Photography Contract Clauses You Should Never Shoot Without

Let me start by saying that I never shoot without a contract. Ever.

Now this hasn’t always been the case. I was very lax about this my first year of doing business as  L Jennings Photography. As you can guess, this didn’t end well!  I learned the hard way a few times that it is imperative to always have clearly defined, in writing, what your clients can expect from you and what you, in turn, expect from them.

I like to have a questionnaire as the first page of all my agreements. This is just another way for me to be sure I am truly capturing my client’s needs/ wants from our session together. This questionnaire is for them to fill out while they are signing the contract and asks them things about what they expect.

A few questions on mine: “Is there a “style” or look you are going for?”, “When is the last time you had professional photographs captured?  Tell me what you liked and did not like about that experience”, “Perfect images from this session would be…?”

I also use this opportunity to capture where my client found me. This is essential for tracking any advertising you are doing or crediting the proper person for a referral credit.

I have 14 sections of my contract. They are pretty simple and straightforward and eliminate any questions as to what my client will receive, what they can expect and what I expect in return.

  • Retainer and Payment: Do you require a retainer to hold a session date? I do! The retainer is 50% of the total session fee with the balance due at the time of our session (30 days prior to the wedding date).  This protects both of us!  If I have had you on my schedule for a month and have turned down other paying clients for the reserved date and time we scheduled,   and you don’t show up or cancel on me last minute, I am losing money. Collecting a retainer will give your clients a sense of responsibility and they will have “some skin in the game”. It’s up to you if you want to make it refundable or transferrable, but get a deposit!
  • Cancellations and Reschedules:  Clearly explain what your policy is. Do you keep the retainer if they cancel?  Do you handle these on a case by case basis? What about bad weather? Sickness?  There is no right or wrong, but clearly state your policy.
  • Printing and Copyright:  Probably the most important part of the agreement when it comes right down to it! All your client really wants to know is “Can I print these?” It’s your job to let them know if they can and if there are any limitations. I have recently moved away from giving the images automatically with all sessions.  I make it very clear in my agreement what you will receive, what you can do with the images and what you cannot do with them. For instance, you cannot alter the photo in any way, by cropping or converting to black and white. My clients receive a printing release (meaning they can print for personal use only) and I retain all copyright (meaning I still own the image, can use it for marketing, my portfolio and may use it to generate a profit).
  • Expectations: I always tell my clients what they can expect as far as my turn around time, time frames for ordering prints from their gallery and my quality guarantee, but I also make sure it’s stated in my agreement. For one thing, I speak to so many people each day I may have forgotten to tell you! This covers me I the case of being absent minded and gives the client something to look back on if they are unsure of what to expect.

Last but not least, there are so many photographer’s local to you nowadays, having a contract could be that final thing that pushes the client in your direction. It gives them a sense of security knowing that they have something in writing and signed by you with your promises to them versus just your word. It looks more professional and shows them that you stand by your word, your work and your clients.


About Author: Laura Jennings | L Jennings Photography
Laura Jennings bioPhotography has been a love of mine for as long as I can remember, really blossoming when I had children of my own. I love that I can look back at these photos and remember, and that someday, their children and grandchildren will be able to look at these same photos and hear the stories. Aside from my business, I can be found with my family. On the sidelines of the soccer field cheering on my daughter, playing cars and Super Heros with my son, fishing ( I want to catch a Blue Marlin!) caring for my pet chickens (12 of them!!), not sharing anything that combines chocolate, caramel and sea salt or in the kitchen baking like a Martha Stewart wanna-be (when I find time nowadays)!

And of course, I can’t forget my husband. The purchaser of my first DSLR and all the support, advice, ideas and love he gives me to pursue my dreams. Without him, I wouldn’t be able to do what I love.