Portrait Photography Client Contract (What to Include)

If you're a portrait photographer it’s possible that a portrait photography client contract is one of those things that you know you should have but you maybe haven’t got round to yet. If that's the case, this video is for you. I'm going to outline why you need to have a contract and what you should include in it. It's simpler than you think!

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I get it. Getting a contract in place for your photography business is on that huge, long list of things you need to do and it keeps getting demoted to a lower place on the list.

Because you have editing to do and shoots to go to and emails to answer, right?

Because family portraits aren’t like wedding days are they?

Most issues with portrait photography can be ironed out easily enough without anyone getting sued - you would hope!

But a contract doesn’t just protect you from being sued by your clients.

It’s so much more than that and you absolutely must have one in place if you want to run your photography business professionally.

Not only does a contract protect both you and your client, it also means you can very clearly let your client know what to expect from you and your business AND you can outline what you expect from them too.

The fact that this is all done with a contract means you don’t have to have any awkward conversations with them about what will happen if they don’t show up to their shoot or if they don’t pay you on time.

You want to keep your conversations fun and friendly and let your contract handle all the other stuff that no one likes to talk about.

A photography contract really helps your portrait client to feel more confident about engaging with you

They do read the contract and knowing exactly what to expect at every stage makes them feel much more comfortable and you can bet they will be very easy to deal with because they have accepted the terms you’ve laid out and they also feel protected by them.

They know the answers now to all the questions they might have felt a bit awkward asking.

When problems arise - and if you’re in business for long enough then, of course, there are going to be some bumps along the way - then all you need to do is refer to your contract and go about resolving the issue in exactly the way stated in your contract.

You can refer your client to it and the whole thing will be a lot easier to deal with.

Ok, so hopefully you are convinced that you need a contract.

But what should be included in a portrait photography contract?

Firstly let me say that what’s included in your contract will differ from what’s included in another photographer’s contract.

It will depend on the way you run your photography business - and that will become clearer as we run through the things you could include:

1. Do you take a session fee from your portrait clients?

If so, is that refundable or non-refundable if the client cancels or doesn’t show up?

2. What does your portrait session fee cover?

Some clients might think they get some digital files included with this and if that’s not the case then you will be in for a very awkward conversation down the line. Make it crystal clear.

3. What happens if a portrait client reschedules their shoot with late notice?

Will you charge them to do this? Or will you only charge them if they do it more than once?

How much notice do you ideally require from your client to reschedule?

4. What happens if the weather is terrible on the day of an outdoor portrait shoot?

What’s your policy on this? Describe the process.

5. What happens if YOU, the photographer, need to reschedule or cancel the photoshoot for whatever reason?

How will the client be protected?

6. How might a portrait client's images be used by your business after their shoot?

Will you put a sneak peek on Facebook or Instagram?

Do you expect to be able to use the images in your marketing and literature?

Do you expect to be able to enter their images into competitions?

Do you need your clients to sign a model release for this?

Most clients really love you using their images afterwards - they’re proud of them. But some won’t be comfortable with this. Having it in the contract will alert them to this and you can have a conversation about it.

7. Who owns the rights to the photographs after the shoot?

Some clients may believe that after they’ve purchased digital files they own the copyright. If that’s not the case (and usually it won’t be) you must make it very clear in the contract what rights they have to those images.

8. What printing rights does the portrait client have?

Printing rights is generally what the portrait client will get.

Simple print release rather than copyright release.

Can they print these images for personal use only or can they use them for anything else, like submitting to competitions or blogs or using them in their own business marketing?

9. What if the portrait client purchases digital images from you?

Can they upload them online without your watermark?

Can they crop the images and add Instagram filters?

What is your policy on this?

10. What is the process when it comes to ordering products after the shoot?

Is payment taken in full at the time of ordering?

Do you offer payment plans?

And what about that order? Is it final as soon as payment is made? Can they change their mind the next day and change the order?

I could go on but I believe these are the main things you should be including in your portrait photography contract.

You could invest in a lawyer and ask them to draw up a contract based on all of this but, to be honest, I simply put it all together myself based on the way I wanted to run my business.

I put it in friendly language and made it very easy to read with clear sections.

You can purchase templates online from The Law Tog, Harmony & Blue (UK) and even Creative Market and Etsy.

If you have a CRM system, get your contract on there so it automatically gets sent out to every new portrait client.

If not, you can use a service such as Signable to send these out electronically as soon as a client decides to book.

Remember this is for portrait photographers.

If you're a wedding photographer or a corporate photographer you will want to make sure your contract is absolutely water-tight.

I would really recommend engaging a lawyer or checking out and making sure you are absolutely covered.

Hope that helped guys - let me know in the comments if you have any questions at all.


  1. […] Now this will NOT be a surprise to Sally. You’ll have explained this to her very clearly during the pre-shoot consultation and you’ll have reminded her of the process straight after the shoot. It will also be in the information you sent out to her and in the contract she signed. […]

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