Having a photography contract for each client is essential for professional photographers. But it's important to use a contract that covers more than just the basics. Your contracts should include coverage of the specific and often unique circumstances of each event you're shooting.
Whether you're utilizing the services of an attorney to help you draft your contracts or you're going with a DIY approach by using an online template, the following fourteen things should always be included in each of your photography contracts.
1. Parties to the Contract
This section states who the parties to the contract are, and includes everyone's contact information. If you offer your photography services via an LLC (limited liability company) or a corporation, it's important that you use your company name in this section rather than your personal name.
The same applies to your client; if the event you're covering is a personal event, then in most cases your client will be an individual, but for commercial shoots, it's highly likely that your client will be a business rather than the contact person you've been dealing with.
2. Scope and Schedule
It's important for your contract to set out the scope of the services you'll be providing, along with a schedule. State when your services start, when they will end, and what you'll be shooting, and include a schedule or timeline so that everyone involved knows what, when, where, and how.
If there are specific shots that your client wants you to take, this information should be included. The more detailed you can be, the better: that way, there won't be any surprises for your client and you're less likely to run into conflict over a misunderstanding or lack of communication.
Depending on where the shoot will take place, permits might be needed. Most photographers require clients to obtain any necessary permits. This includes applying for the permits in a timely manner, as well as paying the required fees.
Your contract should also specify exactly what you will be delivering to the client once the shoot is over. For example, you may take thousands of photos, but chances are, you don't intend to deliver every photo you shoot to your client.
In addition to the number of images you'll deliver, and terms as to who selects the images, other things that should be covered include image format, and any specifics such as photo albums and size and number of prints.
This is an area that is often not clearly understood by clients, who may feel that they are entitled to copyright over your images because they're paying for the shoot. Your copyright section should clearly state that you own the copyright to your work, including all images you deliver to the client.
6. Usage Rights
With your copyright firmly established, you will need to have a section that outlines usage rights. These rights will vary depending on your client.
For example, you may have a stipulation for individuals obtaining portrait or wedding photography that your images may not be used for commercial purposes; for commercial clients, you'll want to go into detail about how they can and cannot use your photos.
Another area you may want to cover is attribution, such as including your name or the name of your business on all images posted to social media. And if you foresee your own use of the images, either in your portfolio or for your own advertising, this should be stated in your contract as well.
Many photographers will obtain separate model or property releases, but releases can also be included in the body of the photography contract itself.
In general, even if you don't think you'll ever use the images for your own commercial purposes, it's always a good idea to obtain releases beforehand. If you take a spectacular shot, for example, the necessary releases, properly signed, will enable you to use the shot for self-promotion.
8. Additional Services
Providing a list of additional services which your client can request, along with the associated fees for each service, can be extremely helpful. Not only does such a list clarify for your client what isn't included as part of your basic fee, it also makes the process easier if they do decide they'd like to book additional services.
9. Post-Production and Photo Editing
This is an important part of the contract where you will set out not only the type of post-production and editing work you'll be providing, but also state the types of edits your client is permitted to do on the images they receive from you. Because your work is a part of your brand, it's often a good idea to limit your clients' ability to edit your photos.
If you're providing photography for events such as weddings, consider including a section in your contract that states your priority as a photographer over any other photographers, including guests to the event. This reduces the likelihood of people getting in the way of important shots.
You may even want to stipulate parts of the event for which you will have exclusive shooting rights.
Your contract should clearly set out the fees for the services you'll be providing. It's also a good idea to include a breakdown of these fees, and an outline as to who is to pay for any expenses you might incur. Doing this will reduce the possibility of a client being surprised when you send them your invoice.
12. Payment Terms
This section should include any specifics regarding deposits, retainers, interim payments, and final payment terms, along with the dates on which each payment needs to be made.
Your terms should also cover how payments are to be made, and what happens if there are any NSF payments or bounced checks, including additional fees you will charge.
13. Limitation of Liability
By including a liability limitation section in your contract, you protect yourself from unexpected occurrences such as natural disasters, or personal illness. It's also a good idea to state in this section if you will provide a replacement photographer in such cases, and/or provide a full or partial refund.
It's crucial to have a cancellation clause in your contract that sets out the requirements that must be adhered to in the event either you or your client needs to cancel the contract. This section should include details such as the timing of the notice required and what happens on cancellation.
A comprehensive photography contract is invaluable for all photography businesses. By providing a contract that is specific and customized to the needs of each client and their specific events, you will protect yourself, your business, and your clients.