mightwork!

(Liability Disclaimer: Dr. Photographyis neither a lawyer nor a medical practitioner. The ideas presented hereare only recommendations based on his own vast resource of misinformation. Before starting any photography program, consult your personal lawyer andphysician.)

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©1992 Scott Highton
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