In this blog post, I am going to explain the basics of what professional photographers should have in their photography contracts with their clients.
Basics For Photography Contracts
The first thing you should know is that contracts and agreements are the same thing. The real question is whether the contract is legally binding. For now, let’s just assume we are talking about binding contracts.
The second thing you should know is that contracts can be verbal or written. For example, if you and a friend casually agree over the phone to take some photos in exchange for some cash, then that can be a legally binding contract, even if it was never in writing. The same goes for text messages and emails. All of these can be legally binding contracts.
Assumptions are problematic because they are fertile ground for disputes and disagreement.
Why You Should Have a Written Contract
The purpose of a contract is simple. Contracts create certainty by removing assumptions. In other words, contracts reduce disagreement later on by having the parties agree to everything early on.
Assumptions are problematic because they are fertile ground for disputes and disagreement. Examples of common assumptions relate to payment timelines, props, refunds, rescheduling, cancellation, editing, ownership, publication, weather, delays, illness, and many other issues.
A good written contract will address all of these common issues (and more) to reduce the risk of a dispute later on. However, a written contract really only protects you from assumptions if the contract is written well (typically by a lawyer).
What Should You Have In Your Contract?
A contract can be very intimidating, even to very experienced businesspeople. While a contract can be dozens of pages long, a well written contract can still be as short as a couple pages. The most important thing is that the contract covers the most likely issues that you could face. For photographers, this includes, but is not limited to the following:
- Payments terms: Is there a refund policy? Is payment upfront or after the photoshoot?
- Photography Session Details: How much time will the shoot take? What happens if there is a late arrival? What happens if the third-party events limit the shoot, such as venue rules, park regulations, or weather? What are the expectations about props?
- Cancellation: What happens if the photoshoot is cancelled? What are acceptable reasons to cancel, if any? Which party is allowed to cancel, if any? Is there a refund if there is a cancellation? Will there be a free rescheduling if cancelled? What are the costs of a reschedule, if any?
- Editing: Will there be a charge on additional editing? To what extent will the photographer edit the photos, if any?
- Copyright: Who owns the photos after the shoot? How can the photos be used after the shoot? Can the photographer use the pictures in their portfolio publicly? If so, do they need consent each time? If not, can the client use the pictures in any way they want, or is it just limited to social media?
A good contract will also include more common legal terms for commercial contracts, such as limiting liability, indemnification, disclaimers, and a force majeure clause (aka Acts of God). However, these are more technical so I will leave them out of this introductory blog post.
The most important thing is that the contract covers the most likely issues that you could face.
How Should Your Photography Contract Manage Covid-19?
Most good contracts will also have a clause known as a “force majeure” clause which basically states that neither party will be liable for breaching the contract if it was due to something that was out of their control. This usually includes floods, earthquakes, civil war, riots, protests etc. A good modern force majeure clause should make reference to “pandemics” and “epidemics” as well.
While this protects the photographer legally, it is important to note that maintaining good faith and trust with your clients can be just as important as legal protection. While photographers should certainly include a “force majeure” clause in their contract, it is also smart to be a little generous to the clients as well. Perhaps you are willing to give a free reschedule after restrictions open up.
At the end of the day, it is your choice how you want the contract drafted, but it is good for long term business to keep your contracts balanced so you can maintain a trusting business relationship with your client and build a respectful reputation for your photography business.
As a disclaimer, please be advised that this blog post is provided for general and informational purposes only. Nothing in this blog post should be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. Readers of this blog post are advised to seek specific legal advice about their contracts from the law firm Ink LLP. I do not warrant or guarantee the quality, accuracy or completeness of any information in this blog post.
If you want a contract for your photography business, please contact a lawyer at Ink LLP at Inkllp.com.