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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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