If your business involves taking pictures of animals, a pet photography contract is essential to keeping your business legitimate and your rights protected. Any kind of photographer should make sure they work within a legal framework, but especially those that work with a sensitive market (i.e. pets).

Ensuring that your photography business fits within optimal legal parameters can mean many things, from choosing the right business structure to create client contracts. Make sure to form your business as a structure that protects your personal assets from liability, such as a limited liability company or a corporation.

Your jurisdiction (park, city, county, state, etc.) may have specific regulations regarding the type and size of breeds allowed, and may require permits for animals or photography. Make sure to look up your shooting location's rules and regulations.

It's also important to ensure your liability insurance covers pets, should an accident occur during your photo shoot. Some states categorize pets as property and therefore do not offer increased benefits to pet owners.

If you do a pet photography session without proper education and experience working with different breeds and dispositions, it can end poorly for all parties involved. Not only could it risk the safety of the pet, the client, and yourself, but you can damage the reputation for your services and business overall.

During the Pet Photography Session

Taking these few simple steps will help you keep every party safe l, as and increase the likelihood of a successful shoot.

  • Get to know the disposition and personality of the pet so you'll know how to approach the session.
  • Take time for a pre-shoot consultation and emphasize to the client that you are developing a relationship before the session occurs.
  • Don't forget that every photo shoot is playtime for the animal. Romp around with them, play fetch, cuddle, pet, play with a string. Do whatever it takes to put the animal in their natural, happy state.
  • Stay alert during every shoot. Observe everything in your vicinity, especially other animals and people. Stay alert to anything that catches the animal's eye. Observe body language and educate yourself to know what kind of reactions to expect from both your client's pet and other nearby animals.
  • Remain calm and in control at all times during the photo shoot. Animals are very sensitive and can sense when you are uncomfortable or stressed.
  • If you are preparing for a photo shoot with an unfamiliar animal, take the time to get to know their behavior. Talk to a vet, animal specialist, or other animal photographers. Read a book or blog about the breed.
  • Offer your skills to a local animal shelter. This gives you the chance to gain more hands-on experience, grow your portfolio, and develop a community reputation for the charitable work you are doing.

Pet Photography Contract Clauses

To cover all aspects of your business and your professional relationship with your client and their pet(s), consider including the following clauses (examples included) in your contract:

  • Liability — The client assumes all responsibility, including any destruction of property. The client shall disclose any behavioral issues before the session.
  • Model and Property Release — The client grants the photographer the right to use any images for self-promotion, publicity, contests, or galleries. The photographer agrees to never use the photographs in a slanderous, hurtful, or demeaning way.
  • Copyrights and Creative Use — The client must credit the photographer when sharing any images.
  • Pricing Disclosure — The client has reviewed the price tables for the services and agrees to the pay the full written price before the session. Pricing can be subject to change.
  • Payment Policy — The full payment must be made before the photo shoot. Additional prints (not included within the package) may be ordered at any time thereafter, subject to the online viewing fees.
  • Studio Policies and Cancellations — The photographer will edit and prepare photos within a certain time after the photo shoot.
  • Reprints — The client may view the images and select products via the online gallery. If the client wishes to view prints after the online viewing period, a fee will be charged to re-upload the photos.
  • Travel — The client agrees to pay a set travel fee for travel to any location within a certain number of miles of the studio.
  • Signatures — Client name, photographer name, date.

If you need help understanding or writing a pet photography contract, you can post your legal need on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top 5 percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.