I am planning on doing some photo sessions for friends and want to do it right. I want to have a contract, but I'm not sure what all I need to include.

What are the most important issues to cover in a photo contract?

  • Pricing details, even if you are doing it for free
  • Session details, when/where/etc
  • What happens if you can't make the session
  • What happens if you lose the images
  • Model Release if you want to use the photos to promote yourself

Those are the biggies.

  • 1
    And note that even if you do it for free, you must detail that something of value (consideration) was exchanged, to make it a legal contract. That "something of value" could be that you gave the model a copy of the photos, or that you washed his/her car.
    – Flimzy
    Jun 27 '11 at 22:06

Just to add to the excellent answers above, I'd say:

  • what's included in the price and what's not. Even if the session fee is waived, are the prints and/or images included? Or are they for extra purchase? If so, at what price

  • how long you will retain the images for purchase/download/whatever. Will you hang onto the images for a year? more or less?

  • Will photo editing (beyond basic cropping/color balance/basic touchups) be included or be at extra charge? For example, if a client wants you to remove an undesireable element from the background, etc.

  • How many images the client can expect? I usually give a range.. for example, for an N minute session, you can expect x-y images.

  • what kind of turn around time clients can expect (do you turn over the photos in 24 hours, 1 week, 2 weeks, etc)

  • If clients can buy/download digital images, what kind of rights do they have? You might want to specify personal use.


Every photography session is a social interaction, a social event. And everyone has some rights on that image. You as the photographer have the rights of interpreting the lighting, creating the set, the angles and framing of the shot, the visual language expressed by the entire composition. That's you. Great job. But then there's also the subject. The model (friend) who share through using their face, their gestures, their style and their composure (or lack there of). That's them. There's copyright and law protecting them too. So a contract that takes everything into consideration (where the main thing is that you NEVER use the face of your friend in a widely successful and well funded international hemorrhoid commercial) IS important.

I highly recommend the following book to start, it's probably one of the better books out there that will fill your brain full of helpful gestalt about how to think about all this. Teaching you how to fish, not just presenting a fully cleaned and filleted fish.


From there, I have noticed in my reading that a lot of photography business books will further provide very helpful hints and things to watch out for. Knowledge is your friend. Read up as much as you can at a local reference library.

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