Photographers, is your client contract risking your business? 

Few things are more important for a wedding photographer to get right than the client contract. This document is the key to a clearly defined relationship between you and your couples. Get it right, and you’ll enjoy a smooth and trusting relationship with your clients. Get it wrong, however, and the results can be disastrous.

A good client contract should be absolutely watertight, covering all the necessary points to protect you financially and safeguard against unexpected events. So, is your current client contract up to scratch? In this article we break down everything your contract should cover. So, whether you’re just starting out as a photographer, or are long in the game, read through our advice to make sure your contract isn’t leaving your business open to issues.

Define the contract

First things first, you should clearly state what the contract is, who it is between and define any terms that it includes. Don’t just write ‘The photographer’ or ‘the client’, clearly define who those terms refer to. The contract definition should also clearly state what service the contract relates to, and any statutory laws that apply. 

Set expectations

Next up, you need to set crystal clear expectations about exactly what you will deliver. The points this should include will vary depending on the type of service you offer, but the basic elements to include are:

–   How many images you will deliver

–  What your delivery timeline will be

–  How many photographers will be present on the day

–  How you will deliver the images

–  How many hours you will shoot for on the day

–  Whether any additional photo sessions are included in the price

–  Any retainer fees you expect to charge

–  Anything you need your clients to clarify or organise prior to the day in order for you to do your work

–  Any limitations to your service

Outline your payment plans

Be clear from the get-go on exactly how much your service is going to cost, and when payment is expected by. If there are any additional costs that your client should be aware of, be upfront about them in this part of the contract. This section of your contract should also outline what happens should the clients pay late, or not at all. For extra financial protection, we suggest adding a clause that states that late payment will incur an additional fee to the final cost.

Cover photo rights

Your contract should be open and transparent about the rights to the couple’s images. Most photographers retain the usage right to their work, which means you are then able to use them for commercial purposes. Your contract should make this very clear to your couple to avoid any issues later down the line. If a couple is uneasy about their images being used for commercial purposes, ultimately it’s your call what you decide to do about it. If you do decide to waive your rights to use the images, just be sure to clearly state this in your contract. It is worthwhile to have this already written in a separate document, so that you can add it as necessary to your client contract.

Another important thing to clarify in this section is how the couple can use the images after delivery. For many photographers, sharing wedding photographs is a great way of getting organic exposure. The risk, of course, is that the images might be edited prior to sharing, which could make them an inaccurate representation of your work. To cover your back, we suggest including a clause stating that couples cannot edit the final images, and that they must credit you whenever they share them.

Editing overview

It’s important to be specific about what the couple should expect with the image retouching. If they expect that you’ll retouch every aspect of every photo, they’re almost certainly going to be disappointed with the final results. In your contract, you should therefore be clear on what level of retouching your package includes. For most photographers this is basic image retouching, with more in-depth requests incurring an additional charge. Whatever your process, just make sure it’s super clear to the couple before they sign.

Additional costs

You will inevitably incur costs from shooting a wedding. These can vary depending on how far you have to travel, but for most shoots will include hotels, meals and transport. Your contract should clearly state if they couple are responsible for covering these costs (which they ordinarily would be). 

This section should also cover your expectations regarding meals and breaks for the day. Usually if the wedding shoot is longer than 5 hours then you should reasonably expect to receive the same meal as the guests. If you prefer not to do this, or if the couple aren’t comfortable with this, then write in time for you to go and purchase/eat food.

Emergency clause

Hopefully you’ll never have to call on this clause, but for the sake of protecting both you and the couple, your contract should state what happens should something prevent you from attending the wedding, such as injury or illness. This could be anything from subbing in a second photographer, through to sourcing a replacement from your network. Whatever your process is, just be sure to outline it clearly for your couple so that they are well protected.

Protect from the unexpected

You’re only human, and you can’t be expected to be in every place throughout the entire wedding. This means that there will inevitably be some ‘missed shots’. Protect yourself from any complaints by writing in a clause to state that you aren’t responsible for any shots that are missed due to causes outside of your control.


Finally, your contract should cover your client’s cancellation rights. Your cancellation policy is entirely up to you, but usually will include a sliding scale of refund available to the couple, depending how far from the wedding you are. Most cancellations will incur the loss of the deposit paid.

Whew! We made it through the main points you need to include in your contract. Take it from our experience – not establishing a watertight contract with the couple is a biiiig mistake. It’ll come back to bite you in the bum, so – even if the thought of legal stuff makes your eyes water – make sure you do it, and do it right. 

Written by:
Dirty Boots & Messy Hair Team

Connection is what it’s all about. Feel free to reach out to us with any comments or questions you might have, even if it’s only to say hello. If it wasn’t for our beautiful community, this place just wouldn’t feel the same.

Photographer Tips
16 Jul 2018


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