10 Things EVERY Photography Contract Needs

10 Things EVERY Photography Contract Needs

As a photographer, you’re a small business owner and that means protecting yourself and your business with the proper legal forms. 


Every professional photographer needs to understand the basics of what needs to be included in your photography contracts so you can walk your client through the different sections with ease, without any confusion about the details or the legalese. 


And here at Entrepreneur Contracts, we’re all about giving you the inside track on the “legalese” so you can always bring on a new client without feeling confused about the legal side of things or worry about what would happen if it goes sideways. 


In this post, we’ll discuss the top 10 things every photography contract should include -- and why so many photographers chose to invest in our legal contract templates from the beginning to help them save money, time, and the headaches. 


You can have access to these effective legal documents to protect your photography business WITHOUT the huge expense of finding and hiring a lawyer to write them for you. 


The legal side of things is often a catch-22 for most small business owners and photographers. 


One the one hand, you want to create a really strong legal foundation for your business so you can sleep at night knowing you and your business are protected. 


But on the other hand, you don’t necessarily want to spend THOUSANDS of dollars for an attorney to ONLY consult on your contract, let alone write one from scratch. 


Hiring an attorney to write each contract for you could cost you THOUSANDS of dollars for each document. 


And as a photographer, you need to take action to protect yourself and your business legally. 


Make sure you sign up below to get our free Legal Checklist to make sure your business is legally compliant. 


Why Every Professional Photographer Needs a Great Contract


If you’re getting paid for your photography skills, it’s vital to have a great contract to protect both you and your client. 


We have seen far too many photographers get burned with clients refusing to pay their fees, continuously asking them to add on services for free (or being shocked and flabbergasted if the photographer increases the price to match the new services.)

Misunderstandings are bound to happen, but you don’t want those misunderstandings to create bitterness or anger in either party. 


And you definitely don’t want it to lead to the courtroom!


That’s why it’s so vital to have a great contract in place with every client so you can outline expectations, including the fees and services provided while also outlining the rights and responsibilities of both parties. 


Contracts help create a foundation of the professional and legitimate transaction so you (and your work!) are taken seriously. 


Plus, it has the added benefit of establishing trust with your client. When they see what they can expect without any surprises, it prevents any misunderstandings so everyone is on the same page.


 Information and Names for Your Business and Your Client


First and foremost, you want to make sure you have the information of both parties, including the contact information and names for you and your business. 


It might seem like a “No D’uh” thing, but in this day and age where people are making agreements through text or social media, you can never be too careful. 


Having the names of both parties is crucial to preventing misunderstandings (which happen far too often with deals made over social or on texts. 


It also makes it much easier for YOU if you need to contact your client for anything. You won’t have to go digging through all your DMs to find the right information. 


Plus, when you put your information, you’ll want to make sure that you are putting in your business entity information rather than your individual information, especially if you have any of the limited liability structures like an LLC, an S-Corp or a C-Corp. 


 Payment Terms and Schedule



Let’s talk about the money!


The payment terms outline how much the client will be paying for your services as a photographer and editor. 

However, it also outlines whether you are to receive a deposit before getting started or not. Many photographers will require half of the sum prior to get started. 


For branding photographers or those freelancing for larger companies, this is also where you’ll state your retainer terms and pricing. 


If it’s a big job, like if you’re a wedding photographer doing a full-package, it’s likely you will have payments at different points in the process. 


Another key factor that many photographers don’t include or consider for their payment terms is what will happen if the payment is delayed or if it bounces. 


When you outline this in your contract, it will save you a world of headaches and hassle. You won’t have to argue with your clients if they fail to pay you. 


And like I mentioned before, we’ve seen so many photographers get stiffed because they didn’t have a contract that outlined the payment terms properly or they didn’t have a contract AT ALL. Many of them ended up doing all the work for only a fraction of their original price because they didn’t have the right contract in place. 


Summary of the Deliverables



The summary of the deliverables outlines what you’ll be providing to your client. 


Typically, you’ll want to discuss whether the photos will be raw or edited. 


But you’ll also want to discuss how many shots you’ll be delivering, the size of the different photos, whether they’ll be prints or digital files. 


This section tends to take up the majority of the contract because you’ll want to make sure you’re summarizing in as much detail as possible what you’ll be delivering. 


Each client will be a little bit different in terms of what they want delivered and what the pricing will be, so you’ll be editing this section often. 


The deliverables also tend to reveal when you will be delivering the goods. Maybe you only need a few days to get the RAW files to your client, but if you’re also doing the editing, you might need more time. 


When you state how long you will need to deliver the files and photos, your client will know what to expect. 


It’s also a great idea to outline how long you’ll be keeping the files. Many clients come back years later and are shocked when the photographer no longer has the raw files of a wedding that took place 5-10 years ago! 


Meaning, they won’t be calling or texting every five minutes wondering when you’re going to give them their photos!


 Start Date and Shoot Date


The start date and shoot dates will keep everyone on the same page. Make sure you summarize not just your start and end times for the shoot, but also outline the different locations. 


This is particularly important for wedding photographers. You’ll want to make sure that you discuss each of the different locations for the different shoots like the engagement shoot, the wedding venue and the reception. 


By outlining the start date and shoot date, you’ll be able to keep it all clear for your client so they have a deeper understanding of what to expect when working with you. 


 Cancellation Policy & Kill Fee


This is a big one. 


Sometimes, for whatever reason, your client has to back out. 


Maybe they decided to go a different route. 


Maybe the event in question is no longer happening. 


But whatever the reason, you need to have a cancellation policy and kill fee in place so you don’t lose out if they decide not to use your services. 


The cancellation policy details how and when they can cancel as well as the fees they can expect for cancelling. 


Many photographers will have a non-refundable deposit set as a kill fee for any cancelation. However, some photographers are willing to do partial refund of the deposit. 


You’ll also want to think about when they need to cancel. Do they have 24 hours? A week? Two weeks? How long do they have before the start time to cancel?


The amount of time often varies depending on what kind of shoot you’re doing. If you’re doing a wedding package for example or if you’re an equine photographer doing a month long horse show, you likely won’t want them to cancel only 24 hours ahead of your shoot. 


But if you’re only doing a small hour long shoot for a brand, maybe you’ll only need a day. 


It depends on your business.


Make sure you’re thinking of the different scenarios. 


Copyright Ownership and Use Rights


Discussing the copyright ownership is VITAL for creatives like photographers. It’s one of the most important things for you to outline properly in your contracts because it can have a huge impact if you have a dispute with your client. 


Many of the horror stories we hear from photographers involve the copyrights and their clients disputing who has ownership. 


Many clients believe that because they are the subject of the photos or because they paid for them, they automatically get the copyrights. 


But the reality is, they are purchasing a service which isn’t something that can be owned. 


And under The Copyright Act of 1976, you own the image you created as soon as you take the photograph. The person who took the picture owns the copyright throughout the entirety of their life and for another 70 years after. 


Which means your clients don’t automatically get the copyright to the photo, unless stated otherwise in your contract. 


(PSA - that’s why it’s so important to use attorney drafted legal documents. If you use a free legal template online, they are often drafted to protect the client rather than the photographer!)


Most photographers will want to retain their copyright over the photographs while providing your clients with “use rights”. 


This means that though you own the images, your clients will have permission to use it. 


Usage rights are when the artist provides permission to the client to use the piece of art (in your case, your photographs) for a specific purpose in the time allotted. 


For example, many photographers allow them to use the photos for personal use or to share on social media. 


But if your client wants to use the photographs to sell something, then you will need to explicitly state how and where they can use your photographs for commercial means. 


(For example, if you’re a real estate photographer, fashion photographer, product photographer or stock photographer, you will want to state how and when the clients can use your photos.)


Model or Property Releases


Another vital section to your photography contract is your property and/or model release forms. 


The property and model release is an agreement between the photographer and the people in the photograph or those who own the private property being photographed.  


If you’re doing a shoot on private property, and sometimes even if it’s public property like a gallery or museum, you might need consent if you want to publish your photos. 


Model releases are always a requirement for advertising, but it’s always a good idea to have a model and property release clause in your contract to cover your bases. That way, you can use the photos for your own marketing strategy and social media. 


Many photographers choose to add an additional fee if the client refuses to agree to the property or model release. 


Keep the lines of communication open with your clients. If you discuss how and when you plan on using the images, you’ll build trust. Many clients are happy to sign the model or property release.


Editing or Post-Production 


The editing and post-production clause helps your client understand what they’re allowed to do with their images. 


Some clients want the RAW files, but many want to have just the edited version. 


You need to state how your clients can use your photographs and whether they are allowed to add any edits to them. 


A lot of photographers want control over the final product of each photo because it reflects who you are as an artist and your brand.


However, as more and more photos are being used for social media, whether personally or for brand imaging, many photographers are opting to give their clients the raw files and allow them to edit them as they like. 


This section will describe whether or not your client is allowed to edit the files or not. 


But it also outlines the editing services (if any) that you provide. You could offer basic edits and color balancing as a part of the project for example, but major editing like removing background items could cost extra. 


And that brings us into the extra fees.


Extra Fees


Remember how at the beginning of this blog post, I mentioned the horror stories of some of our photographer clients?


Many of them had to do with the photographer’s clients trying to sneak in extra pieces to the project without paying them. 


And isn’t it sad that this happens so often with friends and family or acquaintances?


You would think they would be willing to pay full price!


But that’s also why it’s vital to outline extra fees in your contracts, so you never feel guilty about turning down the extras. If they’re willing to pay for it, they can get it!


This section should include what goes beyond your typical services, like major editing. 


Each niche in photography has different things that could be extra fees. 


Many will want to include travel fees and extended shoot time fees. 


Some include second photographers or extra fees for late payments. 


Many will also want to include permit fees for location tools. 


And last but not least…


 Liability Limitation


The limit of liability clause is one of the most important clauses in all contracts but it’s also one that’s often missing from a majority of “free”contracts. 


Yeah, those are Dr. Evil air quotes around free because the free contracts can often cost you big time later!


The liability of limitations states what will happen in case of things like illness, injury, or digital files getting lost. Generally speaking, these are the things that are beyond your control like the “acts of God” which tend to include things like poor weather or natural disasters. 


But it will also reveal what happens if you can’t perform your job due to things beyond your control. 


And the really intelligent photographers will include a statement about not being able to get specific shots unless stated otherwise in the contract, so they don’t have a client trying to take them to court over not getting Jimmy’s sister’s kid putting his face in the wedding cake. 


It will mention what you agree to do if these events happen and what the client can expect. 


A lot of photographers offer to return the retainer or find a replacement photographer if needed. They also often state that the damages can’t go beyond the price of the original contract, meaning if they do decide to take you to court, you won’t be on the hook for outrageous fees. 



These are the top 10 things every photographer should include in their contract. 


You’ll need to tailor each piece to your individual needs and to your specific niche. 


There’s really no excuse for not having a simple contract in place with your clients. 


Yes, with every single client. 


Even if it’s your cousin. (ESPECIALLY IF IT”S YOUR COUSIN!)


Sorry for the shouty capitalization, but those horror stories are pretty awful. 


The Photography Bundle


Don’t put your photography business at risk with free contracts you found on the 34th page of Google. 


They can rob you of the protection, security, and peace of mind. 


Because many of them aren’t up to date and many of them aren’t even written by attorneys, meaning you can end up wasting a ton of time and money trying to get out of the mess they make. 


If you are looking for photography contract templates and gain some peace of mind by protecting your photography business legally, make sure you check out our Photographer’s Legal Bundle.


These have been drafted by a licensed and practicing attorney so you know you’ll be getting quality contracts. 


Comment below and let us know if you have any horror stories from that time you didn’t use a contract with your client!

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