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10 Things You Need to Know About Photography Services Contracts: A Simple Guide for Professional Photographers - PPA Today

10 Things You Need to Know About Photography Services Contracts: A Simple Guide for Professional Photographers

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If you are a professional photographer, you are a business owner, and as such you need to protect your work, and also ensure your clients are getting what they need. Here are 10 'need to know' guidelines to think about specifically for contracts between a client and a professional photographer. 

1. Have One! Always Sign a Contract!

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The first rule of thumb for protecting your work is have a contract and have it signed. You may think that you don't have to worry about contracts -- that stating everything clearly and upfront is enough. Unfortunately, that's  never enough. People will forget what you say, and some people can even be unscrupulous when it comes to things like this. You need to protect yourself and your work. The best way is to get it all down in writing. This might seem like a daunting task, but don't worry! There are many options as to contract templates for any type of event or situation, you just need to choose the one that best works for you.

Professional Photographers of America provides lots of useful contract and model release templates for free! Consider joining today for a lot more resources that will help you be more protected and more profitable. 

2. Keep Your Contract Simple and Clear!

If you can't find a template that has everything you need on it, or you're just not satisfied with the wording, you can always edit them or create your own. If you create your own, it's always good practice to have a licensed attorney take a look, especially since laws differ from state to state. When you do this, make things as simple and clear as you can. It can seem a bit intimidating, but it doesn't need to be. Start by making a list of everything you need to include, like pricing, timeframes, revisions, and payment methods. You can add other things depending on the situation or event, just cover all the pertinent information, and make sure that both you and your client are covered. The best contracts cover all the bases clearly so that the artist and the client both feel comfortable with signing it.

3. Make it Easy to Read

Your contract doesn't need to be a convoluted mess of big words and phrases. You shouldn't need to include a dictionary when you present it to prospective clients. Don't get too wordy with legal jargon, and make sure that the people signing it understand exactly what you are proposing for the potential job. It's always a good idea to be mindful of the fact that if you aren't a lawyer, and you can read it and understand what it's saying, then the client probably can, too. Still, make sure they know it's okay to clarify things if they need to. Just make it easy for them to ask you.

4. Make it Yours - Adapt the Language to Your Services 

Your work is unique and stands out; that's why you are marketable. Your contracts should be as uniquely yours as your work is. There are several ways to make a contract "yours." Here are a few:

  • Create a unique letterhead
  • Include your pricing, payment options and timeframes
  • Make your own schedule and timeline based on your work habits
  • Create different contracts based on events or client needs
All of these things, when added in, will help make the contract unique to you and your client's requirements.

5. Document Changes (Make Sure You Have a Paper/Email Trail)

No matter how thorough you are about writing your contract, there will be times when the unexpected happens. Life, nature, and even equipment can all be a factor in things changing at a moment's notice. When these things affect you to the point that changes need to be made in the contract, things can get tricky. But you can still keep everything under control if you just document every change that has been made. Changes that should be well documented include:

  • Changes in deadlines
  • Pay schedules
  • Any modifications made to the original contract
Avoid unnecessary stress by keeping things organized from the start. For example, there are times when changes have to be made and agreed upon via email. When this happens, keep all emails relating to revisions in a unique, label each client's folder clearly so they can be accessed easily, and not accidently deleted. If possible, also have your client sign off on changes (electronic signatures will suffice).

6. Discuss Payment/Pricing and Terms of Your Services

Pricing and payment can be a difficult subject, especially if you haven't clearly defined your brand's worth, but it is one of the most important parts of the conhttp://bemore.ppa.com/free-release/tract. It can't be overlooked, or glossed over. Pricing and payment terms need to be laid out clearly. Once you have decided how much your work and particular brand is worth, you need to cover how you will get paid in the contract. It can be broken down so you get a percentage of the payment up front, and some full payment after all work is completed, or in steps throughout the process. It's up to you, but make sure it is stated clearly. Some things to consider when covering pricing are:

  • How much is to be paid
  • When it is to be paid (include the terms and payment over time options, if applicable)
  • How payment will be accepted
  • If there is a grace period on any payment due date
  • Consider if money paid upfront is a retainer or a deposit (varies by state, most are retainer)

7. Have a Model Release

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Often times, photographers work with models. This adds an entirely different element to the process. Whenever you are photographing a live subject, have them sign a release. If you don't, it may come back and bite you in the end. People can be very particular about having their images or likeness spread around. But if you have a model release clearly stating that you own the copyright for your work, also include purposes the image may be used for (marketing/social media/competitions, etc.). Phrases like "including, but not limited to" also help, within reason.

For customizable model releases and access to plenty of copyright resources, consider becoming a member of Professional Photographers of America (PPA).

8. Copyright and Release

When covering copyright and licensing laws it can be confusing, and a little tricky to navigate. This is where it would be prudent for you to do some research. Make sure you have a clear understanding of what you want to be able to do with your art, and what you will allow others to do with it. It's important to establish that you own the copyright for your work, and that you decide how it will be shared. There are many resources published by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) where copyright laws are covered. Knowing and understanding the laws will ensure that you and your work are covered as well. A quick visit to PPA's copyright resources can be helpful (and free!), but when it doubt, it's always prudent to check with a local copyright attorney for a contract review. 

9. Get. Your. Contract. Signed!

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We cannot emphasize enough how pointless it is to have a contract if it is not signed. Until you have signatures from your clients showing they agree to the terms and conditions, your contract is just a piece of paper. A signature from your client shows you are hired, and a signature from you commits you to the job, and confirms that you are the righteous copyright owner. So... GET. IT. SIGNED!

10. Jointly Review the Contract, and Update It as Needed

As a final step, make sure you review all the important details of the contract with your clients, and update anything that needs to be updated. Make sure that all the bases are covered to avoid any conflicts or confusion later. For any updates that need to be made, refer back to point number 5, document them, and keep those updates well organized and accessible.

Having a contract does not just protect you and your work. It is every bit as important to your clients, making them feel that their investments are well protected. Your clients should be just as happy and comfortable with the arrangements as you are. Keep these 10 guidelines in mind to keep happy clients, while protecting yourself and your work as well.

Looking for a contract or model release template? PPA has created the basics to start you off. Give it a try! Interested in finding out about all the other benefits that PPA has to offer its members? Check out the photographers' bullet list of benefits, perks, and savings that come with being a part of Professional Photographers of America, and then consider joining today!

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This page contains a single entry by Professional Photographers of America (PPA) published on October 25, 2017 12:00 PM.

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