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Photography Contracts, Digital Files, Prints and Payment

The Importance of a Contract In Your Business

As a photographer and business owner, one of the most important details of your business is your contracts! Not only do your contracts protect you, but they also help your client know what they are getting when they book you, preventing any mix-ups or miscommunications that may lead to an unhappy customer.

Now, every photographer’s contract will be unique, depending on the services you offer. You may also want to have multiple contracts. For example, I have a contract that I use for people who book a portrait session, a contract for clients who want to purchase digital files, and a contract for people who purchase a single digital file from me to use on their website, blog, book, or any print media.

Like I said before, the stipulations that you incorporate into your contracts depend entirely on the type of photography you are doing, but here are a few common, very important, points to consider:

1. Payment

Let’s be honest, if you’re a working photographer, this is pretty (read: extremely) important! Whether you require payment up front, or accept deposits or allow refunds, is your call, but either way, you need to make your payment terms explicitly clear.

2. Prints 

It may be in your best interest to require the client to print directly through you, or the printer of your choice, to ensure that the prints are quality. Keep in mind that the prints they order will be on display for their friends and family to see, so this is an important representation of your work, and making sure the prints are high-quality will give you that extra peace-of-mind.

3. Digital Files 

This can be a dangerous area, but in this day and age, people really want to have the digital files from their shoots, and really, can you blame them? They want to be able to share the photos on Facebook and through email. The choice is yours on selling digital files, but if you do, be careful. Here are some things to think about when selling the digital files:

* Avoid selling the original, unedited files. Having your client see your unedited photos can be a very bad thing. We actually have a post about that here.

* If you sell the edited digital files, make sure to add a section to your contract stating that the image may not be edited or altered in any way. The last thing you want is a client editing on top of your hard work, running the risk of making the photo look, well, bad.

* You may also want to consider if you will allow the client to make any prints of the files. As I said before, printing can sometimes be tricky unless it is a high-quality print, so this is something to consider. If you do not want them to print, then I would suggest adding a section that states they may not reproduce the image without your consent.

* Last but not least (and this should go without saying, but you would be surprised at the liberties people will take without thinking!) always state that the Copyright of all of the images belongs to you.

These are just three main points I wanted to touch on, and hopefully they will save you some headache in the future. You may find it helpful to do a search for photography contracts online, that way you can get an idea for what you want to include in your contract, as well as how you would like to draft your contract. Being photographers, part of our job is to be approachable and personable, so please consider the wording in your contract. You want to address important points, but you also do not want to make it sound like a sterile legal document. In short, approach your contract as part of your branding, making it as easy and straightforward as possible.

Anna Gay is a portrait photographer based in Athens, GA and the author of the dPS ebook The Art of Self-Portraiture. She also designs actions and textures for Photoshop. When she is not shooting or writing, she enjoys spending time with her husband, and their two cats, Elphie and Fat Cat.


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