Portrait Photography Client Contract - What to Include

If you're in business it’s highly possible that a portrait photography client contract is one of those things that you know you should have but you maybe haven’t got round to it yet.

It’s on that huge, long list of things you need to do and it keeps getting demoted to a lower place on the list. Because you have editing to do and shoots to go to and emails to answer, right?

Because family portraits aren’t like wedding days are they? Most issues with portrait photography can be ironed out easily enough without anyone getting sued - you would hope!

But a contract doesn’t just protect you from being sued by your clients. It’s so much more than that. And you absolutely must have one in place if you want to run your business professionally.

In this video I outline the main things you should include in your contract - it's simpler than you think.

Any questions? Just shout 😉


So not only does a contract protect both you and your client, it also means you can very clearly let your client know what to expect from you and your business AND you can outline what you expect from them too.

The fact that this is all done with a contract means you don’t have to have any awkward conversations with them about what will happen if they don’t show up to their shoot or if they don’t pay you on time. You want to keep your conversations fun and friendly and let your contract handle all the other stuff that no one likes to talk about.

A contract really helps your client to feel more confident about engaging with you. They do read the contract and knowing exactly what to expect at every stage makes them feel much more comfortable and you can bet they will be very easy to deal with because they have accepted the terms you’ve laid out and they also feel protected by them. They know the answers now to all the questions they might have felt a bit awkward about asking.

When problems arise - and if you’re in business for long enough then of course there are going to be some bumps along the way - then all you need to do is refer to your contract and go about resolving the issue in exactly the way stated in your contract. You can refer your client to it and the whole thing will be a lot easier to deal with.

Ok so hopefully you are convinced that you need a contract. But what should be included in a portrait photographer’s contract?

Firstly let me say that what’s included in your contract will differ from what’s included in another photographer’s contract. It will depend on the way you run your business - and that will become clearer as we run through the things you could include.

1. If you take a session fee upon booking is that refundable or non-refundable if the client cancels or doesn’t show up?

2. What does that session fee cover? Some clients might think they get some digital files included with this and if that’s not the case then you will be in for a very awkward conversation down the line.

3. What happens if a client reschedules with late notice? Will you charge them to do this? Or will you only charge them if they do it more than once? How much notice do you ideally require from your client to reschedule?

4. What happens if the weather is terrible on the day of an outdoor shoot? What’s your policy on this?

5. What happens if YOU, the photographer, need to reschedule or cancel the shoot for whatever reason? How will the client be protected?

6. How might their images be used by your business after their shoot? Will you put a sneak peek on facebook? Do you expect to be able to use the images in your marketing and literature? Do you expect to be able to enter their images into competitions? Do you need your clients to sign a model release for this? Most clients really love you using their images afterwards - they’re proud of them. But some won’t be comfortable with this. Having it in the contract will alert them to this and you can have a conversation about it.

7. Who owns the rights to the images after the shoot? Some clients may believe that after they’ve purchased digital files, that they own the copyright. If that’s not the case (and usually it won’t be) you must make it very clear in the contract what rights they have to those images.

8. And that leads us on to printing rights - which is generally what the client will get. Simple printing rights. Can they print these images for personal use only or can they use them for anything else, like submitting to competitions or blogs or using them in their own business marketing?

9. If the client purchases digital images - can they upload them online without your watermark? Can they crop the images and add instagram filters? What is your policy on this?

10. If your clients order their products after the shoot, is payment taken in full at the time of ordering?

11. What about that order, is it final as soon as payment is made. Can they change their mind the next day and change the order?

I could go on but I believe they are the main things you should be including.

You could invest in a lawyer and ask them to draw up a contract based on all of this but to be honest I simply put it all together myself based on the way I wanted to run my business. I put it in friendly language and made it very easy to read with clear sections.

We then used a service called ‘Signable’ which I will put a link to in the notes and Fiona would send these out electronically as soon as a client decided to book with us. The client would sign the contract digitally and it would magically appear in our dropbox folder. Easy peasy.

Remember this is for portrait photographers. If you are a wedding photographer or a corporate photographer you will want to make sure your contract is absolutely water tight. I would really recommend engaging a lawyer or checking out and making sure you are absolutely covered.

Hope that helped guys - let me know in the comments if you have any questions at all.

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