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When preparing a photography contract, what should be included? I'm sure the experienced shooters have examples of things that they always include in a contract or things that they omitted but later wished they had included.

What are some must-haves or things to watch out for when preparing a contract for a client? I understand that answers may vary based on type of photography (events, portraits, etc) so noting that is probably helpful.

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6 Answers 6

Include a clause that outlines what happens if you (the photographer) get sick, get in a car accident, or are otherwise unable to be at the photography session. Do you have alternates lined up? I've seen language that indicates a client will receive a refund of the fee, but nothing more.

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This is hugely important, especially for events that can't easily be restaged. If you're the reincarnation of Yousuf Karsh and a portrait session has to be cancelled, the contract would probably be frustrated by default because you're the unique commodity, but if you blow somebody's wedding and aren't covered in the contract, you may be giving the newlyweds a nice down payment on a house much better than your own. –  user2719 Mar 17 '11 at 16:36

Payment requirements, including amount, due dates, and late fees. Late fees are often forgotten, but offer a little more protection if written in.

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Sales tax, if required (depends on your local laws and whether you're a registered business, etc).

If it's an event, who can order you around. For instance, if it's a wedding, I'll typically say that the bride and groom will have final say over where I go and what I do, and Aunt Millie isn't allowed to commandeer me for her own purposes.

How the photos will be delivered and who has what rights to them. Do I get to enter them in contests or use them in portfolios (yes, but that should be clear)? Do they get to enter them in contests (no)?

Whether or not a second photographer or assistant will be required.

Whether or not you get fed and how (very big for weddings; sandwiches behind the DJ booth while everyone else is chowing on steak is no fun, but may be the requirement from the budget).

Length of time for the event (if it's an event).

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+1 for specifying the copyright ownership. –  labnut Mar 18 '11 at 5:08

For events anywhere other than your studio, specify how venue restrictions will be dealt with. Include language that indicates the photographer must abide by all restrictions imposed by the venue - if a bride is pissed because at the last minute the minister insisted that no flash be used, make sure the photographer still gets paid.

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Model and or property releases are always nice to have, but depending on the type of shoot, they are absolute requirements. For instance, you really want to have a property release if you're doing real estate photography to protect yourself from privacy infringement claims.

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in fact in some countries they're required by law (France used to require a release for shooting any building for any commercial use, for example, not sure if that's still the case). –  jwenting Mar 18 '11 at 7:29

Include an artistic license clause that gives the photographer the right to alter images prior to delivery as well as the right to only deliver images which you've selected. This provides insurance against a client who insists on seeing every single photo, or photos directly out of the camera without any editing.

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