When a single gig can be worth thousands of dollars, you need to make sure you’re protected. Contracts for photographers are a fantastic way to make sure that your money is legally protected in case of a dispute, and good contracts protect everyone, so both parties can be sure they’re getting a fair deal before they sign on the dotted line.
A well-written contract should be clear and easy to understand. Both parties should be fully aware of each step in the process, from the time the contract is signed, to the time the job is completed.
Part of this clarity requires the language to be very specific. If a contract simply lists 'photography services,' a client may assume they get photo editing with their payment, when most photographers think of that as a separate job. Making sure the client understands what they are receiving and how much it will cost is key to keeping everyone happy.
There are horrible stories about weddings being called off the day before; what people don’t talk about is how the photographer, the caterers, the venue, and anyone else involved with the wedding may not have gotten paid for the months they spent preparing.
Those same vendors–photographer included–could have gotten paid if they’d had a well-written contract. If a contract clearly states that the balance is due thirty days before the event and no refunds are offered thereafter, the client would have no legal right to ask for a refund.
While the contract you sign for a wedding is similar to what a commercial photography contract template covers for a corporation and its new ad campaign, they are not the same. Every job is different.
A wedding contract may be filled with language about how and when refunds and cancellations may occur, and the corporation may have a contract that deals with copyrights, usage rights, and dispute resolution. Check out our post onwhy you need a copyright contract for photographers if you want to learn more.
It’s sensible to have a few contracts ready for the different services you offer. That way, all you need to do is fill in a few relevant details, and present it to your client.
The most important part of your photography contract is going to be the dollar figures and how you are to be paid. As mentioned earlier, making it clear that there are no refunds after a certain date is an excellent way to make sure you get paid no matter what.
Remember, this isn’t all about you–the customer must also be satisfied. You want to make it clear that you have obligations related to deadlines, editing, and equipment. If you don’t uphold your end of the bargain, the customer needs to know they have protections for their money, as well. A well-written contract will protect both your client and yourself, while making both parties comfortable with the transaction!
Kevin Gallagher is the CEO of The Contract Shop®, a contract template store for creative entrepreneurs, freelancers, coaches, and more. His background is in helping online businesses grow, having previously worked at Allbirds managing part of their operations. He is proud to report that his digital artist wife Mandy is a happy customer of The Contract Shop®, and his main motivation is to help as many people like her as possible with the tools that they need to confidently manage their businesses.
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