Photographer contracts have a purpose to define the rules clearly and to resolve potential disputes that are agreeable to both the photographer and the client. A photographer contract is important in stating the terms of agreement between the customer and the service provider, outlining factors such as the payment, the delivery of the product, cancellation, and the copyright.

General Steps to Creating a Photographer Contract

When creating a photography contract, keep it simple and follow the five W's: Who, What, Why, When, and Where.

  1. Clearly outline the factual details involved in the photo shoot. This includes the location where the photos will be taken, the date, and the time. Include the name and the phone number of the person who will be your on-site contact. 
  2. During the negotiation process of determining your rate and the prices for the photos, ask how the photos will be used. Knowing how the photos are to be used allows you to set pricing for licensing fees, if applicable, and to choose the correct format for taking the pictures.
  3. In the contract, specify whether you will allow the client access to the original images. Spell out in the contract any assistance the client is to provide before, during, or after the photo shoot.
  4. Include in the contract that the client is to supply a photography shot list, so you know what needs to be photographed. Add a disclaimer that releases you from any responsibility if the client does not hold up his or her part of the contract by providing the assistance listed in the contract.
  5. Once you know what type of photos you will be taking, add a section to the contract about how the final photos are to be delivered. Include any extra costs for delivery, such as shipping costs or mailing fees. Also, include the cost of delivery items such as a CD, a DVD, or an item to upload the photos.
  6. If your client prefers the photos be shared via an internet cloud computing service, such as Dropbox, specify in the contract how long the link will be active to access.
  7. If you have a client that is not pleased with your work, offering an alternative action, such as a complimentary photo shoot, is an option. Whatever method you choose to address unhappy clients, add this to the contract.

Setting the Price in the Contract

Define the payment terms of your contract. This section will also include what forms of payment are acceptable along with any additional fees.

A measure to ensure payment is to require a partial deposit before the photo shoot. Be sure to include the:

  • Deposit amount
  • Date the deposit is due
  • Remaining balance figure 

A general time frame for payment is a net 30-day deadline for the final payment from the client. These terms need to be outlined in the contract and on your invoice. 

When accepting payments:

  • The simplest way is by cash or check. As a bonus, neither has additional fees. 
  • Online transfers are another option for the client. 
  • Credit cards are the third option, but they usually include a processing fee.

If you are to be the exclusive photographer for the shoot, include this in the contract. 

If a DVD of the images is not a part of the package, a reproduction policy should be included in the contract. This would clarify that clients do not have the authorization to reproduce your work unless you provide written permission. 

Ensuring Delivery of the Product

Specify in the contract the date the client expects delivery. If delivery is to be the same day, include the cost of a rush fee. 

Regardless of how the photos are delivered, timelines for when they are to arrive must be agreed to in advance.

Expecting the Unexpected Scenarios

Unexpected things happen, and sometimes beyond anyone's control. It's best to go over with the client any "what if" scenarios, such as weather delays, and outline how they will be handled in the contract. By doing so, both parties will know what is expected should the scenario turn into a reality.

When a Cancellation Occurs

Include a cancellation clause in the contract. This will cover either the client or the photographer. Be sure to clarify:

  • What the time frame is for canceling that will allow the client to receive a full refund of his or her deposit, such as two weeks before the photo shoot. 
  • What happens to the amount of the refund when less notice is given.

Should you need to cancel or postpone taking the photographs, include in the contract what you will do, such as finding and sending another photographer in your place.

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