Hey there, professional or aspiring photographer—how are you making sure you get what you deserve from your clients?
It’s one of the biggest obstacles for creatives like photographers: presenting their clients with a contract. There’s a lot to consider before you send someone beautifully edited pictures. But you might be hesitant about sending over an official contract.
Understandable, but also risky. At the end of the day, you want to make sure that you are getting paid the correct amount in a reasonable timeframe, that your work isn’t being used in the wrong way and that your customers are happy. Those are all things a contract helps with, so you don’t have to have lengthy conversations and back and forths.
What are the most common things that photographers and clients struggle within their partnership? We give you a ready-to-use list of critical things to include in your photography contract to grow a healthy and secure business.
Three Reasons To Work With A Photography Contract
Still think investing time or money in creating a contract is not worth it? Let’s look at some of the reasons professional photographers swear by contracts and won’t work without them.
Contracts Improve Overall Communication
Nobody likes to talk about money with clients. It certainly breaks up the flow of a nice conversation with a potential new client. How do you bring it up in a way that isn’t unexpected, remaining professional yet friendly?
That’s what contracts are for. They do the dirty work, while you keep having engaging conversations.
Contracts Eliminate Miscommunication And Resolve Conflict
Maybe you have dozens of emails or, even worse, phone calls, with clients before sealing the deal. It can be hard to remember what exactly has been said and promised by both parties. Leave no room for miscommunication or guesswork by putting everything in a contract, which will help you resolve conflicts quickly.
You Will Look Even More Professional
If you work with a contract, people will assume that you have done your work regularly enough to make investing in a contract worthwhile. It shows you take your work and your clients seriously.
Combine all of these points, and you’ll see that both you and your clients will have more pleasant experiences during your shoots. This will also benefit you in the future because word-of-mouth travels fast.
How Do You Create A Photography Contract?
You don’t have to be a legal expert yourself or pay big bucks to work with a photography contract. With a quick Google search, you will find dozens of templates for photography contracts that you can tweak to fit your business. If you want to make sure it’s really airtight, pay a lawyer to look it over and check if the language is clear.
What You Should Put In Your Photography Contract
Let’s get down to business: what are musts for photography contracts? We put together a short and sweet list to check off to make sure you can go to your next project full of confidence.
1. What People Are Allowed To Do With Your Pictures (And What Definitely Not)
To a lot of people, even in the creative industry, copyright is still a puzzling concept. There are a lot of misconceptions and assumptions about what you are allowed to do with the creative work you purchase, such as pictures. As a photographer, it’s important to know what people can and cannot do and to educate your clients in a way that is easy to understand, but also shows you mean business.
What type of usage rights you will need to outline, will differ depending on the project.
For commercial projects, you will have to discuss how they can use the pictures. Is it just for this project, or could they use them on their social media as well? What about printing them?
For weddings, for instance, other rules will apply. You might send couples a printing release that allows them to print their pictures for personal use.
With copyright, you will have to keep in mind that it’s possible that people use your images for financial gain, or for campaigns that they were not intended for. It definitely pays off to talk with a legal expert who knows the industry and get your contract airtight.
Another thing to consider when you allow people to use your pictures is to negotiate how they are allowed to use them exactly. Let’s take a wedding: you might be the pro they hired, but they have an enthusiastic family member with a big camera who also wants to take some pictures,
Wedding pics inevitably will end up on social media, and probably in the same album. If yours get mixed up with those from an amateur, it could make you look bad (no offense to that amateur). Discuss this with clients and clearly state what is okay and what isn’t, and explain why. The why usually helps people understand rules and guidelines better.
2. What You Will Deliver—In Detail
As a photographer, you know that one picture isn’t just one picture. There are raw files, and then there are edited versions. Some clients assume that they will get a folder with all the pictures you took in a day—edited and all. But you know that that probably isn’t what they really want.
Be unmistakably clear on what you will send over to your clients. How many files will they get? What about high and low resolution? Do they get the unedited versions? What happens if they don’t like how you edited certain pictures? Is there a second round of edits included? Make sure you don’t miss anything that people often ask about.
3. How Much You Will Get Paid, By When, And What For (Plus Additional Fees)
You deserve fair compensation for your creativity and time. Not to mention that the tools and software you use as a photographer aren’t cheap. Your contract should obviously state how much you will be charging, but to communicate even better, there are some things you should add.
Will you be charging a retainer? What will people have to pay in case of cancellations from their side? What happens with a retainer when you are the one who—god forbid—has to cancel?
Other important things to include are when you are expecting payment, and what the consequences are of not paying. If you want to be paid upfront by a certain date, and people haven’t done it then, will you still show up for the shoot?
Top it off with any possible additional fees that you might charge—after informing them of this, of course. It could very well be that on a shooting day, they see the opportunity for more or different pictures. What will those extra hours and that extra material cost them?
4. The Scope And Schedule Of Your Photography Project
As a photographer, you may have noticed that people get rather excited in the run-up to a shoot. They will be bombarding you with questions and emails, and we all know how much time goes into answering those.
To give yourself and your clients some peace of mind, write down a structured schedule of what they can expect and when. This will prevent any miscommunications about deadlines and makes it clear what you were hired for, and that you probably still have other projects to focus on.
In this scope, also include what you will be taking care of and what will be the responsibility of the client. This goes from location and hair and make-up to catering and props for the shoot. You don’t want to arrive there and realize one small thing has been forgotten and will create a major issue.
5. What Happens In Case Of Cancellations
We already covered that you should secure payments in case your clients cancel on you, but you should also take care of your clients. In case you can’t show up, will you make sure there’s another photographer?
This is especially important when it comes to events, but keep in mind that even for other occasions models will need to be hired, locations booked and other people will have cleared their schedule.
Ready, Steady, Shoot!
With a photography contract, you will be able to focus on what you do best without having to worry about communication issues and what-ifs. You and your clients will arrive on the day of the shooting knowing exactly what the deal is, so everyone can deliver their best work. Say cheese!