In product photography, it is important to have a contract in place. Contracts not only protect your work and property, but also ensures that both parties are clear on what they’re getting into.
As a product photographer, you should always write down the conditions of each assignment. Because your work is commercial in nature, your contract should contain the bare minimum protection terms. Fortunately, you can use a free contract template and easily adjust the details yourself.
Our free product photography contract template includes essential information, such as the scope of work, cancellation conditions, and payment. And you can customize the contract to include liabilities and other pertinent photography details.
This post will provide you with all the info you need to create your own contracts for commercial clients. Additionally, I will outline the critical bits of information that you should include in every contract.
Free Product Photography Contract Template
Whether you’re using Google Docs or Apache OpenOffice, the following free contract template is yours to customize. We’ve included everything you’ll need to protect yourself, your work and the products that you photograph.
Keep in mind that all contracts, regardless of where you get them, are valid once both parties agree to the terms. So you’ll want to use a service that allows you to sign documents digitally.
Please note that your location may be different and you should consult a local attorney to ensure that the language is enforceable within your specific jurisdiction.
Why Every Product Photographer Should Use A Contract
Every product photographer should always have a contract to ensure that both the photographer and the client are aware of each other’s duties. That way, the photographer is less likely to suffer financial loss due to false expectations, liabilities or copyright infringements by your client.
Your contract defines your responsibilities and establishes a legal relationship between you and your customer. Additionally, a photography contract may help you optimize your revenue by including the following provisions:
- Discretion rights
- Non-refundable retainer
- Methods and quantities of payment
- Copyright ownership
- Usage license: determines where and how your client is allowed to use your work.
A formal contract enables your clients to settle their expectations about delivery, printing, timeliness, and other factors before you begin their project.
Without this document, the implications are potentially disastrous.
Not only will your client assume they have full rights to use your work as they please, if you don’t have an indemnification clause you could also be held liable if the client ever decides to use your work in a way that is illegal or would infringe on someone else’s copyright that otherwise wouldn’t have.
What Information Should Product Photographers Include in Contracts?
In any contract, a photographer should always include details about the work description, payment, copyright ownership, liability limitations, and so on.
Even though the project may appear simple, it’s still very important to include all of these details in your agreement. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
Your product photography contract should clearly state the scope of work you will do for the client. This section details the services you’ll provide, the date by which you’ll finish the project, and any significant deadlines you’ll fulfill for the project.
Additionally, this is an excellent section to summarize working hours and a place for a one-time session. However, if the project is continuous, you may be unable to determine these specifics.
In such an instance, you should still give a detailed explanation of your obligations and any other constraints you choose to include, such as a maximum working time for photoshoots.
The contract must precisely explain what you are being paid, how you will be paid, and when you should anticipate payment.
It would help if you strived to make the payment procedure as simple as possible for you and your customer. To assure overseas customers, you can use a reputable online payment method such as PayPal or Stripe.
Alternatively, you and your client may find it more convenient to manage payments through credit or debit cards.
With checks, you face the danger of the client’s account being insufficiently funded. However, your contract should include remedies for this possibility.
If you require a deposit, specify it here. Additionally, provide the payment conditions you prefer.
Notably, you do not need to state in the contract that you own the photographs.
When a work is created, it is immediately protected by copyright. And once you take a photograph, a piece is generated.
However, to guarantee that the customer understands, insert a clause in your contract stating that you retain ownership of the photographs.
What to Do if You Want To Transfer Copyright to Your Client
If the customer wishes to have ownership of the images’ rights, you must also use a copyright transfer agreement.
As the owner, you can transfer the copyright whole or in part. If some rights are being transferred, the contract must specify which ones.
If you registered the copyright with the United States Copyright Office, the transfer must likewise be recorded with the office.
When would you want to do this? In most cases, you don’t. When you transfer ownership of your Copyright to someone else you forfeit all rights of ownership, meaning you can’t use the work anymore.
You also lose the ability to create works that are very similar to the ones you transferred.
When a photographer hires another to take photographs, they expect that these images will be unique and not copied from any other source which is why ownership of copyright remains with the original creator.
Therefore, the price you charge for transferring ownership to your client should be proportional to the value you would have received by the opportunities it would have otherwise afforded you. I.e. if it’s an image that gets you a certain amount of clients, then the Copyright is the value of those projects.
Limitation of liability provisions are also used to control contract risks. Without a limitation clause, there is no financial ceiling on the damages that a party may seek.
With liability limitations, neither party shall be responsible for breach-of-contract damages that the photographer could not have reasonably anticipated when the agreement was entered. This encompasses sicknesses, emotional losses, and other unforeseen circumstances, such as damages to the product in shipping or if your client uses your work in a way that gets you into legal trouble.
This is arguably one of the most important sections for your contract, given the unpredictability of life.
Occasionally, clients will have extra requirements for a project that they did not include in the agreement. For this reason, you should have a clause in your contract that pertains to new requests or whether you can deny these requests.
You should be explicit in this section about the billing method.
The simplest way to put it is that requests must be submitted and accepted in writing before they can be invoiced.
A decent cancellation policy should include a penalty and sufficient time incorporated into the cancellation notice to allow you to resell the spot to the client or others.
Additionally, when a cancellation policy is in place, it demonstrates the customer’s commitment to the booking. If your customer is aware that there is a cancellation cost, they are less likely to fail to show up for their reservation.
It will also help to add your return policy here if you have one. Otherwise, state that you do not give refunds.
Suppose you’re incorporating lifestyle photography in your product photos. In that case, it’s critical to have a form that enables you to show the models’ faces when required.
A model release is a legally binding document often signed by the subject of a picture, allowing the image to be published in some manner.
Without one, a model can sue you or your client later in the future for the using their image/likeness for commercial purposes.
This often happens when a model does not expect to see themselves on a billboard for an advertisement and feel that they should have been paid more.
If there are any special requirements, such as whether they can be used in your portfolio or if they require a travel fee, this section should state it and not leave anything to chance.
It is vital for publishing in which personal or private rights would otherwise be violated.
It is also generally prudent to add this portion to safeguard oneself against legal action from subjects if the distributed photograph hurts their reputation, such as if your client ends up using their images in a way that is offensive.
Numerous photographers believe they have little influence over the product images they deliver to clients. However, this is not the case.
Given that these are your photographs, and thus your intellectual property, you can specify how the client may or may not alter them in the future.
While not required, you may want to establish a standard for your photography. After all, it is a symbol of your brand.
This may not seem like much of an issue at first, but we have had clients alter our images by third parties that resulted in potential clients believing we did substandard work, ultimately hurting our reputation.
While there is no surefire way to ensure that edits will be implemented exactly as you want them, the client should agree not to make alterations without your approval and at least get your permission before sending it off to someone else.
As a result, ensure that you take measures to guarantee that the final photograph is an excellent representation of your abilities.
For most product photographers, usage rights are the most important aspect of their contract with clients. As you can probably tell, there is a lot that should be considered when producing work for a client, and even more so for protecting your work and your reputation.
This is why you will want to also control how your clients use your work and ensure that you are being compensated for the value you are creating for their business.
This is particularly important when clients are expecting to have exclusive use of your images for a period of time, meaning that you wont be able to use or license any segment of those images to anyone else, which is why you should be compensated accordingly.
For example, you may specify that the client can use your photographs for advertising on social media for one year, or for product packaging with a limited run of 10,000 units. After which they must pay to extend their usage.
If they don’t extend their license but use your images anyway, they are infringing on your Copyright and you can take legal action against them.
A written contract eliminates almost all potential miscommunications between your clients. Additionally, your agreement informs potential consumers on what to anticipate while working with you.
It is prudent to have a lawyer properly evaluate your contract’s final draft before sending it to customers to ensure that is enforceable in your jurisdiction.
Building your own contract can reduce legal fees, but it’s worth the additional cost to have a professional opinion.