Photography contracts and forms are essential documents for any photography business, as they provide protection for both clients and photographers. 

The overarching purpose of a photography contract is to establish rules of the relationship between photography businesses and their clients. This can include methods for resolving conflicts between both parties. A contract can also be used to maintain effective communications between photographers and photography clients.

Photography contracts can be used for:

  • Weddings
  • Commercial photography sessions
  • Family or individual portraits

When a person hires a photographer, they can use a contract to detail how they want their photos taken, how and when the photos will be delivered, and who retains rights to the photographs. Before setting up a photography business, it's important to understand that the rules you will need to follow can depend on where you are establishing your business.

For instance, you will need to choose a business structure for your photography company, and your options will be:

The structure that you choose will have a big influence on the taxes you will pay, your level of liability, and how much capital you will need to start your business. In certain areas, a sales tax will be applied to the fee that you charge for your photography services. However, regardless of where your business is located, you will need to charge sales taxes for the photos that you sell.

To protect yourself and ensure the continued growth of your business, you should consider purchasing limited liability insurance and a policy for your photography equipment. Limited liability insurance is especially important if you plan to work with children or photograph specialized events such as weddings. If you invest in an equipment insurance policy, this will cover tools of the photography trade such as cameras and laptops.

Clients need to insist on a photography contract if they're using a photographer for a special occasion or if the photographer is working as a contractor or freelancer. It's also a good idea for clients to be sure that their photography contract includes provisions that will allow them to purchase additional prints or extending their time with their photographer. Photography contracts are important for photographers because they can help guarantee complete, on-time payment. 

Are Photography Contracts Legally Binding?

When written correctly, a photography contract is legally binding and will describe the responsibilities and rights of both the client and the photographer. It's important to make sure your contract is written in such a way that it will be valid in multiple scenarios. However, you should also be certain your contract matches your photography business's needs.

You should keep your contracts in both digital document and PDF formats. This will allow you to easily print your contract so that your clients can physically fill it out.

You should remember that small changes in wording can completely alter your contract. For instance, the wording of your contract may make it possible for you to keep the client's deposit if the abruptly cancel your services. 

One of the most common forms used by a photography business is called a portrait agreement, which describes responsibilities of the photographer and expectations of the client.

Essential issues covered by a portrait agreement include:

  • The names of the clients and the photographer
  • How the money will be exchanged
  • The products and services they photographer has agreed to provide
  • How services can be canceled
  • A copyright notification

In general, there are two forms of portrait contract: long-form general photography and short-form general photography. A long-form contract will be used for specialized portraits, such as baby or senior portraits, or for events such as engagement or family photo shoots. Short-form contracts are used for simpler shoots that don't have special requirements.

A model release form is another type of form you will likely need for your photography business. These forms will be signed by the subject that you're shooting, or by a legal guardian or parent if the person you are photographing is a minor. Once this form is signed, you will have permission to both take photographs and display these photographs after they have been developed. While using model release forms isn't a requirement in most cases, you will need these forms if you wish to display your work on social media or in marketing materials.

If you need help writing photography contracts and forms, you can post your legal needs 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.