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Are you on the fence about being overly formal in your business?  Here are 5 reasons you should be sending every client a photography contract and some key points you may want to consider.

As much as we’d all like to think that every service transaction will go smoothly, we’ve all heard photography horror stories! Having a standard photography contract in place to send to every client helps remove any question of what services you are offering as a photography professional.  With time, you may notice that your contracts will change and grow, based on new experiences (and potential close calls).  We’re here to help you understand WHY a photography contract is an important part of your new business.

1. It manages expectations.

So why is it so important to have a photography contract in place? Plain and simple, it manages your client’s expectations.  Sometimes we THINK we’re communicating clearly, but the person on the other end may not see it the same way.  Outlining every detail may seem tedious, but it really IS necessary.

For example, maybe you’re communicating with your client via email, and you overlook explaining how the images you take are to be used by your client.  For non-photographers, these things are NOT common knowledge.  Most often, clients think that any image OF them are owned BY them (and can be used in any capacity they see fit).  They don’t understand copyright law (not that I really do either), so outlining these things in a contract are a great way to be clear and concise.

It’s important to include things such as the time and place of the session, type of payment, how many images will be provided, how they are to be used, digital/print delivery time, etc.  This way, your client knows what they can expect, and you know what you are to deliver. Sometimes you get into tough client situations, and you want to make sure you cover your legal tracks!

2. Contracts protect you as a service provider.

A photography contract can provide a reference if the professional relationship wavers. If there is a major miscommunication between you and  your client, and things begin to falls apart, your contract will be a valuable tool that outlines the previously agreed upon services and steps required to remedy the situation.  I also allows you to reference a legal document if a client decides to break their agreement after an initial payment has been made.

As an example, say you don’t have a contract and your wedding client believes that you will provide 500 fully edited images. After they look over their gallery, they decide that they want ALL the photos taken at their wedding, which could include an extra 1,500 BAD photos. Things can go south VERY quickly. You want to make sure that you are clear about what you are delivering to your client.

3. It protects your client.

Clients often appreciate a written contract because it develops trust. They are able to understand, in detail, what they can anticipate in terms of your services.  Just as much as it protects your interest as a photographer, it also allows your client to feel that their interests are just as important.

4. Asserts professionalism.

While verbal contracts can be binding in a court of law, written contracts are clearly more detailed and run a lower risk. If you are ever in question, erring on the side of professionalism is always a safe bet. Not only will your clients take you more seriously, you’ll feel more secure in minimizing your risk. Just like in any profession, photographers need to protect their interests (and their livelihood)! For many of us, photography is helping support our families!

5. Contracts provide a reference point.

The main advantage to using photography contracts (like any contract) is to reduce risk and liability. The goal is that all parties (photographer and client) are aware of the terms and details of the agreement. Clarity is key, friends!  I know contracts can seem a little overwhelming (especially when they go on and on), but in this case, attention to detail is key. Therefore, if you DO run into a miscommunication, you can directly refer back to a specific clause in your contract.

Contract Recommendations

So now the big question is where the heck do I find solid photography contracts?

Hey Ned is a GREAT new option for client management AND contracts! Hey Ned will streamline your client process (including electronically sending and receiving contracts)! It will save YOU time, save YOUR CLIENTS time, and makes you look more professional (as I mentioned above).

So what else does Hey Ned do?

Hey Ned is the EASIEST photography studio client management tool available that lets you send contracts, client questionnaires, invoices, manage your calendar and more, all within one tool.  Note, Hey Ned doesn’t do any photo galleries, so keep that in mind (we’d recommend Shootproof for that).  Hey Ned is available for FREE for Cole’s Classroom Pro members which is pretty epic and will save you about $30 a month if having to pay for it or use something else. #iheartned

Conclusion

So as a quick review, this is why written contracts are important:

  • They provide an outline for the expected services.
  • Contracts help prevent misunderstandings/miscommunication.
  • Clarify details.
  • Provide a point of reference if things are in dispute.
  • Reduces risk to you as a photographer.
  • Outlines payment and image delivery details.
  • They serve as a record for both parties to reference when needed.
  • Contracts also specify how a contractual relationship can be ended before any work has been completed (contract termination)!

I think we can all agree that it’s better to be safe than sorry! In most cases (I’d say 95%), you’ll find that things go well and there are no disputes in terms of your service agreement. However, if there IS a misunderstanding between you and a client, a photography contract may save you money, time, and potentially stressful legal issue. So whether you’re just starting out, or a photography veteran, considering a contract may be something you want to consider for the future of your business!