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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
Jay Pink is an attorney who works with businesses and families on estate planning, and business law matters. Having his CPA license, and working in multiple family businesses over his career has positioned him to provide valuable insight on successful business operations. He has formed many entities - LLC's, Corps Partnerships and non-profit organizations.
Skilled in the details of complex corporate transactions, I have 15 years experience working with entrepreneurs and businesses to plan and grow for the future. Clients trust me because of the practical guided advice I provide. No deal is too small or complex for me to handle.
I work with early stage startups (in Georgia and internationally) with their formation, contract and investment needs.
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I am an experienced technology contracts counsel that has worked with companies that are one-person startups, publicly-traded international corporations, and every size in between. I believe legal counsel should act as a seatbelt and an airbag, not a brake pedal!
Attorney (FL, LA, MD) | Commercial Real Estate Attorney and previous Closing Manager (Driving Growth from $10M to $50M+/month).