Photography contracts for portraits are documents that can legally protect a client and their photographer before, during, and after a portrait session. 

What to Include in a Photography Client Contract

A photography contract can be an invaluable tool. These contracts protect both photographers and clients, and can also make it clear to your client what product they will be receiving. Having a contract can make your client more comfortable hiring you for their photography needs. By reading your photography contract, your client will know exactly what they'll be getting throughout the portrait process, which can make them much easier to work with.

What you include in your contract will depend on the specific needs of your photography business, including the services that you offer.

Booking Fees

The first thing you need to include in your contract is your policy on booking fees. In particular, if you require a fee for booking a session, your contract will need to describe if the fee is refundable if the client misses the sessions. You will also need to outline exactly why your fee covers. For instance, many clients will assume that their fee will entitle them to digital files of their shoot. If the cost of these files is not covered by the initial fee, this must be explicitly stated in your contract.

Rescheduling Arrangements

It's also a good idea for your contract to cover what happens if your client needs to reschedule on short notice. This can include:

  • Charges for rescheduling.
  • Advanced notice is needed for rescheduling.

Most photography client contracts will also include a weather policy. Will you refund the fee if a shoot is canceled because of weather? What about rescheduling? The answers to these questions must be included in your contract. Including provisions for when you, the photographer, need to cancel a session is also a good idea. Your client will want to know that they're protected in these circumstances.

Commercial Use of Images

One of the most important things to add to your contract is rules for how your photography business will use the photos you've taken during the shoot. For example, you will need to decide if these images will be used for:

  • Your social media profiles.
  • Your businesses marketing materials.
  • Photography competitions.

For some of these uses, your client may need to sign a model release. It's also possible that your client won't be comfortable with their images being used for purposes other than their own. Your client's rights to their pictures should be clearly stated in your contract. 

Ownership of Images

Ownership of images resulting from a photo shoot can be very complicated, which is why you should cover this issue in your contract. Many photography clients automatically assume they own the copyright to their photos after they've paid for the files. If you retain ownership of the images, this must be made clear to your client before the session take place.

Printing Rights

Photography client contracts should also explain printing rights. Generally, clients will have printing rights instead of ownership rights. This section of your contract should fully describe your client's printing rights to their image. For example, are the images only be allowed for your client's personal use, or can they print them for whatever purpose they choose?

Online Restrictions

It's common for photographers to include certain restrictions in their contract related to the online use of their images. This can include requiring your clients to leave your watermark on the photo when uploading or preventing them from altering the images when adding them to an online photo service such as Instagram. 

Ordering Images

In your contract, you should also explain the process for ordering images. Particularly, you will need to decide if you require full payment when ordering or if your client can order their images and then pay at a later date. Similarly, you need to describe when a sale is final. Will it be possible for your client to change their order if they aren't satisfied, or are all sales final once payment has been received?

While it's possible to write your photography contract by yourself, the better idea is consulting with an attorney and having them create your contract. Your attorney will know exactly what to include in your contract so that both you and your client are legally protected.

You should also understand that these tips should only be used for portrait contracts. Contracts for corporate or wedding photographers are much more complicated.

If you need help writing photography contracts for portraits, 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.