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Top 10 things to include in your Photography Contract 

Christina Keough
Last Updated:

8 Aug 2022

Published On:

22 Jul 2022

min read

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New photographers often overlook the importance of crafting a solid legal agreement that outlines the terms and conditions of a particular gig. You might think that a simple discussion during the sales process about what each party expects or agreeing on a quote beforehand is sufficient. However, the reality is that if you are getting paid for your services, protecting yourself and your client through a photography contract is a crucial first step to completing any project successfully. 

 

 

A photography contract, therefore, ensures that you and your client have a written legal agreement you can rely on and refer to. It is fundamental that you draw up a solid contract, detailing the terms and conditions of the photography service, before providing professional photography services.

 

This guide provides an overview of the top 10 things to include in your photography contract to ensure that you and your business are protected, and your clients feel secure. 

 

What is a photography contract? 

A photography contract is a written legal agreement used when a client hires a photographer for photography services. It covers the terms of the agreement and tasks to be done by the photographer, as well as the client’s obligations. Terms and conditions can typically be negotiated prior before both parties sign the document such that a compromise is reached. 

 

What are the benefits of creating a photography contract? 

Photography contracts are beneficial because they set out in written terms all the essential details of a particular gig or service - ensuring that the client and the photographer (or business) are on the same track. 

 

Some key benefits of a photography contract: 

    • Transparent breakdown of fees and what the client is paying for  
    • Protects rights & interests 
    • Both parties can proceed in confidence and maintain a healthy relationship 
    • Avoids disputes leading to costly legal proceedings 
    • Allows for negotiation prior to any actual engagement in the service 

 

What to do before drawing up a contract? 

Prior to contracting, it is important that you and the client are on the same page. This means that the sales process is crucial in figuring out what each party expects. The contract is simply a mechanism for solidifying what has been agreed in writing.  

 

What to include in your photography contract? 

Although each specific contract will vary depending on the scope of engagement, nature of the service, and client profile, this guide will touch on the top 10 most important provisions that are essential to ensuring that your photography contract is legally enforceable. These clauses are completely customisable and can be changed to meet your specific needs. 

 

 

 

1. Name & contact of parties involved 

For legal purposes, it is important that you clarify who exactly is involved. Put down complete contact details and the address of you and the client at the very start of the contract. Simply putting down their email address is not enough - try to write down both sides' physical addresses and/or locations if possible. Providing complete contact information as such ensures that either side can be reached if needed.  

 

 

2. Scope of Photography Service 

This section should cover the basics: what type of service is being provided, as well as the time, date, and location of the photography service.

 

First, specify what type of service it is - is it an engagement, marriage, product advertisement photoshoot? What exactly is being provided in exchange for payment? Oftentimes you will have already discussed this on informal or vague terms before contracting, but it is important to get even more specific whilst drafting the contract – ideally, you should be able to write down the precise number of photos or kinds of shots to prevent disputes. 

 

 

 

In addition to clarifying what the service is, you should address the question of when: include an estimated timeline and key dates which align with both the clients’ and your schedule. Making this clear at the outset will ensure that you can plan out your schedule and the client knows what to expect, and when to expect deliverables. 

 

You should also include the location(s) of the photoshoot, particularly if the shoot is spread out over a period or will be shot in many different locations. 

 

 

3. Cancellation and rescheduling policy 

Cancellation policies are integral to protecting your photography business, particularly when a client decides to cancel on a short-term notice. The conditions and strictness of the policy is up to you, but as a basic requirement, it should explain how clients should communicate their cancellation ahead of time, as well as the relevant timeframe for cancellation – ie. the latest possible time they can do this without incurring a late cancellation fee and/or getting a refund. It should also make clear that if this time frame or policy is not adhered to and the client cancels, a cancellation fee will be incurred as a result.  

 

You may also want to include a rescheduling policy which provides for scenarios in which the session will be rescheduled – for example, under certain weather conditions, etc.  

 

As mentioned, the more precise the better. You may want to state what, if anything, you’re responsible for if a cancellation does occur. 

 

 

4. Payment Details & Fees   

In this section of the contract, you should include all relevant payment details, including any deposit, retainers, or other fees you plan on charging. You should also make clear the payment schedule – ie. whether you expect payment to be given on an up-front or interim basis. 

 

 

If there are any additional costs you anticipate or want to account for, for example, travel costs, you will want to mention that at this point as well. 

 

It is good to specify what procedure is in place if these payments are not made or fail. 

 

 

5. Copyright and ownership 

The copyright clause is particularly important when it comes to photography services. Unless you choose to transfer your copyright to your client, you retain that copyright and therefore own the photos you take. Nonetheless, it is recommended that you reiterate this in the contract as clients often overlook this - thinking that because they have paid for photos, they automatically own them. 

 

 

6. Usage rights 

In this section it is important you outline the ways in which your client can use your images, as well as any restrictions on their usage to ensure that you are compensated and recognised for your work. Oftentimes, photographers choose to grant usage rights for a fixed period rather than an unlimited period. How far those usage rights extend (if any) will naturally vary depending on the client – for example, whether they are a commercial or private entity, whether they are using those photos for a product campaign or for personal use, etc. Based on the client’s profile, think about whether there are any timeframe or platform limitations you wish to impose. Again, be specific.  

 

You may also want to address whether you want your name to be placed on the photos when those photos are used or distributed.  This is otherwise known as ‘attribution’ – and is important as it affects the level of recognition and exposure you might receive. 

 

 

7. Limitation of Liability 

A limitation of liability clause is important to include so that you are protected from being held responsible in face of problems out of your control - like a force majeure event, injury, etc. Ideally, you should outline procedures in response to potential scenarios and claims. 

 

 

8. Releases 

If you plan on sharing the photos in a public manner, you must include a section that will need a release. Even if you don’t plan on publishing them publicly, it is a good idea to secure them for legal protection purposes.   

 

A completed release makes clear that your client has warranted and given permission for certain produced photographs to be used. It grants authorisation. 

 

 

9. Confidentiality 

This provision ensures that you agree to not distribute confidential information during and after the completion of the project. If you are working with a commercial client you may have to sign an NDA, but this will ensure that their confidentiality is protected. 

 

 

10. Damages

This is a very important provision as it enables you to limit and cap the potential amount of damages your client might try to claim ahead of time. This is especially relevant for photography contracts because it is hard to determine the actual value of the photos. 

 

It is recommended that you cover the issue of the exact damages which will be incurred if you damage or destroy your client's material, and likewise what damages apply if your client does the same to your material. Typically, damages tend to simply be equivalent to the replacement amount, but this can be altered according to your preferences. 

 

 

Other generic contractual provisions you might include  

In addition to the 10 elements we discussed and highlighted as being particularly crucial, you might want to consider including other standard clauses contracts often contain. This includes, but is not limited to:

    • Choice of law – ie. which jurisdiction you plan to solve issues 
    • Notice of change – ie. how the contract can be modified if needed 
    • The preferred method to resolve disputes – eg. mediation, arbitration, litigation, etc. 
    • Right to Counsel 

 

In addition to these more general contractual provisions, as a formality, you should of course include signature fields so that the contract can be signed and be legally binding. 

 

We understand that this may seem complicated - there is certainly a lot of room for mistakes if you are not careful. Don't worry, though, as we have comprehensive templates for your use. We have three main versions you can use depending on your needs and which party you want it drafted in favour of - ie. whether you are a customer, service provider, or if you simply want it in neutral form. 

 

1. Video Production and Photography Agreement: 

This agreement covers both video and photography services. 

 

2. Event Photography Agreement 

This is a service agreement suitable for event photography services (ie: special events, birthdays, product launches, etc).

 

3. Wedding Photography Agreement:

This is a service agreement suitable for wedding photography services. 

 

Please note that this is a general summary of the position under common law and does not constitute legal advice. As the laws of each jurisdiction may be different, you may wish to consult your lawyer.



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Christina Keough

Christina is a Legal Writer at DocPro. Christina manages the legal articles and blogs, identifies legal topics, and invites lawyers and legal experts to contribute. Christina holds a law degree from a leading university. If you would like to become a blog contributor to DocPro, please click the link below:

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