As a professional photographer, having a contract that you enter into with your clients is essential. No matter the type of session – wedding, newborn, maternity, family or corporate – you need to have an agreement in writing with your clients. Why? There are a few good reasons.
1. Protection. A properly drafted agreement will cover you and your photography business from a legal perspective. There are many different clauses to incorporate into your contracts: limitation of liability, arbitration, termination, cancellation/no show policies, model release, copyright ownership, etc. This is absolutely not an exhaustive list. There are too many important details to leave them all to chance.
That is your lawyer’s job: to make sure you sleep well at night knowing your legal risk is covered by your written contract.
2. Defines expectations. A written contract sets out everything that is agreed upon by the parties. It specifies the date, time, location, fees, deliverables, as well as the photographer’s policies. It should cover off all of the “what if’s”. What if it rains? What if the baby is sick for the newborn session? What if the photographer is sick? What if the client has not paid the deposit in full? A lawyer can draft your contract to cover off these (and many more) “what-if” scenarios. When finalized, the contract serves as your description of the services purchased. If there is any question as to what is to be provided, the photographer and client can confirm what was purchased by reviewing the agreement.
3. Professionalism. Nothing makes you stand out as a professional more than a well-written legal contract. It shows that you take yourself and your business very seriously. Other photographers may not use contracts. That doesn’t mean that you need to follow in their footsteps. In fact, for the reasons outlined above, I do not recommend that you do.
By sending out your contract to your clients, you will stand out from the crowd and may even be able to charge more than your competitors because you are seen as a professional who knows what you are doing (even if you may not be entirely sure).
As a business owner myself, I understand that the investment in legal services can be very pricey. For those of you looking for an alternative to one-on-one custom contracts drafted by a lawyer, I sell DIY templates made specifically for photographers. These templates have been vetted by other professional photographers and drafted by myself, a Canadian lawyer with over ten years of experience drafting legal contracts. They allow you access to solid legal templates that you can customize for your business and use again and again for your photography clients.
As a photographer, do you use a written contract with your clients? If so, where did you get the contract that you currently use?