Why You Need A Contract With Your Blog Photographer, And How To Create One

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Why You Need A Photographer Contract For Your Blog - Poor Little It Girl

In the six years I’ve been blogging, I’ve worked with a few different professional photographers in DC, Atlanta and New York for outfit photos and such for my site. While Adam still helps me out with photos from time to time (he is not one of those embarrassing “Instagram Husbands” and has his own job/life that doesn’t revolve around my business, which I like), I prefer to hire a professional to help me during “normal” business hours. With that, I’m surprised by the number of bloggers I talk do that don’t have contracts with their hired photographers. As someone who is helping you create the work that is the core of your business (the visuals!), you really need to make sure you’re protecting yourself and those photos should any issues come up in during your working relationship. My strong belief in photographer agreements stems from my own personal experience, where I was working with a professional photographer who, long story short, tried to restrict me from using one of the photos she took for a collaboration I was working on with a brand. Right then, I partnered with my lawyer to outline a quick contract I would have all future photographers sign so I didn’t find myself in this unfortunate position again. And I have to say, I am by no means a contract-pro, soliciting legal advice, or am I saying my notes below are the only/right way to working with your own hired freelance help, but this is what I have learned over the years and what has worked for me and my business.

Here is a section by section break down of all the categories my standard freelance photographer contract covers, in the order I cover them. It’s only a 2-3 page sheet I created in Word (and made into a pdf) that I sent to each photographer prior to our first shoot together. I’ve had great success with this contract, and I’ve only ever had one photographer not agree to my terms (and we did not end up ever shooting together because of this), which I’ll detail below. So whether you hire a professional photographer, and even if that hired person is a friend, here’s why you need a written agreement and what it should all entail.

Terms of Freelance Photographer Agreement:

Here is where you’ll be defining the start and end date of your agreement with your photographer. Mine states that the contract agreement can be terminated at any time for any reason by either party. Basically this just means either of us can decide we don’t want to work together anymore once all pending projects are complete (i.e they send me any last photos we may have shot, etc.)

Session Fee and Payment:

Before you start working with a photographer chances are you have discussed payment. This is where you’ll want it written down exactly how much you’ve discussed so there is no discrepancies or miscommunication. My contract states that my photographer is paid a flat fee of X for 5 outfits/looks. This fee covers the taking of photos, editing, and turnaround (the time I have to wait to have my edited photos sent back to me), and how many frames they’re required to take of each look. I also state in this section how they are set to be paid (PayPal, check, etc.) and how quickly I am required to pay them for their work once complete.

Rescheduling:

Let’s face it, things come up and schedules change. Make sure you list out your rescheduling requirements with your photographer so, again, there’s no confusion. I state that either party has 24 hours to reschedule the shoot without penalty. If the photographer cancels a shoot less than 24 hours before the shoot date (for reasons other than emergency situations of weather, road closures, etc.), then a 30% discount is applied to the rescheduled shoot date fee.

Re-Shoots:

While you (hopefully) looked at the portfolio and previous work from your freelance photographer, some times issues can come up where you aren’t happy with their work. Maybe they over exposed their photos or everything they shot was extremely out of focus or the lighting was too harsh. (Your esthetic and branding for your blog photos is something you should discuss in depth with your photographer prior to your shoot, and they should be showing you work they’ve done that is similar and falls in line with what you’re looking for.) In this section of the contract you want to state that you, the blogger, have the right to state that the photos they provided were not up to you standards and request a re-shoot. It’s up to you what you want the terms of this to be, and if you should have to pay for the re-shoot (I don’t) so make sure you state that. I’ve never had an issue in my history of working with professional photographers where I’ve had to call a re-shoot, but it’s nice to have this section in my contract just in case.

Final Photos:

This section details how you prefer your photographer to send you your final photos (Dropbox, email, etc.). Usually professional photographers will tell you their preferred method which I’m OK with, so I update this section with that method. This is also where I say how long they have from the shoot date to send me the edited, final photos (I’d say 3-7 days is plenty of time). I also state here that the photographer is unable to publish or release any images without my consent on their personal photography websites or social platforms without my prior approval. I usually agree that they’re only able to use any photos from my blog after I’ve published them on my own site/platforms and that they can only fall in line with their creative standards.

Photo Credits:

Part of my agreement with photographers is that I will promote them on my social platforms and on my blog for any photos they take that I use. This is a great bartering tool to get your pricing down with them, as you’re also providing them with a lot of “free” PR. I always credit a photographer I use at the bottom of my post (you can see an example here), and on Instagram, I’ll use the camera emoji and tag their handle on a photos I use (example here) so that they’re getting proper credit and a ton of great exposure for their work. This is also valuable “payment” for them as it can help generate new clients who see their work on your site and social platforms. I also reiterate that the photographer can only publish photos on their own personal portfolio website and/or social pages after they are published on mine, and that they must link back to or tag Poor Little It Girl in those posts.

Intellectual Property:

This is, hands down, the MOST IMPORTANT PART OF YOUR PHOTOGRAPHY CONTRACT! So pay attention. Here is where you clearly state that all creative content produced by the photographer (edited and unedited photos) belongs to your business (in my case – Poor Little It Girl, LLC) and that the photographer transfers all creative content to you and that YOU HOLD ALL COPYRIGHT. This prevents your photographer from printing, uploading, distributing or using your photos to make money with out your consent. This also protects you, should a brand want to use an image of you on their website homepage that your photographer took of you, that you can send it to them and you are not required to get permission from your photographer nor are you required to have them photo credited. Of course, I always like to ask if my photographer can be credited (for example, when I was featured in the March 2016 issue of Seventeen Magazine, I specifically requested my photographer got a photo credit which they agreed to. However I did this because I wanted to promote her work, not because I was technically required to.) Basically at the end of the day, you need to own any photos of you that are taken by any photographer. Now I realize that some will disagree this, and that’s fine. This is actually the reason that one photographer I mentioned at the top of this post didn’t want to work together, because she wanted to own all the photos of me. Clearly that wasn’t going to happen given my standards and requirements. At the end of the day, you need to protect you and your work, period. Even if you think your photographer would never use your photos in a negative way or prevent you from using them anywhere, you never know, so make sure you protect yourself!

Waiver:

A simple injury waiver doesn’t need to be too in depth, just state that you aren’t liable for any injury sustained or health conditions that may arise for th photographer during the duration of the agreement.

Signatures:

Pretty standard here, leave a spot for you to sign and your photographer to sign, so that it’s all legit and set!

So there you have it, my breakdown for a great and mutually beneficial freelance photographer agreement. These contracts aren’t meant to be intimidating, and I hope that you can easily follow along and see why it’s just so important to have written documentation that both businesses (yours and your photographers) agree upon. So no matter your blog size, big or small, I can’t recommend having one of these agreements at the ready for any future collaborations and if you have any questions, updates, concerns or feedback, feel free to leave me a comment below!

Photo by Rosa

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66 Comments

  1. Jess Zimlich

    This is incredibly helpful. I’ve worked with a handful of photographers for blog shoots and I had an issue at the end of last year where the photos just weren’t up to par and it took far too long to get the photos back. It was the first time I had worked with that specific photographer and if I had something like this, so much drama/back and forth could have been avoided. I need to draft one of these up, stat! Thank you :)

    Reply
    1. Poor Little It Girl

      That’s exactly what has happened to me too! Always better to put everything in writing because you just never know. xoxo Cathy

      Reply
  2. Candace

    This is great Cathy!! I’ve been working exclusively with the same photographer for the past two years and I feel confident in saying that our relationship has worked out so well because of our contract…soooooo important! Both parties are protected and happy : )

    Best,

    Candace
    http://www.liveloveandread.com

    Reply
  3. Elly

    Thanks so much for this! I am currently having issues with the whole me owning images! I need to come up with a contract ASAP!

    Reply
    1. Poor Little It Girl

      Yes! So important! Hope you make a contract for your photographers soon! xoxo Cathy

      Reply
  4. Leslie | Southern Flair

    Such great information and tips! Photographers canceling the night before has been an issue for me — and it’s such a pain after you’ve planned all your outfits and scheduled the time!

    Reply
  5. Kathleen

    I am just getting into blogging (after a huge break) and I started looking into partnering with a photographer. Perfect timing! A lot of your blog posts about blogging have such great advice that I found the confidence to pursue it again. Thank you SO MUCH!

    Reply
  6. Jessica

    Hm. As a photographer, I’m not sure I would sign away my property to the photos either. Obviously price would come into play here, but “bargaining” for price by offering credit and then getting it in a contract that you own the photos and therefore don’t legally need to give credit, is a bit of a weird area. Photographers have to protect themselves too….and signing over the copyright means you could really do whatever the heck you wanted to them, at the expense of the photographer’s reputation (you obviously are not going to, but some people’s aesthetics are not as good as your own, haha). I’ve seen models do horrendous things to photos when they don’t even own the copyright, so it makes me a cringe a bit to think of what people might do when unrestricted. I kind of see where the photographer was coming from. Excellent tips on making a contract though! Definitely a must for everyone, from weddings to regular work like outfit posts.

    Reply
    1. Poor Little It Girl

      Well that’s a personal preference. When a photographer wants to try and uncharge or restrict me from using a photo that’s not OK, especially when it comes to my brand. This is why I require I own all copyright. And clearly the esthetic of my blog showcases what I do with my photos in regards to editing (basically none). It’s a personal preference and, as I said, I’ve only ever had 1 photographers in the dozens I’ve worked with who have had issues with it because they understand how the blogging industry works. Thanks for your insight though! xoxo Cathy

      Reply
    2. Emily

      I agree with Jessica. A professional photographer should have their own contract as well and unless you (the client) are properly paying to own the copyright on top of paying for their time, talent, etc- it should remain theirs. Also “photo credit” shouldn’t count as payment for any professional. They can’t keep their lights on with photo credit. I get what you’re saying by it possibly bringing in more work for them but at the end of the day if you’re both professionals (and especially if you’re asking to own the copyright) the photographer should be paid accordingly.

      Reply
      1. Poor Little It Girl

        There is no point to which I say that I do no, or should one not, pay their photographer. Myself and my photographer come up with a mutually agreed upon rate, and it’s not a “one price fits all” type model. So for you to say that I am not properly paying to own copyright is incorrect, since you clearly have no idea what I pay for my photos. And I am not saying that photo credit is “payment” for photos, but an additional incentive for a photographer to want to work with a blogger/digital influencer that has a large following. It’s a great way for photographers to get their name out with basically this form of advertising. And for you to say “they can’t keep their lights on with photo credit” is exactly why I DO pay photographers an agreed upon rate. You comment clearly was made without fully reading my entire post and before you do so in the future, I would suggest you read everything. xoxo Cathy

        Reply
  7. Brooke Webb

    This is such a great informative post…just bookmarked and pinned it! I need to get something like this in place. I have gone off of the loyalty thing but I have quickly started to realize that loyalty doesn’t mean the same thing to some as it means to me. Not a good way to conduct my business, I know.

    xo,
    Brooke | http://www.kbstyled.com

    Reply
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  9. bradmartien

    Thankyou for all your efforts that you have put in this. Very interesting information. I like this site very much so much superb information.

    Reply
    1. Poor Little It Girl

      That is a personal preference and something you have to discuss with your photographer. xoxo Cathy

      Reply
  10. Hannah

    Hi Cathy!

    Always love reading your blog :-) Do you by chance have a copy of this contract I/readers could use or a simple template we could pull from?

    Thanks for a great and educational post!!

    XO,

    Hannah from HMS Jewels
    http://www.hmsjewels.com

    Reply
    1. Poor Little It Girl

      I feel like this post is a great template that you can follow to create your own. I’ve broken it down exactly as I have mine, as I have stated in the post. Your contracts should be your own and not identical copies of others. I’m sure you’ll make one that’s great for your brand! xoxo Cathy

      Reply
  11. R

    One part I see is missing is the cost. How much do you pay a photographer? That type of transparency would really help bloggers understand what the price range is.

    Reply
    1. Poor Little It Girl

      I’m being very transparent in this post, but at some point you as a blogger do have to make your own decisions on cost without someone telling you exactly what it should be. Pricing is dependent on city, location, the photographers own fees, etc. You can do it! xoxo Cathy

      Reply
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  13. Marti - Les 2 Sis

    This is great insight! My sister and I are starting up a blog. For now, my husband takes the pictures (my sister’s fiancee takes her pics). But I believe a contract is important in case you need to find another photographer in case of unavailability of the ones who have (and trust).

    Reply
  14. amanda

    Loved this post, I am now navigating this with my go-to photographer which is challenging because we have worked together without one for so long! Is there any way you would share your contract so I can create one from it? Let me know :)

    Reply
    1. Poor Little It Girl

      By going through the post you actually are seeing exactly what my contract looks like broken down my section. It’s important not to copy another bloggers work/contracts/etc and to do the work yourself. You can make one yourself or if you’re apprehensive, have a lawyer create one for you! xoxo Cathy

      Reply
  15. Eric Chiu | Wedding Photographer

    Excellent tips! Yes, indeed a contract is inevitable in photography business as much as it’s required in any other industry. There’s simply nothing to lose entering into a contract with your photographer – only regret if you didn’t.

    Reply
  16. Jakub Redziniak

    NYC photographer here…I’m perfectly ok signing over full rights to the photos to my clients…for the right price. I’m wondering how you quantify that value and how much of a premium you’re willing to pay for that copyright since it is not typical for a photographer to “work for hire” (essentially what your contract is – 17 U.S.C. § 101) in smaller scale photo sessions like when you work with bloggers, musicians, actors, etc (compared to a “work for hire” contract with a big company like Jeep or Sephora). Would you be willing to share how much you pay for these 5 look sessions you describe? If you don’t want to disclose the actual value, would you say you’d be willing to pay double the photographer’s normal rate (without copyright)? Triple/Quadruple? Or are you just working with photographers that don’t see value in holding the copyright to the photos they take?

    If every photographer signed over rights to their photos they would have an empty portfolio

    Reply
  17. willowthephotographer

    Thank you so much for this! I am a recent graduate for photography and now working with bloggers/clients. I was searching for a guild to create a contract that will allow rights to both parties. This was very helpful!

    Reply
  18. Tosha Gaines

    I just stumbled upon your blog your this morning and I am a photographer who has just started working with bloggers. I had some questions for you about your relationship with photographers such as pricing and agreements. I wanted to know what is your rate with photographers, I wanted to get an idea what to charge bloggers that is reasonable for both parties. Can you please email privately, I would love a blogger’s point of view!

    Reply
    1. Cathy Anderson Post author

      Hi Tosha – The rates my photographer and myself have agreed upon are confidential and vary. But photographers typically charge photographers less than their average rates since it’s such a short time to shoot looks and they get exposure from it on social media. xoxo Cathy

      Reply
      1. Tosha

        Thank you for your reply. I just wanted your opinion from a blogger standpoint about photographers. It is hard to get a feel for it in the state I live in. That is why is I asked to get a range who I can it give me ideas.

        Reply
  19. Monisha

    This is awesome! As a girl who’s in the process of kicking off her own blog and associated social media pages, working with freelance photogs is a bit anxiety inducing…I was on the fence about drafting contracts because I wondered if it made me OCD or a stick in the mud…but you’ve cleared this right up for me! Thanks a bunch!

    Reply
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