Nowadays, it’s hard to do anything without getting sued, and this is especially true in the photography business. As a photographer, I have to use contracts to protect myself, and my clients. However, sometimes my clients do not see the need for a contract. Simply put, most people don’t fully understand the terms of a photography contract, and what they really are signing. This short article is a general guide to the more common contract terms, and what they mean to you.
Usually, the first part of the contract is what I call the “unusual circumstances” section. Simply put, this part of the contract protects both the client and the photographer from unavoidable things that happen in life. Fires, acts of God, random sicknesses or injuries, and equipment malfunctions are all covered under this part of the contract. Basically, what this part of the contract says (especially used in wedding photography contracts), is that the photographer is not liable (except for a full refund) in the event of something beyond the photographer’s control occurring. This is a fair term, because let’s face it- a photographer shouldn’t get sued if lightning strikes the photographer on the day of the wedding, or if the photographer catches some weird exotic illness.
The second part of a photography contract usually establishes the terms of payment. For most photographers (excluding wedding photographers), payment is due in full once the photos have been finished. For wedding photographers, payment is usually due in full on the day of the wedding. In addition, there will usually be a deposit required in order to book an appointment (for wedding photographers). This is meant to protect the photographer’s interests (to make sure that you are serious about scheduling your appointment), and rarely is a refund given upon cancellation.
The final part of a photography contract establishes the terms of the copyright on the images. Sometimes, a photographer may release the rights of duplication to the client, but rarely (if ever) is the actual copyright released. The reason for that is because the photographer does not want someone else editing the images, and then releasing the images as their own work. Worse yet, if the person does a bad job editing the images, it can make the photographer’s work look bad.
Once you’ve examined the terms and conditions of the contract, you can decide if you want to agree to be bound by those terms. Often, the terms are non-negotiable- either you agree to the terms, or find another photographer. Fortunately, many photographers are flexible on the terms of the contract, if the term change is approached carefully. For instance, if you offer the photographer additional money to release the ability to create copies of the images produced, many photographers will agree to those terms. Rarely, however, will a photographer give up any protection that a contract offers (such as liability protection, or copyright protection).
I sincerely hope that you found value in this article, and that it has helped to explain the more common terms of a photography contract. Please feel free to visit my website below for examples of photography contracts, or to view my portfolio.