When you are first starting out as a photographer, any client that comes your way seems like a great opportunity. No matter who they are! Building your portfolio is usually the most important thing at the beginning stage of building your business. But, one thing I highly recommend is having a contract set in place before your first session. No matter who that session is for. Whether it is a friend or a model or even your first real client, having a contract will not only protect you as the photographer but it will also protect the client.
Over the years, I have changed my contract quite a bit. From adding in new details to taking things out, it's okay to change your contract as you see fit. Your business is always changing so it's absolutely okay to edit your contract from time to time. Here are a few tips that I recommend considering when you are first writing out your contract.
Think About Your Process
One thing I always start with is thinking about my whole process. From the initial contact to the session to the product turn around, what are the important steps that I need to hold myself to? I always include the important details of my process in my contract because it holds myself accountable as well as my client. Once that contract is signed, both of us need to show up when we agreed to! It ensures that I will give my client their photos in the said turn around time, it also ensures that my client will show up for the session. Think about your workflow and how you want your client process to go. If you want longer turn around times for the final images, include that into your contract. Even though I am sure you have told your client your process, including it in writing in the contract will also remind your client if they have any questions at all.
DIY Vs. Buying a Template
If writing a contract seems overwhelming to you, don't worry you are not alone! Writing your own contract may seem confusing and stressful but there are so many options out there that may help you along the way. From completely going down the DIY route and writing your contract yourself to buying a contract template or even getting a custom contract from a lawyer, there are endless options out there for your budget. Think about your budget and how much time/effort you want to put into the process! Whatever option you choose to do, you can always upgrade and change in the future. There is no pressure to hire a lawyer the first day!
One tip I always recommend is adding your prices into your contract! This is an important piece that you don't want to forget about. If you have a few different session types, be sure that you double check your contract before sending it off to the client. You want to make sure that you edited that price to reflect the correct session. You don't want to overcharge or undercharge the client.
One policy that I have changed a bit over the years is my cancelation policy. I have found that if you are too lenient on your cancelation policy, you may have clients that try to take advantage of that. If they are canceling over and over again, you are constantly opening and closing spots on your schedule and if they cancel last minute, you are left with open time in your studio. If spots are left open too last minute, chances are you won't be able to fill them with another client.
One thing I always recommend thinking about is your social media policy. If a client posts their images on their personal sites, are you okay them not crediting you or putting filters on them? I see a lot of photographers getting upset about this but one major thing to remember is if you don't set those policies in your contract, they are free to post when and do whatever to their images. Think this policy through and be sure to add anything to your contract that you deem necessary.
Obviously when it comes to contract, there is SO much to think about. These are just a few quick tips that I recommend thinking about before starting your contract process. If you have any questions - be sure to reach out to someone who specializes in writing contracts to help you through!