Harvey Specter. Ally McBeal. Saul Goodman. Perry Mason.

I’d take a safe bet we’ve all got our own favourite TV lawyer and legal show. Watching them kick a**, take down the bad guys, and spin their spiel at the climax of each episode. 

Those fictional legal masterminds have got us hooked with their high stakes, high action, fast-talking and quick thinking.

But when it comes to your own contracts, are you feeling a bit ‘meh’ about them? Are you more Petrified Mason than Perry?!

Let’s run through the basics here, so you know what you need to include in each & every contract, from this point on.

It's so crucial to make sure your photography contract is ticking lots of boxes for you and your client, so don't miss out on these 8 essentials that every contract needs to have - www.thehappyphoto.com

First off, let’s get through all the ‘negatives’ of contracts…

1. Contracts can be incredibly daunting. This is especially true if you’re just starting out or haven’t refreshed your old contracts for a long time.

2. They require experience and legal language you’re not used to. 

3. The wording is often negative, with a spin towards talking about untoward, unexpected or incidental happenings. 

4. They take a lot of time to draft properly.

5. They’re expensive to have them written.

1. Session times

The thing is, there is no end to what you could include in a contract, or what a client may ask you for in an addendum ( an extra page added on top of the standard agreement)

But there are definitely some things that you need to include, so let’s tackle that list right away, starting with session times and location.

Your contract should clearly state at what time it’ll start, and for how long it’s booked to run. It should also mention any possible ‘over-running’ either caused by lateness or unexpected events, and what you (as the photographer) are prepared to do in such a case.

For example, if you’ve got back-to-back bookings one day, you may have time to let the session run over by 15 minutes, but no more. Let the client know this in advance, in case they don’t arrive on time.

It's so crucial to make sure your photography contract is ticking lots of boxes for you and your client, so don't miss out on these 8 essentials that every contract needs to have - www.thehappyphoto.com

2. Location

You’ll need to include both where the session will take place, and also where you’re due to meet the client, if these two are different.

Don’t assume you both know this! Imagine you’re meeting in a park for an outdoor family shoot, and a simple line in the contract would have made everything easy. Instead, you’re over at the west gate entrance and they’re at the east gate, all of you waiting pointlessly for each other, and with time ticking by!

Also, clarify if any special access is needed and that permissions have been given to photograph at that location, too.

I know, there’s so much to tackle with contracts, and we’re only on point 2! But stick with me – it’s far better to tick these boxes now than be in trouble later!

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3. Contact details

Names, numbers, emails, smoke signals. Whatever works!

Again, don’t assume that everyone involved on the day knows how to contact everyone else. You might have only been dealing in emails up until now, with no numbers exchanged.

Or, who you’ve been talking with up until now, might not be the person you see on the day (on a corporate shoot, for instance). So do you have all the necessary names & phone numbers for your contact at the actual session? And do they have yours?

Set it all out clearly in a contract, and that should be one less worry.

4. Payment & pricing

This is always good practice, particularly if you’ve only been chatting over the phone. Typically, one person mishears something or forgets what’s been said. Pop it all down on paper, and any discussions can happen before the session, and tweaks made if necessary.

You might want to state 

  • the cost of the session
  • any digital or print products included in that price
  • additional edits they can opt for (retouching, special edits)
  • when 1st payment is due (or the reservation fee)
  • when full balance is due
  • how to pay you (bank transfer, cheque, Paypal etc)
  • and you might want to include pricing for extra products here, although an addendum or pricing list could also work if you liked.
The main things here are
  • session start (and end) time
  • session price & payment schedule
  • what’s included for that price

5. Delivery

Does your client know how you’re going to deliver the products? Great, but get it down on the contract too!

You might be uploading all photos through to an online gallery for a first look. Or sending them finished files via email. Perhaps on a USB or disc. Make it clear how & when those first images will be accessible.

If you’re going to use your own website to upload photographs to, you might want a photographer-specific platform like Smugmug. You don’t need any coding experience at all! It’s all done for you, and there’s such a huge choice of templates, galleries to display your photos, and ways to sell them to clients too. Worth checking out if you haven’t already (plus they usually do a 14 day trial and some form of % discount offer too, so could be a winner)

6. Responsibilities

These typically change depending on the type of photography you’re doing, but Responsibilities cover:

  • those due BY you TO the client
  • and those due TO you FROM the client
It’s often easier to state what you’re NOT responsible for – things like weather, access restrictions, uncooperative venues or staff…
Again, this section can be pretty long winded, or straight and simple. It all depends on the situation, but definitely make sure your contract has a section for responsibility.

7. Copyright

Copyright normally remains with the photographer, unless you’re planning on selling the copyright to your client. But either way, you’ll need a clause to clearly state who owns the copyright and what usage is being allowed.

What are you allowing your client to use the images for? Personal use? Marketing online? Advertising across print or media?

You’ll want to state the terms that your client CAN use the photos under, but then also the ones they CAN’T:- 

  • If you’re not allowing them to sell the photographs, mention it.
  • If they can’t redistribute, mention it
  • If you retain copyright, mention it
  • Do they need permissions from you? Mention it!
Don’t get caught out by not being clear. The language you use doesn’t have to be fancy and long-winded. It just has to be UNDERSTOOD. This goes for the entire contract.

8. Force Majeure (aka 'Acts of God)

This clause covers anything that might happen that is completely out of anyone’s control. Some examples are:

  • Acts of war, acts of government, terrorism…
  • strikes, quarantines…
  • earthquakes, floods, natural disasters…
  • and also simpler everyday things like accident and illness
Hopefully none of these will happen – they’re all pretty extreme! But a contract needs them to cover every eventuality (no matter how remote the chances)

And there's more

Of course, there are of loads of other points that make a terrific contract, but these 8 will hopefully start you thinking about contracts and how you’re going to go about drafting your own.

And if you want to eliminate all the stress & high-cost of drafting a portrait contract, then you’re in luck!  You can download my Portrait Contract template – with unlimited lifetime use – for under $30! 

Catch up again soon,



It's so crucial to make sure your photography contract is ticking lots of boxes for you and your client, so don't miss out on these 8 essentials that every contract needs to have - www.thehappyphoto.com
Writing photography contracts can be tough going. So make sure you're including these 8 essential points at least, no matter your niche