5 clauses to include in your photo contracts

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No matter how inconvenient it may feel to send out a photo contract early in your commercial photography journey, a solid contract is essential to building professional relationships with your clients.

Using a photography contract helps you establish expectations (from both parties), protects you from misunderstanding or miscommunication, and ultimately leads to a more polished and streamlined working relationship. In addition, your customers expect a contract and feel reassured when they receive one from you.

What important clauses must be included in your photo contract?

The scope of the work

Whilst you have already discussed the scope of the work over the phone and/or email it is important to repeat this in your contract.

Don’t be afraid to go into detail here so nothing is left out and no party forgets what they have pledged to do. Here you can note the exact number of agreed pictures and list the desired shots. This protects you from clients who want to change the recording list or add additional scenes during the day, causing your schedule to become unmanageable or rushed.

This clause is very important in a commercial photography contract as it defines who owns the images, who can use them and how.

Unless you have given the copyright to the customer, you own your images. A great example is listening to a band on Spotify. You pay for a license to hear their music, but you don’t own their songs. The client pays for a license to use your images, but doesn’t own them.

In your contract, state how the customer may use the images, on which platforms they may use them, for how long, and in which territories. In general, the larger the customer, the more specific these details become.

If, in the coming months, you find that an image is being used by you in a way it is not licensed for, you can use your signed contract to receive appropriate compensation.

payment details

You’ve already given the client a quote before sending off a contract, so there shouldn’t be any surprises here, but stating the full cost of the shoot is important to ensure everyone is on the same page.

This section should include your creative fee as well as additional costs that the client is likely to pay, such as These include assistance from a props or food stylist, an assistant shooter, location rentals, equipment rentals, and even travel expenses.

Remember to include your payment schedule so the customer understands what percentage they need to pay upfront and when the balance is due. Outline late fees that the customer incurs if they don’t pay on time.

Cancellation and Change Policy

Incorporating a cancellation policy is important to protect you as an independent contractor if a customer cancels at the last minute. The exact details of what this policy looks like in your organization is up to you, but make sure you clearly state the details of when you will charge a cancellation fee.

With that in mind, consider including a debt restructuring policy. Sometimes life happens, and while both parties may want the photoshoot to happen, unusual weather events happen, illnesses happen, and so on. Set out in your contract how much notice you need in advance to postpone a shoot.

Provision of Services

As long as you perform the work to the standard seen in your portfolio and you follow the client’s instructions closely, the performance clause protects you from clients demanding a refund or re-listing.

Most photographers are happy to accept small changes or edits if a client asks politely and with good reason. The inclusion of this clause protects you from a complete re-enrollment if the client has changed direction since the contract was signed or has adopted the opinion of another stakeholder who was not involved in the creation of the original brief.

Conclusion

While this isn’t an exhaustive list of photo contract must-haves, it does include a few clauses that have really protected me over the past few years. I would like to know what other clauses you find invaluable to include in your commercial photo contracts.

If you’re looking for more robust help with a photo contract, I would recommend The Contract Shop for specific photo templates written by an attorney without the expense of a bespoke contract.

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