A (Relatively) Short Post to All of You Budding Photographers About Using A Photography Contract


I always seem to do things the hard way.  This applies to my day job, my life in general, and my photography side line.  Whenever difficult things occur regarding my budding photography biz, I chalk it up to a valuable learning lesson.  Since I have this nifty little blog site, I am going to pass my learning lessons on to you budding photographers out there, so you don’t make the same mistakes I make.

So anyway, I was going to write a post on a recent wedding I photographed.  It really was a neat time and I am very proud of the resulting photos.  But, because of assumptions and mistakes made on both sides, the bride (a friend, thank goodness – I shudder at the thought of having this unpleasantness happen with a stranger) and I got into a bit a disagreement and she nixed me using any photos for  blogging or advertising purposes (that has since changed, thank goodness).    I should have used a contract but she was a friend, so I didn’t do what I should have done – instead I just used a pre-invoice detailing things but without going into the detail I should have gone into.

Let this be a lesson to ALL of you  photographers out there – Family-Friend-Acquaintance-Total Stranger:  use a contract with them ALL, so everything is up front, there are no assumptions made on either side, and the client – after reading the  contract –  has the right (and plenty of time) to go elsewhere without any bad feelings.   You absolutely need something detailed in writing to Spell. It. Out.

Also, you should conduct what I call a “Come To Jesus Meeting” to discuss not only the contract, but what is expected of photographer and client and to answer any questions.  Again, I made the mistake of not doing that because she was a “friend” and we both assumed things.  Lesson learned – valuable one at that.  I now have 3 different photo contracts – each one of them 6 pages in length, geared for weddings, other events, and portrait sessions.

There are as many different photography contracts out there as there are photographers.  But, most of them have a few things in common (I’m sure I’ve probably missed some in the listing here):

  • Detailing the specific nature of the photo job between Photographer and Client – what the job is, where and when it will take place, and client name(s).
  • Payment – this includes anything having to do with a deposit/downpayment, how much the job is expected to cost, when payment is due, payment options.
  • Cooperation/Guides – making certain the client or client designee corrals everybody together for their respective photos, making sure the photographer is told what kind of photos are desired and who or what should be in said photos, and absolving the photographer from any photos missed because the parties were unwilling to get their photo taken, were uncooperative, or did something else to screw up the photo (as in the flash from their point & shoot messing up the scene at the same time the photographer was taking the photo).
  • Copyrights – stating in that contract that the photos taken are protected by copyright laws and that the client(s) have limited copyright ownership.
  • Release/Model Release – this little clause gives the photographer the right to use any photos taken of the client(s) for advertising purposes on any media – be it print, your Facebook photography page, your photo website, television as well as for photo contests, photo publications (example, if you write a book about wedding photography), anything where you might make money from the photo(s) of the client(s)  EXCEPT for pornography/indecent/lewd/illegal purposes.  If the client takes issue with the release clause, then they have the option of going elsewhere, with no hurt feelings.
  • How the images are to be delivered and the fact that all sales are final once the images have left the hands of the photographer.
  • Termination/Cancellation – what happens to the money paid to the photographer if the photo event is cancelled or if the photographer is unable to appear at the photo event.  This kind of goes hand-in-hand with a Force Majeure Clause that is in many photo contracts.
  • Limit of Liability – what the photographer is and is not liable for – sort of goes with the Non-Guarantee clause that stipulates the photographer is not to be held responsible for ruined photos due to things beyond photographer’s control.

There are a number of other clauses that are found in various contracts, and each of these clauses listed here – along with any other clause you might want in your contract – may be as long on detail as you wish.

I ran a Google search on photography contracts, read through selections that were out there for all the worldwide public to view, then crafted my three contracts based on the needs of my own personal photographic business requirements.

While I am sorry about the issues that occurred between myself and my friend, I will readily admit that this was an extremely valuable lesson learned, which I am now applying toward all future photography business.  Oh, and we have since made up and are on good terms with each other again because that’s what friends do (thank goodness).

Crazy things may still happen in my photographic future, but at least I’m better prepared.  My budding photography biz may have a ways to go, but I’m getting there, by golly!

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