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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. 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.

What Should a Photography Contract Include?

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, including any fees or refunds. 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.

Do I Need a Photography Contract?

Professional photographers should have a contract that outlines their services for clients. This will help protect your business and your personal liability.

Below are some basic reasons why it is important to have your clients sign a photography contract:

  • Legal Protection. A contract will help set expectations with your client and protect you legally, should anything go wrong (sometimes things go wrong) or the client has misaligned expectations.
  • Professionalism. Giving a professionally drafted contract to a client will make you seem professional and credible, which will instill further trust in your services.
  • Payment. A contract will help ensure that you get paid for your services.
  • Expectations. Having the terms of your service in writing, this will help set good expectations with your client as to what services they can expect and any obligations they will need to fulfil.
  • Copyright. A photography contract should likely address copyrighting issues related to the photos you take. It will outline what your client can and cannot do with them.

For the reasons above, we recommend having a professionally drafted photography contract. It is a small investment upfront that can pay dividends for years.

Photographer contact

Image via Unsplash by thecreative_exchange

Can You Write Your Own Photography Contract?

Anyone can write a legal contract, so you are able to write your own. However, it is always wise to hire a professional business lawyer to draft your photography contract since they know what terms and conditions to include to protect you and your business.

If you decide to write your own photography contract, you can reference the terms above to include and also the photography contract sample written below. Note, it is always a good idea to have lawyer review and redline your agreement to ensure that it meets all legal requirements.

Is a Photography Contract Legally Binding?

Photography contracts are legally binding if they meet the basic requirements of a contract outlined by contract law. So, if you and a client sign a contract and the criteria below is met, it is considered a legally binding contract.

  • Offer and Acceptance. The photographer must make an offer to provide services and the client must accept the offer and agree to the terms and conditions of the contract.
  • Consideration (payment). A client must provide payment (or some sort of exchange of value) in exchange for services – which is called ‘consideration’.
  • Mutual consent. The photographer and client must have a mutual understanding of the terms and conditions.
  • Competence. The photographer and client must be able to enter a contract, which means that they are of legal age and have the mental capacity to understand the.
  • Legality. The contract must have a legal purpose and not violate any laws or regulations.

It's important to note that a contract should be in writing and signed by both parties. Verbal agreements may not be legally binding are hard to prove if there is any dispute. If you do sign a photography contract, it’s advisable to keep a copy of it so that you have a record of the agreement in case any dispute arises.

Photography Contract Sample


This Photography Contract ("Contract") is entered into between [Photographer's Name] ("Photographer") and [Client's Name] ("Client") on [Date].


The Photographer agrees to provide photography services to the Client for [event or session], which will take place on [date] at [location].


The Client agrees to pay the Photographer [amount] for the photography services. A non-refundable deposit of [amount] is due at the time of booking, and the remaining balance is due [number of days] days prior to the event or session.


Payment can be made by [payment methods]. If payment is not received by the due date, the Photographer reserves the right to cancel the contract and retain the deposit.


If the Client needs to cancel the contract, they must do so in writing [number of days] days prior to the event or session. If the contract is canceled, the Photographer will retain the deposit as liquidated damages.


The Photographer will deliver the final photos to the Client [number of days] days after the event or session. The photos will be delivered via [delivery method], and the Client will receive [number of edited photos] edited photos.


The Photographer retains the copyright ownership of all photos taken during the event or session. The Client may use the photos for personal use only and cannot sell, license, or publish the photos without the Photographer's written consent.


The Photographer is not liable for any damages, losses, or injuries that may occur during the event or session. The Client assumes full responsibility for any damages, losses, or injuries caused by themselves or their guests.


This Contract shall be governed by the laws of the State of [State] and any disputes arising out of this Contract shall be resolved in accordance with the laws of the State of [State].

By signing below, the parties agree to the terms and conditions outlined in this Contract.

[Photographer's Name]

[Photographer's Signature]

[Client's Name]

[Client's Signature]

Why Is a Photography Contract Important?

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.

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.

ContractsCounsel is not a law firm, and this post should not be considered and does not contain legal advice. To ensure the information and advice in this post are correct, sufficient, and appropriate for your situation, please consult a licensed attorney. Also, using or accessing ContractsCounsel's site does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and ContractsCounsel.

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