Photography Contract Guide and Free Templates

by David Em

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A photography contract is essential. It sets expectations and avoids conflicts from miscommunications or misunderstandings.

Person signing a contract.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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.

Photography contracts are crucial whether you’re getting paid or doing free photoshoots.

After you and a client sign a contract, both parties understand and accept the conditions.

There are risks, and things can go wrong regardless of your photography niche.

It’s better to use a photography contract than to trust verbal agreements.

The following is a guide explaining what to include in a photography contract.

You’ll also get free templates that are guidelines for you to customize. It’s best to work with a lawyer to complete your photography contract.

What’s a photography contract?

People writing on paper.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

A photography contract is a legally binding agreement between you and your client.

It outlines the scope of your services, payment details, and photoshoot information.

Signatures from all parties are a must-have. After the signatures, the contract is effective until the services are complete.

The legal aspect of photography is crucial. Use contracts to protect your business and provide better experiences.

Why contracts are important

Person typing on a laptop.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

You need a photography contract for all clients. The legal document protects your business from conflicts that can arise.

It’s an excellent way to start a client relationship because it ensures you’re on the same page.

Both parties will know what to expect, avoiding confusion and misunderstanding.

The contract also keeps both parties accountable. Since the expectations are in the contract, both sides must hold up their ends of it.

A part of accountability is ensuring you get paid on time for your services. It’s essential for running a photography business.

Aside from legal protection, it’s also an excellent way to show professionalism.

Contracts also build trust with clients. It makes you more legitimate and professional.

What to include in a photography contract

Person signing documents.
Photo courtesy of Unsplash.

There are many free photography contract templates. It’s an excellent place to start, but working with a lawyer is ideal.

Treat a template as a guideline or starting point. A lawyer can help you write a contract with your services and risks in mind.

Writing one is an option if you can’t hire a lawyer.

The following are must-have details in a photography contract:

  • Client name and contact information.
  • Your business information.
  • Services you will provide.
  • Time and date of services.
  • Roles and responsibilities for both parties.
  • Model release.
  • Deliverables, such as unedited or edited photos and metadata.
  • Cancellation policy.
  • No-show or late arrival policy and fees.
  • Copyright ownership and usage rights.
  • Time you need to complete the work.
  • Liability release.
  • Dispute resolution.
  • Payment terms and schedule.
  • Permits if needed.
  • Extra fees.
  • Signatures of all parties.

When creating a contract, consider potential risks and issues. Since a photography project has many steps, a comprehensive one is invaluable.

Photography contract template

The contract terms and specifics depend on the type of session. The following is a template for portrait photography.

Portrait photography contract

This agreement is between (your full name), hereafter referred to as “Photographer” or “the Photographer, and (client’s full name), hereafter referred to as “Client.”


Client’s full name, email address, and phone number.

Photographer’s full name, email address, and phone number.

Session Details:

Date, time, duration, and location of the session.

Photography Services:

Make a list of the services and prices for the client.


Photographer will deliver edited photos to Client within 30 days of the session.

Make a note of the types and number of photos that you’ll provide in the deliverables section.

Initial Deposit:

Client agrees to pay Photographer an initial deposit totaling 50% (fifty percent) of the total session upon signing this contract. The initial deposit reserves the Photographer’s time. Photographer agrees not to advertise the availability of this session’s date and time to other potential clients.

Copyright Ownership and Usage Rights:

Photographer owns the copyright to all images. Photographer grants Client rights to use images with attribution to the Photographer for each use. Client may not copy, scan, reproduce, or post the photos without permission from the Photographer.

Model Release:

Client grants permission to Photographer to take, use, re-use, and publish pictures of Client without restriction. Photographer has permission to use images for commercial purposes, advertising, trade, and personal use. Photographer may sell photos featuring Client to third parties.

Limit of Liability:

Client agrees to indemnify, defend, and hold harmless the Photographer for any injury, property damage, or liability from the session. If the Photographer loses the images and is unable to deliver the final product, the Photographer will give a pro-rated refund of the total session cost to the Client.

Cancellation Policy:

Client may cancel this agreement up to 5 business days before the session date. All cancellations must be in writing. The inital deposit is non-refundable. The amount paid to Photographer by Client aside from the deposit will be fully refunded within 30 days from the cancellation date.


Photographer signature.

Client signature.

Where to get a contract

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

If writing a contract seems risky or you can’t hire a lawyer, buying one online is a perfect middle-ground.

The following are the best places to buy a photography contract:

When buying a contract, you’ll start with a template and customize it to match your needs.

The different services offer contracts that lawyers review and approve. So, you can get a legally-sound one without hiring a lawyer.

Frequently asked questions about photography contracts

How do photography contracts work?

A photography contract is a legally binding agreement between photographers and clients. The document outlines the scope, policies, and payment details. It ensures both parties agree and knows what to expect.

How can clients sue photographers?

Clients can sue photographers. That’s why a contract is essential. The most common reason clients sue photographers is for breach of contract. So, have a thorough one and deliver on it.

Who legally owns a photograph?

As a photographer, you own a photograph as soon as you take it. You can transfer ownership to someone else. But ensure it’s in a contract.


In all types of photography, contracts can protect you from legal issues.

A photography contract sets expectations, leading to a smoother and better client experience.

It also shows professionalism, making you stand out from new photographers.

Use a contract for excellent communication and legal protection.

Related: The Ultimate Photography Pricing Guide

Featured photo courtesy of Unsplash.

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