Photography contract guide

by David Em
Last updated:

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The purpose of a photography contract is to set expectations and eliminate possible miscommunications between you, the photographer, and the client.

Person signing a contract.

Why you need a photography contract

If you enter the world of paid photography or work with clients, you need a contract. There are many reasons to have a legal photography contract and we’ll dive into the many reasons here.

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1. Confusion and Misunderstanding. Most of the conflicts that arise are due to confusion or misunderstanding. Having a way to deal with misunderstandings is important.

2. Accountability Between Both Parties. It’s common to have clients who don’t know what’s expected. This may be their first photoshoot so it’s up to you to establish the expectations and hold clients accountable.

The contract is the best way to do so and for client satisfaction, you must be just as accountable. In fact, it’s better to underpromise and overdeliver.

3. Establish Client Expectations. Along with accountability, expectations are important. Be sure that your clients know what’s expected of them and of you.

This will keep you legally protected and help you provide the best service. Think about how you can help them enter this professional relationship with confidence.

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4. Professionalism. A photography contract will set the tone of the relationship and show that you’re a professional photographer.

By having a process and a legal contract, you’ll be seen as more legitimate and professional.

5. Getting Paid On Time. Photography contracts will also ensure you get paid on time. By having a contract, clients will take you more seriously and they’ll be more respectful of the terms.

Contracts will ease the payment process because you won’t have to constantly reach out and ask for payments. That can be a huge waste of time and can cause a lot of stress.

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Where to get a contract

People writing on paper.
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There are a few ways to get a photography contract. You can draft one yourself, find templates online, or consult with a lawyer to get one drafted.

The key to contracts is to make sure you’re legally protected. It’s recommended that if you write your own contract, either find templates that are drafted by lawyers or have a lawyer read through your contract.

If you decide to self-draft your contract, be sure that it’s well-written and clearly explains the details.

Online Resources for Photography Contracts:

11 details your photography contract must include

A contract is an essential part of your photography business. However, knowing what to include in your contract is the hard part.

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Here are 11 details your photography contract should include.

1. Client information

Woman hugging man from behind.
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Gather your client’s full name, email address, phone number, and home address. This may seem obvious but it can easily be overlooked. If any legal issues occur, you’ll need this information.

If you skip this part and just base it off of a handshake or a call then it can be harder to resolve.

2. Your business information

Person typing on a laptop.
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Include your business name, your name, business (or personal) address, phone number, email, and website.

3. Session information

Person taking photo.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Within the session information, be sure to list the date, time, and location of the photoshoot. This will clearly state the terms of the photoshoot.

In this section, you can also include when and the method in which your clients will receive the final images.

4. No show or late arrival

Alarm clock on two-tone background.
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Be sure to state the fees (if any) and details of what happens if a client no-shows or arrives late. Will you continue the photoshoot and end at the same time that was scheduled? Is there a grace period? Will you charge fees?

Think about what makes sense for you and the value of your time.

5. Cancellation policy

Hourglass on sand.
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

Clearly state your cancellation policy. Personally, I like to obtain cancellations at a minimum of 48 hours before the photoshoot.

6. Model release

Person leaning on rock wall.
Photo Courtesy of Pixabay

This is required to show the portraits to anyone other than your subject(s).

A model release includes the ability to post them on social media and to use them in your portfolio. You need to have a model release for each person that’s in the photo.

Camera, notebook, and coffee mug.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

This is where you explain to the clients that the photographer owns the copyrights to all of the images. In this clause, you can also go over client usage and the rights that they have to the images.

Many times, this is the topic that most photographers and clients will dispute over. To keep everyone happy, you will want to own the copyright and give your clients usage rights.

This ensures that you have ownership of the image but they have your permission to use it for their personal use.

Also, be sure to state whether or not the photos can be edited beyond what you have done to the images. Some photographers don’t want any more touches to be done and some don’t mind.

8. Customer satisfaction

Person smiling and leaning on a table.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

It’s possible that you may run into a client who is dissatisfied with your work. In this case, you may offer a reshoot for free or charge a fee for them.

This is not as common especially since clients are reaching out to you because they like your work.

9. Liability

Person holding white paper.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

This section will cover the details of damages and/or injuries. There are things that can happen and can even be out of your control.

You have to be sure to protect yourself and your business in the event of an injury or damages.

10. Payments

Person holding credit card while typing on laptop.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

In your photography contract, state how you accept payments and when the payments are expected to be paid. In this section, you can also cover whether or not you accept payment plans.

It’s also important to cover a retainer cost. When someone books a photoshoot, to ensure that time slot, they could pay 50% upfront.

Don’t forget to cover what happens if a payment bounces or if the payments are late. Many merchants and professional services will charge fees for late payments, don’t feel bad for doing so.

11. Signatures

Person signing documents.
Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

Lastly, capture signatures before beginning any preparation for the photoshoot. This is how you know that your clients have read the contract and agree with it.

Once you get a signature, you can prepare for the photoshoot.


If you have clients and earn money from taking photos, make sure you have a well-written contract. This document will protect you and your clients from legal battles.

A contract will also provide a better experience for your clients since the expectations will be set.

More resources:

Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any lawyer, or a law firm, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by a law firm or lawyer.

Featured photo by Unsplash.

About David Em

David Em.

David Em is the founder of Portraits Refined. He’s a published portrait photographer dedicated to helping photographers develop skills, capture incredible photos, and build successful businesses.

About Portraits Refined

Portraits Refined (PR) is a media company that publishes the latest expert-backed portrait photography tips, in-depth camera gear reviews, and helpful advice to grow your photography business.