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What Is a Photography Contract?
A photography contract is a legally binding contract between yourself as the photographer and your client as the subject. The term "client" can refer to anybody or any entity you've established a relationship with in this capacity. For example, a client may be an individual, a family, a business that is hiring you to take headshots of its executive team, or a government entity that may need to take pictures at a local election.
Contracts of this nature aren't limited to who you're photographing. As an example, it's common for a relative of the bride or groom to pay for professional photography. As the photographer, you'll be in a contract with the happy couple, but you'll also need a contract with the person who is financially responsible.
Why Is a Photography Contract Important?
Image via Unsplash by thecreative_exchange
It's important to have a photography contract so you can clearly state what your and your clients' expectations are. When you're performing a service for someone, it's crucial to have a document in place that is clear and accepted by all involved parties. A good contract anticipates any potential conflicts or issues and accounts for them so you remain covered as the photographer and business owner.
A contract also serves as a relationship-building tool, showing your customers that you want to provide clear communication, set expectations, and fulfill promises. One of the biggest reasons to have a contract for your photography work is that it makes your business more valuable to clients because they know they can build a relationship with you based on trust.
What To Include in a Photography Contract
When you're creating a photography contract, you'll want to make sure that you include details and provisions that will cover you and safeguard your photographer-client relationship. Consider including these items in all of your photography contracts as appropriate:
- Contact details: Include full legal name, address, phone number, and email for yourself, your business (especially if you have a separate space where you conduct your work), and your client.
- Payment information: It's important that you and your client come to an agreement about payment before even signing the contract because that's a big part of getting hired for any job. Including the payment terms in your contract is simply reiterating what has already been discussed. Payment terms should include the total price of your services, any deposits your client has paid, required retainers, a payment schedule if you're offering one, and language describing what will happen if the client pays any invoices late.
- Time and date of services: It's important to include details on what day and time are set aside for this work so there is no confusion about when everyone should arrive at the agreed-upon location. Start and end times are especially critical if you schedule multiple clients on one day and need to stick to a schedule so you don't fall behind.
- Deliverables: Prior to drafting a contract, you'll know what your client needs from you. You'll likely have this discussion when you're trying to determine an estimated quote for services, but include it in your contract anyway. Remember that deliverables go both ways. As the photographer, you should specify what you are agreeing to provide to your client and outline what you need from the client in return. For example, you may provide a schedule that includes a date when you'll provide unedited pictures and a separate date for when your client should select the pictures they want.
- Editing and post-production: As a professional, you have a certain editing style and know what it takes to produce a great end result for your clients. In a contract, you may want to include the number of hours you anticipate spending on editing, while also explaining that extra edits or specific edit requests may come with an additional fee.
- Extra cost: You have payment information already included, but that's more for the basic cost of your services. Consider accounting for any extra cost that your client may be responsible for, including travel expenses, permits for shooting in a specific location, the need for a second photographer based on the complexity of the project, and your fee for late payments.
- Image rights: This may look different for each photographer, so explore your options when it comes to your image rights. Think about whether you want to transfer any usage rights to your client after they've paid for the images in full and, if so, whether they have the right to edit them further or use them anywhere they want, including marketing materials. This is a lot to consider when it comes to image rights, so you may want to see how to license images prior to getting started.
- Cancellation provision: Sometimes things come up and a cancellation may occur that's either because of you or your client. Either way, there should be a cancellation policy in place that explains what each party is responsible for should they not cancel with an appropriate amount of notice. It should also outline what an appropriate amount of notice actually is, as this can be subjective. Make note of any circumstances where the client will either have to pay a portion of the cost or would be owed a refund.
- Liability release: Your liability release can protect you from unexpected circumstances while you're doing your job. Consider if your camera malfunctions and you lose most of the images you took at an event. Your liability release, if written to account for instances of this nature, may release you from having to pay your client's full deposit back.
- Dispute resolution: Even with a carefully constructed contract, it's possible that you'll still get into a disagreement with a client. However, a contract that has information on dispute resolution provides all parties with the knowledge of how disagreements will be handled. For example, you may stipulate that a mediator must be used to resolve any conflicts.
You'll also want to make sure that you and your client sign the contract to make it valid and effective. This may not be all the items to include in your contract, and you may have a different contract depending on what type of photography you're doing (e.g., wedding, portrait, real estate, model). For example, if you are working with a paid model for a photo shoot, you may have a model release as part of your contract. If the model is a minor, you may require another provision that the child's parent or guardian must sign.
If you ever use a second photographer, you should think about having a contract with them that includes things like their payment details, what they are responsible for, and whether they own any images they take or if your business retains those rights.
Whether you're a freelance photographer or own your own photography business on a larger scale, figuring out everything you need to succeed in your work can be overwhelming. One thing you can do is hire a contract lawyer who can help you draft a contract for your business or look over what you may have drafted already. A good lawyer can help make sure you and your business are covered.
Meet some of our Photography Contract Lawyers
John Daniel "J.D." Hawke is an experienced attorney with a law practice in Mobile, Alabama. He was born in Fairhope, Alabama and after earning his undergraduate degree at Auburn University, he received a law degree from Thomas Goode Jones School of Law in 2010. After law school, he formed the Law Office of J.D. Hawke LLC and over the last decade he has fought incredibly hard for each and everyone of his clients. His practice focuses on representing people facing criminal charges and clients dealing with family law matters. In addition to criminal defense and domestic relations cases, he also regularly handles contract disputes, personal injury cases, small business issues, landlord/tenant disputes, document drafting, and estate planning. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Alabama and the United States District Court for the Southern District of Alabama.
Thomas Codevilla is Partner at SK&S Law Group where he focuses on Data Privacy, Security, Commercial Contracts, Corporate Finance, and Intellectual Property. Read more at Skandslegal.com Thomas’s clients range from startups to large enterprises. He specializes in working with businesses to build risk-based data privacy and security systems from the ground up. He has deep experience in GDPR, CCPA, COPPA, FERPA, CALOPPA, and other state privacy laws. He holds the CIPP/US and CIPP/E designations from the International Association of Privacy Professionals. Alongside his privacy practice he brings a decade of public and private transactional experience, including formations, financings, M&A, corporate governance, securities, intellectual property licensing, manufacturing, regulatory compliance, international distribution, China contracts, and software-as-a-service agreements.
Attorney of 6 years with experience evaluating and drafting contracts, formation document, and policies and procedures in multiple industries. Expanded to estate planning last year.
George is a lifelong Houston resident. He graduated from St. Thomas High School and then Texas A&M University. He obtained his Doctor of Jurisprudence from South Texas College of Law in 2007. He is experienced in real estate, estate planning & probate, civil/commercial matters, personal, injury, business matters, bankruptcy, general counsel on-demand, and litigation. He is active in the community serving as past-president of the St. Thomas Alumni Board, a current member of the Dads Club Aquatic Center Board of Directors, current member of the Dickinson Little Italy Festival of Galveston County Board of Directors, and former PTO President for Briarmeadow Charter School.
My clients are often small and medium size technology companies, from the "idea" stage to clients who may have raised a round or three of capital and need to clean up a messy cap table. I help with all legal matters related to growth that keep founders up at night - hiring people, allocating equity, dealing with shareholders and investors, client negotiations and early litigation counseling (before you need a litigator). I've seen a lot, and because I run my own business, I understand the concerns that keep you up at night. I’ve been through, both on my own and through other clients, the “teething” pains that will inevitably arise as you scale-up – and I’m here to help you. I have over 20 years international experience devising and implementing robust corporate legal strategies and governance for large multinationals. I now focus on start-ups and early/medium stage technology companies to enable a sound legal foundation for your successful business operations. Many of my clients are international with US based holding companies or presences. My 17 years abroad helps me "translate" between different regimes and even enabling Civil and Common Law lawyers to come together. Regularly, I handle early stage financings including Convertible Notes, Seed and Series A/B financings; commercial and technology contracts; international transactions; tax; mergers and acquisitions.
Sammy Naji focuses his practice on assisting startups and small businesses in their transactional and litigation needs. Prior to becoming a lawyer, Sammy worked on Middle East diplomacy at the United Nations. He has successfully obtained results for clients in breach of contract, securities fraud, common-law fraud, negligence, and commercial lease litigation matters. Sammy also counsels clients on commercial real estate sales, commercial lease negotiations, investments, business acquisitions, non-profit formation, intellectual property agreements, trademarks, and partnership agreements.