No matter how uncomfortable it might feel to send out a photography contract at the beginning of your commercial photography journey, having a robust contract in place is essential for creating professional relationships with your clients.
Using a photography contract will help you to establish expectations (from both parties), protect yourself from misunderstandings or miscommunications, and will ultimately lead to a more polished and streamlined working relationship. Not only this, but your clients will expect a contract and will feel reassured when they receive one from you.
What are some key clauses to cover in your photography contract?
The Scope of Work
While you have already discussed the scope of work over the phone and/or on email, it’s important to reiterate this is in your contract.
Don’t be afraid to drill down on the details here so that nothing is left out and so that neither party forgets what they have committed to. You can write down the exact number of images agreed to and list out the shots requested here. This will protect you from clients wanting to alter the shot list or add extra scenes on the day, causing your schedule to become unmanageable or rushed.
Copyright and Licensing
This clause is really important in a commercial photography contract because it states who owns the images, who can use them, and in what ways.
Unless you have given away the copyright to the client, you own your images. A great example to think of is listening to a band on Spotify. You pay for a license to listen to their music, but you don’t own their songs. The client pays for a license to use your images, but they don’t own them.
In your contract, state how the client is allowed to use the images, what platforms they can use them on, for how long, and in what territories. In general, the larger the client, the more specific these details will be.
In months to come, if you spot an image of yours being used in a way that it was not licensed to be used, you can use your signed contract to help you receive fair compensation.
You’ll have already provided the client with a quote before sending a contract, so there shouldn’t be any surprises here, but laying out the full cost of the shoot is important to make sure everyone is on the same page.
This section should include your creative fee as well as additional costs the client can expect to pay for, such as the assistance of a props or food stylist, shoot assistant, location hire fee, equipment hire fees, and even travel expenses.
Remember to include your payment schedule so the client understands what percentage they will need to pay upfront and when the remaining amount will be due. Outline late fees that the client will incur if they don’t pay on time.
Cancellation and Rescheduling Policy
Including a cancellation policy is important to protect you as a self-employed business owner if a client cancels at the last minute. The exact details of what this policy looks like in your business is up to you, but make sure you clearly share the details for when you will charge a cancellation fee.
Along these lines, consider including a rescheduling policy. Sometimes, life happens, and while both parties might want the photoshoot to take place, freak weather incidents happen, illness happens, and so on. In your contract, outline how much notice you’ll need to reschedule a shoot.
Performance of Services
As long as you execute the work to the standard seen on your portfolio and you follow the client’s brief accurately, the performance of services clause protects you from clients requesting a refund or reshoot.
Most photographers are happy to accommodate small changes or minor edits if a client asks politely with a valid reason. Including this clause will protect you from an entire reshoot if the client has changed direction since signing the contract or has taken on the opinion of another stakeholder who wasn’t involved in creating the original brief.
While this isn’t an exhaustive list of photography contract must-haves by any means, it includes some clauses that have really protected me over the last couple of years. I’d love to know what other clauses you have found invaluable to include in your commercial photography contracts.
If you are looking for more robust help with a photography contract, I would recommend The Contract Shop for specific photography templates written by a lawyer without the expense of a bespoke contract.