Hey everyone! This week, I've gotten two separate inquiries about contracts... which means... it was probably time to write a blog about them!
Having a contract is having peace of mind.
In general - you should be using contracts for each and every one of your sessions! I’ll admit - I used to be so bad about contracting portrait sessions until I found Agree.com - it’s an online contract signing service that is not only more affordable than any contract signing service out there, but it’s made for all types of creative businesses. The contracts are easily branded with your logo, it takes online or in person payment, and it is lawyer approved. To create one, you fill in your info, client's info, then you drag and drop your items included and clauses for portraits and weddings. Start to finish, 3 minutes. It's actually kind of fun!
So, here are 5 things that you shouldn’t forget to mention in your contracts.
1) Client + photographer's rights. Spell out what your client can and cannot do with the photos - ex. Photos cannot be altered or edited, entered into contests, sold, or published. It’s usually never with malicious intent - but if you wouldn’t want a client entering your photo into a “Cutest Kid” contest without asking you that Toys R Us will be using for their next ad campaign without credit or compensation… put it in the contract. This goes for your rights as well - what you can and cannot do with the photos. You will need separate signed permission to sell images from a session for an ad campaign for a company. However, if you're planning on submitting a wedding to The Knot, or using it on your thank you cards, make sure you include how you plan to use their photos, too.
2). Model release. It gives you as the photographer the right to use the photos for advertising + promotion, Facebook, to submit to publications and magazines, website, Instagram, etc. Some couples ask for privacy because of divorce, sensitive occupations, etc - always talk with your client on your shoot to get the double OK for you to post their photos on social media - especially with kids.
3) How many photos + how long to get them. Be sure to include a range of photos they should expect to receive (ex. 40-60) and always over deliver (80-120). However, you’re still covering yourself in the event of a shoot with an uncooperative child, bad weather conditions, or a client’s late arrival time. The same principal applies for the post-processing timeframe - my contract states 4-6 weeks and 90% of the time, I deliver within 3. However, I’m covered when I have 6 weddings in 4 weeks on top of school and am absolutely swamped with work. It’s always wise to have numbers to refer back to in the contract in case of a problem.
4) Requests. Let’s face it - we aren’t perfect. We work super hard to check off every request on a bride’s list for her wedding day, but we don’t deserve to be sued if we missed a shot. I include that “lists supplied will be used for organizational purposes only. Images determined by the photographer to be substandard or duplicated may be edited out.” Once I cull, the unused images are permanently deleted - there isn’t a secret stash of your 3,000 wedding photos somewhere, so I make sure to note that the final product they’re getting is everything.
5) Editing. My contract states that, “Edits will be made for color, composition, and style. Client may request further retouching changes for an additional charge.” It’s SO important to set boundaries! For example, I tell my seniors that whichever one they choose for the yearbook, I’ll edit out stray hairs and acne. That very quickly becomes, “Can you edit out my tan line? Take out my necklace clasp? Make my arms skinner? Make me look tanner?” And suddenly, you’re retouching images that won’t even end up being used. People hire me for my editing style - so I don’t do re-edits unless there was an error made by me. In-depth retouching is fine, but for an additional fee.
Of course, your contracts should have all the standard clauses about what happens if you break your leg the day of a wedding and can’t make it, what services are included in the package, how many hours you will be shooting, how much money is due and when, cancellations, etc. Have a lawyer look over your contract or purchase a pre-approved one like Melissa Jill's, or use an online service like Agree.