As a photographer, you should know your rights. And set the terms of any photography job in writing. This is where your photography contract comes in.
We want to trust all our clients. But sometimes misunderstandings happen and things can get messy.
Here at ExpertPhotography, we can’t stress enough how important a photography contract is. Read on for all the help you need in covering all your bases.
Why Do You Need a Photography Contract
There are several reasons to have a legal photography contract in place for your clients. First, of course, is the misunderstandings that we already mentioned.
Usually, these are honest mistakes, but they can still cause headaches and profit loss.
Contracts also set the stage for a legitimate and professional business transaction. Your clients will take the process more seriously. And they’ll know that there are clear terms and consequences.
It also solidifies your image as a professional photography business owner if you have a set process for them to go through.
Finally, having a photography contract strengthens the trust between you and the client. There are no surprises and the client knows exactly what to expect!
So now that you know why you need a photography contract in your business, what should those documents say?
It’s hard to know where to even begin when you don’t know how to make a photography contract template.
There are plenty of free photography contract templates online, including at the end of this article. Be aware that any photography contract template found online will need some tweaking to be a good fit for your branding and needs.
These free photography contract templates can be a good starting point. Especially if you don’t yet have the funds to hire a lawyer to create your photography contract for you.
As soon as you’re able to invest in a lawyer’s time, though, I recommended that you do so.
Having a lawyer review your photography contract will ensure that it’s a legally binding document that could defend you in court, should that day ever come (and we hope it doesn’t!).
You can change a free template or create your own photography contract template.
Whichever option you choose, here are 10 things you should include for any client.
1. Full Contact Information and Names for Client and Your Business
This may seem obvious. But having full name and contact information for both parties is crucial. We live in an age where people make arrangements via a text message or a private message on Instagram.
If anything happens and you need to reach your client for legal purposes, a full name and address are a must.
Likewise, this clarifies if you’re signing as a business entity versus an individual.
This applies for those who have structured their photography business as something other than a sole proprietorship. Like an LLC or S-Corp.
2. Start Date of Photography Contract and Shoot Date (If Applicable)
Having a start date for the contract terms lets both parties know when terms and the timeline begin.
Some photography agreements are for one-time jobs. Show the shoot date along with start time and location.
This clarifies the terms and expectations.
3. Summary of What Each Side Will Deliver
This is the meat of the photography contract. It summarises what each side will deliver. Include the financial total for the client here, as well as what you’ll deliver in exchange for that payment.
This is also an ideal spot to summarize date, time, and location if the photography contract is for a one-time job.
You might be doing a general terms photography contract. It might be with a client who you’ll be working with on an ongoing basis. If so, skip this section.
Each shoot will be a bit different.
4. Cancellation Policy
Here is where you let your client know how and when they can cancel, as well as what sort of fees they should expect.
Don’t forget to also mention what you’re responsible for, if anything, should your client cancel.
For example, do they make a deposit and then get part of that returned? Or is that actually a non-refundable retainer? Can they use a retainer for a cancelled shoot to a future date to any extent?
Think of possible scenarios that can happen to make sure you’ve covered all your bases.
5. Payment Schedule
Speaking of deposits and retainers, you’ll want to break down how and when you expect payment. In most cases, a retainer of some kind is standard upon booking.
For large jobs, there may be several payments made at different points in the process.
Also, don’t forget to mention what happens if payments bounce or if they’re not made on time.
This will save you from misunderstandings or delays.
6. Copyright Ownership and Transfer of Use Rights
This is a very important section because it could have a huge impact in the future if a dispute arises.
You will want to retain copyright and grant your client use rights. This means you own the photo, but they have your permission to use it.
You can grant use rights for a fixed amount of time, as is typical with commercial jobs, or for life. For personal photos, use rights are for life. This includes wedding or boudoir photography, portraits, family photos and others.
That’s because your clients aren’t using the photos to make money.
Sometimes a client will want to use the photos for an ad campaign or a product label. That’s when you want to look at getting more detailed with what rights they have and for how long.
In the end, you decide what you’re comfortable doing and giving in exchange for payment.
7. Property or Model Releases
You need property and model releases to show the photos to the public. This is especially crucial in our culture driven by social media and online branding!
A wedding photography contract template isn’t something that would house model releases. But a portrait photography contract would.
The former is more documentary style. The latter are generally more for editorial uses.
A model release is to show a person’s image. You need a release for each person shown.
A property release is to show private property, such as a home or pet. Yes, pets are property in this case.
Some photographers choose to charge an additional fee if the client does not agree to sign a release.
Open communication is key, though. Tell your clients where you plan on using the images. It’ll help you build trust with them. And in most cases, I’ve found that clients are happy to oblige!
8. Liability Limitations
This section talks about what happens in case of damages. Or the inability to perform a job due to things beyond your control. This can include things like injury, illness, acts of God, or digital files getting lost.
This section will talk about what you agree to do in these cases, and what the client can expect to receive. Often this will involve returning a retainer to the client. Or finding a suitable photographer for a last-minute replacement.
9. Post-Production and Editing
This circles back to the general topic of use rights. It touches on how clients can use your images. And if they can apply any further edits to them.
Most photographers will want to have total control over the look of the final photos. It’s a direct reflection on your brand. Further editing to photos delivered is often not permitted.
This section would also mention what type of edits you include in your services.
For example, you may do colour balancing and basic edits. But major manipulations may be an extra fee. This includes head replacements or removing items in the background.
10. Extra Fees
You should include a section or more about any possible extra fees. Add these to the amount quoted for things that go above and beyond your typical services.
This can be travel fees or major manipulations in editing. Permit fees for shoot locations count here as well. You can also mention extended shoot time or late/bounced payments.
You’ll run into situations that may convince you to add more to your legal contracts. Each niche market has different needs, and each business has some unique needs also.
With this list as a guideline, though, you’ll cover your bases.
As with any legal documents, be sure to consult with a lawyer as soon as you’re able to make the investment. That way, you can be sure that the wording is legally binding should any problems arise.
Finally, as with any documents, don’t forget those signatures before you begin a project!
If you’re looking for more information on the business side of photography, check out our articles on making money out of real estate photography, and stock photography.
A note from Josh, ExpertPhotography's Photographer-In-Chief:
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