Let’s say you have gained your client’s trust, it’s now time to take things a step ahead – to get a contract signed by them. Having a photography contract signed will make sure you appear professional and serious about what you do. A mere verbal agreement will not get you anywhere. It only leaves you with some grim realizations and is full of uncertain outcomes. Thus it is always better to take a few precautionary measures and save yourself from any regrets later.
Contracts are a source to provide protection for all the parties involved in a deal. It has always been recommended generally by more experienced people that no matter what work you step into, if it engages more members than yourself, sign a contract among all of you.
Especially in today’s world where everyone sure is allowed to sue someone for a wrong step they take, but with some courts offering justice while some taking on forever to do so, dishonesty just seems to be prevailing with each day.
You will encounter many clients who will actually appreciate you for being so professional and having a contract policy, but, on the other hand when it will come to your friends and relatives, they for some reasons seem to take offence by it. They feel like you do not trust them enough and will not be hesitant in stating their thoughts out loud too. What they fail to understand is that it is not just for you – the photographer – but for their own good as well and it will only improve things for everyone. If such a situation occurs, you can politely explain this to them.
It is a strong advice to build a contract which is easy to grasp, crisp and to the point! You would not want for your contract to be very long and look daunting, for this may make it too cumbersome for your client to make a decision, and leave you altogether. Just some essentials, so you have a written proof of the deal you have with them should be enough. If it is possible, get all the things that we discuss in this article to fit in a single page, as the lengthier the document, more intimidating it becomes.
The basic information may include:
Your information: Contact info, your address, e-mail address etc.
Client information: Much of the same things as your own.
Time and date of the contract as well as the shoot
Location and duration of the shoot.
What Does The Deal Entail
After the fundamental stuff, comes the second most important thing, what are the two of you making this deal for? What is it that the two parties will give and receive? Hence, you mention the things that will be delivered from your side first and then you can affirm what amount will you expect to receive in exchange for that.
Mention how many photographs you will hand over to them, of what size the photos will be, will you be providing them with both RAW + JPEGs or just the JPEGs, will they be printed or only digital? Will they receive it on a DVD? Do they require any framed photographs? If so, then what kind of frames do they want? Whether or not they want the photos to be preserved in a leather album or do they have some other preference, etc.
You will also have to inform them of the time they will be receiving all of this. Having it mentioned and signed upon on the contract will save you from the “little too much” inquiries the eager clients are known for.
You might want to remember that you must only put those things in there that you really know you can pull off. So that when the client weighs the final product and service against the contract and all that was promised in it, they can breathe a sigh of relief that it was worth it. You want them to like you after all. Good relationship with your clients is one of the keys for successful business.
When you do not specify the exact duration of the shoot and make it crystal clear to everyone involved that the shoot will begin at so and so, and it will end after so and so hours, people will run you down with extra load and you will not be able to avert it too.
No matter how much you say you will not let that happen to you, such a sticky situation always finds its way to you and surrounds you in a manner where you are not able to do anything about it. Happens to almost everybody at least once and stays with them forever – if they plunge into the business without prior consultations and learning from others experiences.
You have been told, so beware. Mention in bold for how long you will be working and if they want you to stay any longer, it will take extra money. For that, you can set an amount you will charge by the hour if someone does ask you to work a few additional hours.
You might want to literally spell out where their money will be going. Let them know that whatever amount you are asking for is not just your fee and that it takes a lot of things and effort to end up with some brilliant shots and they will be the ones who would have to pay for it.
Although, whilst you are at it, just make sure to keep it toned down a bit. Reflect on all that you feel you should add into the cost of the agreement as you do want for your clients to know where their money is going but, you must simplify it enough, so they will not be able to ask you to leave some things out to save their money.
Also, include a due date for the payment and decide what you want to do if a payment is not made on time. If you think you should stipulate a fine for the payments that are late, then mention the late fees policy.
Having a signed contract was already a smart move but let’s say we want you to become one extra fine entrepreneur. You accumulate advance payment on the day they seal the agreement with their signatures. Therefore, mention how much the deposit will be, in the contract, and sign a receipt for the clients in exchange for the money they entrust you with.
You can have 50% of the agreed amount as deposit, like many people do or it could be any other amount you feel would be more suitable in your case.
It is usually non refundable and you take it because you will be putting in your time, energy and efforts and this accord will also mean no other clients and business for that period of time. It makes certain that the client as well as you, the photographer, stay sincere to the contract, be present on time, think twice about rescheduling and cancelling mid way.
You may collect the rest of your payment on the day of shoot or after you have delivered the photos or such and such days before the event. Whichever time is most agreeable for you as well as the client.
Also, make sure to have them informed through the contract about the methods of payment you agree with. Do no leave this matter vague for now, thinking you will see to it “later” when the time comes – no, just take a professional approach and do not leave any detail out, no matter how minor, so that there is no confusion and misunderstandings “later”.
Clearly state the policy for when the client wants to back out of the agreement. Have them know that if they opt for such a thing, they must inform you X days before the shoot.
Mention the amount of money that will be non refundable when they inform you within the stated time frame and what will happen if they notify you past that period. And prepare a cancellation form and receipt for these kind of situations. Have them fill the form and sign on the receipt too.
Copyright and Usage Terms
The photos you take for your clients are a great way to advertise yourself, you would want to use them in your banners, on your webpage or social media, etc. Some clients would not have any issue with this whereas some might not appreciate this move if you had not taken their permission before pasting their pictures all over the internet. And when a client takes offense, it can become a legal issue as well.
Hence, it is best to acquire proper authorization from your clients to use their photos for attracting new customers. You can add a segment in the contract where you mention this matter and have them sign there too. Clearly state all the copyright laws and conventions in this section to make sure that everybody knows and gets them, to avoid any mess.
It would also be best to consult an attorney about the copyright and licensing laws in your country and mention those on the photography contract as well, because unless you’re working for the corporate sector, many will not have any idea about them and share your images with third-parties without your consultation and permission, when they should be acquiring a usage license from you, for which they are required to pay you a fee.
*Disclaimer: This article has only been written as a guide to inform you of the key factors you should look out for, while crafting a photography contract. For any legal advice, you may consult an attorney.
Start off great with these basic elements and when you have gained some experience for yourself, you will know more as to what needs to be added or changed according to your specific genre and style of work. Good Luck!