If you’re a boudoir photographer, whether full-time or part-time, and people are paying you money for your photography services, then you should be using a contract. Sure, you could “fly by the seat of your pants” and just avoid the whole “legal thing”… but then one day you’re gonna’ come across a sticky situation that isn’t going to be so easy to resolve and you may be dealing with an unreasonable person.
Your client may be asking for too much and over-stepping their bounds pushing you towards a solution that greatly benefits them but leaves you holding the short end of the stick.
It’s right about then that you probably wish you had a contract that had everything spelled out between the two of you. Then whatever dispute you’re having, you could just refer them to the section of the contract (that they signed) that addresses the issue.
That’s what contracts do.
They define what is expected from each party and hold those parties accountable for those expectations.
Fortunately, when I first started shooting boudoir and I wasn’t using a contract I didn’t run into any problems but I’ve read enough posts in boudoir Facebook groups to know that stuff happens. And not having one is one of the “mistakes” I talk about in my article, “11 Critical Mistakes Beginning Boudoir Photographers Make”.
Now, you probably won’t be able to address every conceivable scenario that could take place, but a well thought out contract can address the vast majority of issues that most problems arise from.
The key here is that you want a contract that isn’t full of legalese and Latin that nobody knows what the heck you’re talking about — and you don’t want it to be too long and overbearing whereby your client thinks you’re paranoid (well, perhaps we are but we don’t want to show it).
So, what did I do? I wrote my own.
Yes, I wrote my own contract. At first, I didn’t think I could do it… or even should do it. But I started doing some research and read through some photography contracts and the “dark scary monster under the bed” soon wasn’t so dark and scary any more.
I read general photography contracts, wedding contracts, and boudoir contracts.
First of all, I like doing things for myself and second, I just couldn’t fathom the idea that a lawyer would know the particulars of a boudoir photographer and what exactly to include if I hired one to write one for me.
Think about it. How would a lawyer know, not only the first thing about photography (if they weren’t one themselves), but also the first thing about boudoir photography?
In reading all those contracts there were certain items everyone addressed and then each had a little something the others didn’t, and then I filled in the blanks from my own experiences and came out with a pretty solid well-researched boudoir contract.
The contract I wrote is 3.5 pages long. So, it’s not a one-page contract and it’s not a five page contract either. It’s written in plain understandable English and contains 12 clauses, which I’ll go over now (it’s about time, right?).
So, what should you have in your boudoir contract?
|The names of both parties||
|What the contract encompasses overall||
|The time, date, and address of photoshoot and how long it will last||
|How much the client will be paying for the session and if hair & makeup is included||
|Policies on cancellations, rescheduling, refunds, no-shows, usage, privacy||
|How and when images will be viewed by the client for final selection||
|Terms for retouching and post-processing||
|Copyright and what the client can and can’t do with images||
|Code of conduct for the client and any guests during photoshoot||
|Ordering and delivery of image products||
|Client’s indemnification if photographer fails to live up to their part of the agreement||
|And finally, arbitration and amendment|
Okay, now that we have a general overview of what should be included, let’s take a closer look at each of these items in the contract that I customized for my own use — and if you’re interested in purchasing it, you can do so by sending me an email through the link at the end of this article.
In the first section, the two parties, photographer and client, are named and assigned the monikers of “PHOTOGRAPHER” and “CLIENT”. This lets everyone know who this agreement is between and what it’s for — a boudoir photoshoot.
Beneath that, space for the date, time, and the exact address of where the photoshoot will take place can be filled out for each and every new client.
It then goes on to state how long the photoshoot will last and how much time will be allotted for hair and makeup, roughly how many images the client will be shown from which to pick her final images from for her image products, and clearly states that image products are sold separately from the initial payment or session fee.
This last part is important and it’s stated again further down in another clause, that no images are included in the photoshoot but purchased separately from the session fee. I make a point of this several times throughout the contract because there can be some confusion with this fee structure.
I also mention that minimal or no post-processing may be on the selection of images she chooses from, but that post-processing will most certainly be on her final selected images.
The second section begins with what the client agrees to pay for the photo session and states again that no images are included with this initial payment.
It also states how the client agrees to pay for the photo session in full and that their scheduled time slot is not set until 100% of this payment is received by the photographer. It then goes on to explain how the photographer will not advertise availability for this exact same time slot for any other potential client and if client cancels within a certain time frame that this initial payment will not be refunded.
It then states how the client can then use the forfeited payment to re-schedule another photoshoot within a certain time frame, but if client cancels on that second one within a certain time frame, that the payment will not be refunded back to the client.
So, this part covers my deposit requirement and cancellation and re-scheduling policy. This is another area that needs to be spelled out so your client has a clear understanding of what will happen if they have to cancel or re-schedule.
There’s also a line or two regarding a “no-show” and how that’s handled.
Second Section – Part II
In this additional section added on to the second section, it talks about how a professional hair and makeup artist is included in the client’s initial deposit payment and that they are an independent contractor, and also when the makeup period will be (just prior to the shoot).
Additionally, it covers that if the client waives hair & makeup that there will be no reduction of her deposit. There’s also a sentence that deals with adverse effects or allergies the client may have to any hairstyling or makeup product. Probably not a big problem but if someone before me had an issue with it, then this addresses that situation.
Okay, moving on to part three.
It further reiterates how all packages and image products are sold separately (stating this for a third time now) and how this purchase is different from paying for her photoshoot session, along with how 100% of payment is due before order is placed… and then once it’s placed it can’t be changed.
Here’s another area boudoir photographers get into trouble with by having the client want to change their order after it’s already been sent. Now, a clause can be added that for an additional fee, the order can be changed but I think you’re opening the door to a whole lot of headache with that one so I left it out.
There’s also language with regard to third party vendors sending sub-standard product or defects found and how additional time will be needed to send the order back to get it corrected, and language concerning how long the photographer will keep a client’s images in digital storage.
The fourth section is rather brief and states how the photographer retains all copyrights of images and all RAW files but also how the client retains a certain kind of rights themselves that pertains to her image.
This part is a biggie and describes how the client can not duplicate or alter her images in any way and why this is so, mainly to protect the reputation and quality of the photographer’s style. You don’t want clients posting their images on social media with filters and god knows what else that you don’t want and then have them credit you as the photographer.
This has happened to me in the past, not with boudoir but with an editorial/fashion client. The images were not finished but this person didn’t seem to mind or even notice and was posting unfinished work. (This was much earlier in my career when I was still learning.)
I even offered to provide this person (for free) with a fully finished version they could replace the unfinished version with but they didn’t seem to care. Needless to say my name was given credit to images that I would have preferred I wasn’t associated with.
I didn’t want something like that happening to me again, so a “no-altering” clause is vital to maintain the quality and look that best represents your style.
This part deals with the usage rights for the client and basically states that the client can’t go out and sell their images for commercial purposes… or for any purpose for that matter.
You don’t want to be driving down the road one day and see one of your images on a billboard endorsing some product that your client may be making a ton of money on but you, as the photographer, have been cut out of the deal. That’s not right, so this clause prevents anything like that from happening.
This part is really important too because it outlines all the rules (but I call them conditions because it sounds less harsh) for the photoshoot. It addresses the client arriving late, who they can bring to the shoot with them and who they can’t.
It talks about the client or one of their guests taking pictures or video of any kind with their smartphones or other device, arriving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, and what the consequences will be for them and their deposit if one of these kinds of things happens.
This keeps you in control of the shoot, which is important because if you don’t have something like this in your contract, what are you going to do if a client shows up with two of her friends and a boyfriend and two are on their phones talking while one decides to take some BTS (behind the scenes) video of their friend and you for their Instagram and there’s just noise and chaos and distraction everywhere?
Not that this has ever happened to me, but I did have a client once show up with someone I wasn’t expecting and I didn’t appreciate it. But I’ve also read about other boudoir photographers having this or something like this happen to them and they didn’t have anything to fall back on to enforce their policy on this.
Okay, we’re getting near the end of this and I realize its not the most thrilling part of being a boudoir photographer but it is vitally important that you educate yourself about contracts and I commend you for making it this far. Congratulations! You’re taking your photography business seriously! Close your eyes and imagine yourself riding down Fifth Avenue in a convertible with confetti raining down on you with a huge crowd chanting your name!
See how I snuck that in there, deep in the article? So now there’s like this secret club of those of us who have stuck it out like a trooper, as opposed to those who have given up and decided to check their Facebook page.
You see, running a successful business is not always fun. It takes tiny steps taken everyday, every week, every month, year after year — and some of it is boring and dull… like this. So, don’t give up. It doesn’t happen over night but if you keep moving forward you’ll get there.
So let’s keep moving forward and finish this up.
This part deals with indemnification, or rather, what damages the client will receive if you fail to live up to your part of the contract — mainly, if you’re unable to show up for a client’s shoot due to an emergency or to circumstances outside of your control.
This part briefly states how a dispute will be resolved between photographer and client if it can’t be worked out between the two parties and an outside legal authority is required. Hopefully things won’t get to that point but if it does, this section outlines what body will govern that.
This section handles how any amendments to the contract will be made.
And Finally, the Twelfth Section
This part ties together the entire understanding between the two parties with regard to the contract.
And that’s it!
Oh, there’s also a section where both you and your client sign and print your names along with the appropriate date.
What About a Model Release?
Some boudoir contracts include a model release clause within their general photoshoot contract but I think that’s a bad idea and sends the wrong message.
Sure, having your client allow you to post some images from their shoot for your marketing is a nice benefit but when you include it in your overall contract it gives the impression that she can’t shoot with you unless she also grants you permission to publicly display her images all over the internet.
Not cool. My god, who would ever include that in their general contract? Well, some do because I’ve seen it in there.
You want to keep your Model Release and your General Photoshoot Contract as separate agreements. With a paying client, asking them permission to post several of their images can be approached after the session, when they’re feeling good about how they look in the images, and perhaps maybe want to even show off a little. Who knows? Everyone’s different.
The point is you don’t want to jeopardize your client’s impression that their privacy is in any way going to be compromised by scheduling a boudoir session with you, and by including a model release clause in your general contract does just that.
Besides, having a happy and satisfied client who loves her images is a better word-of-mouth referral to attain other clients with than posting one of her images on your social media in hopes of attracting another paying client. One is direct, the other is indirect.
Be smart about it and keep a model release clause out of your general contract.
If you made it to the end of this article then close your eyes and give yourself an imaginary hug from your favorite Disney character — you deserve it!
Contracts are not enjoyable fodder to spend time on but they are necessary and will save you from monetary loss and emotional energy in the future.
Buy My Contract
If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of the contract I use for $25, with everything mentioned above, send me an email with the word “Contract” in the subject line to firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll arrange payment and delivery.
Thanks for your time!
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Founder / Lounge Boudoir