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What to Include in a Photography Contract

By Michelle Ecker on January 11, 2017


The New York Institute of Photography is one of the world’s largest photography schools and because we are, we often publish fun and useful photography tips on our photography blog. Please enjoy!

What to Include in a Photography Contract

If you’re a photography hobbyist looking to up the ante by shooting some paid gigs, it’s imperative that you browse a few logistics before meeting with potential clients. Most importantly, it’s crucial for you to have a slight business background when it comes to developing a contract.

Although some people consider it an awkward formality, it’s important for you to develop a written agreement with your customer before you actually start working for them. Without the presence of a written agreement, expectations can easily be misconstrued. To avoid some common issues, here are 5 things you should generally cover when putting together your initial contract with a new customer.

1. What will the client receive?

You need to be specific here. For example, if you’re taking pictures of a product for a company to use in advertisements, you need to identify what exactly you’ll be providing them with. Talk about how many images you’ll be sending them, what type of shots they’ll be and when (exactly) and how (PDF, JPEG, etc.) the client will receive them.

2. What will the day be like?

If you’re working an event like a wedding, this is where you need to talk about little things like breaks and meals. Try to be as honest as possible here. If you’re a cigarette smoker and need to head outside every couple of hours, say that. The more open communication taking place here, again, the less likely the client will be disappointed by the deliverables the day of, and the less likely you’ll have to handle any complaints.

3. What if something goes wrong?

This is where you need to talk about things like sickness, family emergencies, cancellations, etc. What will happen if the client cancels the session the day before it’s supposed to occur? An hour before? If you’ll still expect some compensation for your time and preparation, this is where you need to stipulate.

4. Who can use the photos?

Copyright is also crucial to cover in a basic contract. If you take an awesome photo for your client’s wedding, can the bride give it to a friend that works for a style magazine? Can she post the shots on social media? This is where you need to discuss publishing logistics and artistic ownership.

5. How much will everything cost?

You need to develop an exact price for your client and then spell out the breakdown of costs (travel, post production, your time, special gear rental, etc.). That way, there won’t be any confusion about what you are owed, when you are owed it, and why.

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