If you’re a boudoir photographer, whether full-time or part-time, and people are paying you 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 photography 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 under the sun, 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 clients think you’re paranoid (well, perhaps we are but we don’t want it to show).
So, what did I do? I wrote my own.
Yes, I wrote my own boudoir contract agreement. At first, I didn’t think I could do it… or even should do it but I started doing some research and read through a slew of 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 issues everyone addressed and each had a little something the others didn’t. I filled in the gaps from my own experience and came out with a solid well-researched contract specifically written for boudoir photographers.
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 just right”, as Goldilocks would say. It’s written in plain understandable English and contains 13 sections, which we’ll go over in some detail now.
But wait, there’s more!
Two Versions — Session Fee & Packages
I also have two versions of the contract.
One is for boudoir photographers who charge a separate session fee from their client’s product order, and the other is for boudoir photographers who have all-inclusive packages where the session fee and product are sold together.
So, you’re covered regardless of which way you run your business… or if you switch from one to the other at some point… like I did (because they both have their advantages and disadvantages).
So, what should you have in your boudoir contract agreement?
- names of both parties
- what the contract is about (a boudoir photo shoot)
- date, time, and address of where photoshoot will take place and for how long
- how much client will pay up front to reserve date and time, or as an initial payment on your package deal
- if hair and makeup is included
- policies on cancellations, rescheduling, refunds, and no-shows
- usage rights of images
- how and when images will be viewed by client for final selection
- terms for editing images
- copyright ownership and what client can and can’t do with their images with regard to selling them to a third party
- code of conduct for client and any guests they bring to the shoot
- order and delivery of image products
- indemnification if photographer fails to live up to their part of the agreement
- 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 — and if you’re interested in purchasing my contract, it will be available for purchase very soon.
First Section — Who, What, When, Where
In this 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 photo shoot.
Beneath that, space for the date, time, and exact address of where the photo shoot will take place can be filled in for each new client.
It then states how long the photoshoot will last, how much time will be allotted for hair & makeup (if included), roughly how many images the client will be shown at her viewing session, and states that image products are sold separately from the initial payment or session fee (if using the “session fee” version)
I highly recommend doing at least some editing before her viewing because she’s more likely to buy more images. I know it’s more work but hey, it’s also more money!
Second Section — Session Fee and Initial Payment
This part begins with what the client agrees to pay for the photo session and states again that no images are included with this initial payment (if using the “session fee” version). This is to re-emphasize that no images are included in her initial photo shoot, but to be purchased later at her viewing.
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 photo shoot within a certain time frame, that the payment will not be refunded back to the client.
So, this part covers the 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.
Third Section — Hair & Makeup
I give you two options here you can choose from.
Option 1 — Hair & Makeup Is Included
Option 1 contains language on how professional hair & makeup is included with the client’s initial deposit payment and when it will take place (just prior to the shoot).
Option 2 — Hair & Makeup Is Not Included
Option 2 contains language that hair & makeup is not included but can be purchased for an additional fee.
Additionally, it covers that if the client waives hair & makeup with Option 1 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.
Fourth Section — Viewing Session & Order Placement
This section deals with how the client will view her images, roughly how many images will be provided for her to view, and when and where the viewing will take place.
There are two options to choose from here as well, both in-person and online.
I recommend in-person viewing but that’s not always possible so if using an online gallery make sure it’s password protected.
This section also contains language on how 100% of payment is due before order can be placed and then once placed, can’t be changed.
I also mention that images at her viewing session may or may not be edited, but that her final picks will be retouched. (This way you can decide if you want to edit the images before she views them or just the ones she chooses to buy afterwards.)
Fifth Section — Copyright
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.
Sixth Section — Alteration of Images
Okay, this is a biggie and describes how the client can not alter her images in any way to protect and maintain 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 you don’t know about 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.)
This “no-altering” clause is vital to maintain the quality and look of your style.
Seventh Section — Usage Rights
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 to a third party.
You don’t want to be driving down the street one day and see one of your images on a billboard endorsing some product that your client may be making 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.
Eighth Section — Privacy
Ninth Section — Code of Conduct
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 any of these 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?
I have had clients show up with “guests” in tow and it can be unsettling when you weren’t expecting it. Things can get chaotic and noisy so having a policy on this keeps you in control of your photo shoot.
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 this 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 puppy up!
Tenth Section — Indemnification
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.
Eleventh Section — Conflict Resolution and Arbitration
This section 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.
Twelfth Section — Altering Contract
This part talks about how changes or alterations will be made to the contract, if needed, by either party.
And Finally, the Last Section — The Whole Enchilada
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.
Don’t want to forget about that.
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 it will be available in the very near future, so stay tuned!
Thanks for your time!
Founder / Lounge Boudoir
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