Photographer Contracts “Must Haves”

No matter what the occasion or type of shoot, I lock things down with a contract. It allows us to better establish what is expected of the photo, the session, the deliverables, and the timetable. Although contracts can seem intimidating there are some key items you will want to pay particular attention to when hiring any professional photographer.

The basics

You want to make sure the general information is included in the contract. Name, address, and contact number should be in the contract for both you and the photographer, although sometimes clients don’t give me their addresses. If the session is going to be held at a specific location this should also be stated in the contract along with the date the shoot is taking place. Second photographers, videographers, makeup, stylists, and assistants usually aren’t listed, but I can add them if it’s an involved project.

The total price should also be included. There should be a clear breakdown of what is included in the price such as hours of the shoot, prints, additional hour fees, and extras. It should state any deposits you have made, method of payment and the date you need to pay in full.

The rights

Who will own the copyright of you images is something many people overlook. You want to read carefully how you and the photographer can use the images after the shoot. Will you be restricted from posting them to your social media accounts? Do you have the right to make prints? Will your photographer be using them for promotional items or on their website?

Personally, I grant unlimited web usage for headshot and portrait. But when it comes to printing, that’s really what allows me any profit, so the print rights stay with me, unless they are paid for (in the form of full-resolution image files).

The clauses

My contracts have a section that protects against any unforeseen circumstances that make it impossible for me or you to be present or complete the shoot. Equipment failure, medical emergencies, freak weather storms, and other unavoidable situations are some examples of this.


You want to know what the cancellation policies are. Consider things like how long before the shoot you have to inform me that you are canceling to be able to get your money back. Although most photographers rarely give a full refund, you should expect to get something back if you cancel within an appropriate time frame. This also goes for if your photographer has to cancel. Be sure to know what their refund policy is. I also have refund clauses in the contract, though they are pretty generous.

Timeline/shot list

You want to make sure that you and the photographer are on the same page so having an outline of what you both expect from each other is a good idea to include in the contract. You want to make sure the time you photographer is expected to show up on the day of the shoot is clear and what time they are expected to stay to. Time is the only thing we don’t get back, additionally, more time generally results in more shots, which means more interpretations of images, which loops back into more time. If you are having a shoot that consists of different locations, like for a wedding, this should also be included. This allows you to avoid any miscommunication when it comes time to produce the images.

Instead of a shot list, I use mood boards before the shoot. I feel that a shot list is more for commercial work, and if we become inspired, we might want to move in a different direction. I wouldn’t want a situation where inspiration became a liability!

Wrapping it all up

So, I’ve tried to give you an idea of what you should expect when you pay an artist to produce art for you. Regardless of who is creating the images for you, there should at least be a contract in place to hold everyone accountable. That way, the focus is solely on the art!

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