How to Write a Photography Contract

Contracts are one of the main templates for photographers that can make or break your business. Photography contracts are key for establishing and managing expectations and protecting both the client and photographer in case of a mishap. Although many photographers use contract templates, it is still fundamental to know how to write a photography contract. This process helps you understand all of the elements in a contract, and may even teach you that they’re not as complicated as they seem.

This page does include a few affiliate links. That means if you click and proceed to buy something, I may get a small commission, and you may get a discount. Specifically, using this SmugMug affiliate link will give you a 15% discount as well as provide me with a commission. I only recommend things that I absolutely love and truly believe in.

Free Photography Contract Templates

It’s very important to note the differences between commercial and consumer photography clients. Which one are you catering to? The answer will affect the type of contract template you choose.

  • Commercial Photography Contract Template
  • Wedding Photography Contract Template

1. Start with the 5 W’s

Just like any correspondence, a photography contract should begin with the bare bones basics: Who? What? Where? When? Why? List out the factual details about the photo shoot, paying particular attention to the time, date, and location of the shoot. Don’t forget to add the name and phone number of your on-site contact, or who will be greeting you at the photo shoot.

2. What is the product or service that you are delivering?

As you’re negotiating photography prices and rates, be sure to ask your client how they intend to use the photos. Usage is important not only for setting prices and licensing fees and also to determine what format you should shoot in.If the client intends to print images on huge billboards, you’re going to want to shoot at maximum resolution. However, if the client will only use photos on social media, you can rest easy and shoot in regular sized JPG format.

On very rare occasions, a client may ask you for the original RAW files of your photos. This can be complicated in the sense that RAW files are massive and difficult to transfer. Not to mention, you may not want your client to have access to your original files. Whether you choose to give RAW files to your client or not, be sure to specify these terms in your photography contract.

Marketing photography services list

3. What are the client’s responsibilities?

Photography is a two-way street, and often times you’ll need your client to help out or cooperate with you so that you can do your job effectively. Use the photography contract as a way to spell out any specific expectations that you have your client. As a corporate event photographer, for example, I often need my client’s help in identifying the VIPs who need to be photographed. I may also need their help in rounding up specific groups of people to take group shots. I make sure to cover my bases by requiring my client to include a photography shot list so I capture everything they need.

Another important thing to include is a sentence releasing you from responsibility if your client doesn’t perform these duties as expected and you’re unable to capture images successfully. This might seem like a cop-out, but sometimes things happen that are truly out of your control and you need some sort of protection if that happens.

4. How are you delivering the final product?

After you learn what type of photos your client is requesting, add a section in your photography contract that specifies how you will deliver the final photos. Be sure to factor in extra factors such as extra hardware costs or shipping or mailing fees.

How to Send Large Files and Photos to Your Client

CD, DVD, or USB Drive

If you choose to deliver photos via a piece of hardware, consider the extra cost of buying that vessel and then shipping it to your client. It’s wise to account for these photography expenses as part of the client fees. Also, consider that sales tax may have to be applied since you will then be delivering a physical product to your client, but check with your accountant to verify.


Another free solution, but many clients will expect that photos to forever live in the Dropbox link you send them. Unless you plan on charging them to host the photos on Dropbox, this is a bad idea. If you deliver photos via Dropbox, be explicit about how long the Dropbox link will be active. Generally speaking, 2 weeks is a reasonable timeframe.


A free, simple and easy to use solution is WeTransfer. This cloud-based service lets you send large files for free. Files may be up to 2GB in the free version. Your client receives photos in a ZIP file and the images are automatically deleted in 7 days. Opt for the paid version to send up to 20GB of files at a time, store files on the cloud, and customize your landing page.

Online Photo Gallery for Clients

If you host your images on a photo sharing website, you may be able to create online galleries or professional photo albums to send to your client. I am an avid user of SmugMug.Thanks to their relatively low subscription fees and unlimited storage, SmugMug is where I backup high-resolution photos and send private, password-protected photo galleries to my clients.

SmugMug online client photo gallery

5. What payment forms do you accept? When are payments due?

Everyone wants to get paid, and the best way to ensure that this happens is to include payment terms in your contract. Be explicit about what forms of payment you accept, and any additional fees that might be incurred. One way to ensure payments are made is to require a partial deposit is made before work begins. Simply make sure to specify the deposit amount and the due date in the contract, and also include when the remaining amount is due.

It’s reasonable to set a net 30 deadline to expect final payment from your client. Be sure to set these terms not only in the contract but your photographer invoice as well.

Photographer Payment Forms

If the payment form charges a processing fee, be sure to explain in your contract who is responsible for paying this fee.

Cash and check

These are the simplest and most straightforward forms of payment. The bonus is that there are generally no added fees for accepting a cash or check payment.

Online transfer (ie. PayPal, Venmo)

Many clients today are completely fine with making payments to you online. Venmo is a newer payment option that as of right now is free to use and doesn’t charge you extra fees. PayPal is another tried and true option, but it does charge a 2.9% fee per transaction.

Credit card

Until recently, it’s been a challenge for small businesses to figure out how to accept credit card payments. Today, there are a ton of credit card payment options. Unfortunately, they all include a credit card processing fee, generally in the 2.9% range. Some ways to accept credit card payments include:

6. When will you deliver the photos?

Be sure to ask the client when they expect to receive photos and write this timeframe into the contact. Thanks to Wi-Fi camera technology, it’s not uncommon for clients to ask for photos to be delivered during the course of the shoot. To help manage expectations up front, include these restrictions in your photography contract.

I find that a timeline of one to two weeks is usually appropriate and always propose this as my default timeline. Consider also including the option to deliver photos on the same day or next day of the photo shoot with an additional rush fee. Either way, be sure to ask or make sure timelines are agreed upon in advance.

7. What happens if the shoot gets canceled for some reason?

Towards the end of the contract, it’s important to go over “what if” scenarios. It’s better to have them addressed in the contract beforehand so that there’s a standard path to follow if that scenario becomes a reality. Some possibilities to consider are:

The client needing to cancel or postpone

In this case, I always include a cancellation clause. A client is free to cancel the photo shoot and get their deposit back for whatever reason up to 2 weeks before the shoot. The less notice the client gives, the less of their deposit they will be refunded.

The photographer needing to cancel or postpone

Sometimes, health or camera issues might cause you to cancel a photo shoot. Offer the client reassurances such as finding and sending a replacement photographer in this unlikely scenario.

How to become a freelance photographer

8. What if the client doesn’t like photos?

Probably the toughest part about being a photographer is dealing with criticism. It is pretty much inevitable that one day you will meet someone who for whatever reason doesn’t like your photos. Even though this is a tough thing to envision, it’s important to have a recourse plan just in case. Generally speaking, my approach is to offer an extra complimentary photo shoot to make amends. Whatever your course of action in this scenario, be sure to add it to your photography contract.

Free Sample Photography Contract Template

Looking for a free sample photography contract template? Here’s a couple to use. Note that the commercial photography contract differs from that of a consumer photography contract. So please read the details before sending to your client.

These contracts have not been reviewed by a lawyer. They are provided for free to the community and is intended to be a guideline rather than a comprehensive, complete contract.

General Commercial Photography Contract Template

Download: Photography Contract Template – Word Doc

Download: Photography Contract Template – PDF

Wedding Photography Contract Template

Download: Wedding Photography Estimate Template – Word Doc

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By | 2017-01-12T22:37:03+00:00 December 11th, 2016|5 Comments

About the Author:

Suzi Pratt is an event, food, and concert photographer based in Seattle. She started Intrepid Freelancer to inspire and teach others how to start a photography business. View her at photography portfolio, and subscribe to herYouTube channel.
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