What to Look for in a Photography Contract Template

Updated October 6, 2023

Stepping into the world of professional photography comes with a lot of responsibility. Firstly, you should know and understand your rights as a photographer, which is why you need a document that clearly states them.

Not everyone can afford a lawyer to validate a contract. Thankfully, there’s a back-up plan. You can find an online contract that meets your needs from a photography contract template collection that you can download without any hassle.

Yet, the dozens of available templates might be confusing if you don’t know what to look for. In that case, follow our guide to see what to pay attention to when picking out a photography contract template.

Contact Information

It might seem obvious to include contact information in a contract. However, in the age of texting and Zoom, we think it is still essential that you include everyone’s full names and addresses. It’s better to be safe than sorry. In that case, if anything happens during the shoot or you need to contact your client, you’ll know where to start.

This information is vital for photographers who have structured their business as something other than a sole proprietorship, such as S-Corp or LLC.

Start Date and Cancellation Policy

Whether you’re signing a contract for a one-time job or a long-term partnership, it is crucial to state the start date, as well as the timeline and locations. That way, you will clarify the expectations and terms of the agreement.

Similarly, it is necessary to state your cancellation policy terms. The client should know what to expect if they need to cancel and how to do it. Furthermore, do not neglect to mention if the client is obligated to pay any fees or if you offer a refundable deposit.

Payment and Extra Fees

One of the essential items in the contract is the payment schedule. With larger projects, you might want to allow the client to pay in installments. In that case, clearly state the sum of each payment and when it needs to be delivered. Also, don’t forget to mention if a deposit is necessary and how much it is.

It is crucial to mention whether any additional fees will be charged in particular scenarios — for example, state whether a client is obligated to pay a fee for late or bounced payments. Also, make sure any extra costs for permits or traveling to locations are laid out.

It is crucial to think of any additional costs that might arise and find a photography contract template that matches those standards.


To avoid any disputes, it is imperative to have a dedicated copyright ownership section in the contract. The most common solution is for the photographer to retain the rights while allowing the client to use the photos. In simpler terms — you own the photos, but the client has permission to use them.

When it comes to life events, such as weddings or birthdays, it’s best to grant for life rights as the clients are not likely to use the photos to make money. In other cases, like with commercial jobs, you should grant the rights for a specific amount of time.

You might think about consulting with a lawyer or a professional when a client wants to use the photographs for a campaign ad or a product label, as the rules are a bit more complicated in those situations.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to include a section stating that further editing of delivered photos is not permitted. That way, you will have complete control over your work.

Model Releases

Model release forms are necessary if you plan to advertise or promote your photographs online — a crucial matter in today’s social media culture.

Every person featured in the photos needs to sign a release form. The same goes for houses and pets, so make sure to include property release forms as well.

If the client does not agree to sign a release, you might want to charge an additional fee like most other photographers.