What Should You Have In Your Boudoir Contract?

Pen and contract

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.

So, what should you have in your boudoir contract?

  • the 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
  • privacy policy
  • how and when images will be viewed by client for final selection
  • terms for editing images
  • 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
  • dispute settlement

Personally, when I first started out I ran into a couple of instances that left me holding the short end of the stick because I didn’t have a contract, and I’d also read enough posts in photography Facebook groups to know that stuff happens.

Now, you won’t be able to address every conceivable scenario that could possibly 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 that nobody knows what the heck you’re talking about — and you don’t want it too long and overbearing whereby it intimidates your client. 

Black woman in white blouse signing contract

So, what’s the solution?

My Boudoir Client Contract

The solution is to use a contract that’s specifically designed for boudoir photographers that’s written in easy-to-understand English.

So that’s exactly what I did. I created my own contract that details exactly what I need as a working professional boudoir photographer.

“You wrote your own?”

Yes, I wrote my own.

First of all, I like doing things for myself and second, I just couldn’t fathom the idea that a lawyer would know the first thing about boudoir photography and what to include in such a contract 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 a photographer themselves), but also the first thing about boudoir photography? 

At first, I didn’t think I could do it… or even should do it. But I started doing some research and began reading general photography contracts, wedding contracts, and boudoir contracts that I found online and began to notice some commonalities.

There were certain things they all addressed and then each had something the others didn’t, and then I filled in the gaps for boudoir photography from my own personal experience. 

I created my own boudoir photo shoot contract based on that research.

Lawyer Reviewed

My next step was to have it reviewed by a lawyer experienced in contracts to make sure I didn’t leave anything important out or to tweak it where it needed tweaking.

So, that’s exactly what I did.

I contacted a well-known law firm in Richmond, Virginia, talked with one of their lawyers and together we worked on improving it even more.

There were a few things he wanted to modify, one of which was how to handle a dispute if the two parties could not come to a solution on their own.

I had an arbitration solution originally but he pointed out a grave disadvantage to taking that route and suggested something much better.

In the end, I had a contract that addressed my exact needs as a boudoir photographer that was also lawyer reviewed and approved. 

Below I describe exactly what’s in each section of my contract, which I call My Ultimate Boudoir Photo Shoot Contract, so you can make an informed decision as to whether it’s right for your boudoir business.

What’s In My Ultimate Boudoir Photo Shoot Contract?

First Section — Who, What, When, Where

In this first section, 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 to pick her final images from, 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.

Helpful Tip:

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 — Rescheduling, Cancellations, No-Shows

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.

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 explains if the client cancels within a certain time frame that this initial payment will not be refunded but used to pay cancellation fees to the makeup artist, for studio time, and to the photographer.

But if the client cancels before the deadline, they can use their initial payment to re-schedule another photoshoot within a certain time frame.  

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. 

Note: This contract is available in both Word and Pages to allow every photographer to customize these variables to whatever they want.

If you’re interested in purchasing this contract, click here.

Third Section — Hair & Makeup

In this section it talks about how a professional hair and makeup artist can be retained at the client’s request for an additional fee but also the option of including this service along with the client’s initial deposit payment. It also states when the makeup period will be (just prior to the shoot). 

There’s also a sentence that deals with adverse effects or allergies the client may have to any hairstyling or makeup products. Probably not a big problem but if someone before me had an issue with it, then this addresses that situation and protects both you and your makeup artist. 

Fourth Section — Viewing Session & Order Placement

This section deals with how the client will view her images, as well as, when and where the viewing will take place (I include two options), and if viewing online, how it’s a password protected site. So, it covers a bit of the privacy issue here with regard to her images, but not the full privacy policy just yet.

Helpful Tip:

I recommend in-person viewing but that’s not always possible so if using an online gallery make sure it’s password protected.

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 photo shoot 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 concerning how long the photographer will keep a client’s images in digital storage.

Fifth Section — Protecting Your Work and Artistic Reputation

This part is a biggie and describes how the client can not duplicate or alter her images in any way 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 you don’t approve of 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 (retouched and post-processed) but this person didn’t seem to mind and was posting what I would consider unfinished work.

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 were only half done. 

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. 

Sixth 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… or for any purpose for that matter without written consent from the photographer. 

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 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. 

It’s also there to educate your client about usage rights so the above scenario won’t happen in the first place.

Seventh Section — Client’s Privacy

This part deals with the privacy policy of the photographer in handling the sensitive and private images of the client. It’s there to reassure that her images will not be displayed anywhere without her consent. It also mentions a Model Release but I keep that separate from the main contract here for good reason which I’ll talk about at the end. 

Eighth Section — Conduct & Behavior

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 smartphone 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!

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. 

Let’s keep moving forward and finish this up!

Ninth 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. 

Tenth Section — Conflict Resolution

This part 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. 

And that’s it!

The last part is just for printed names, signatures, and date.

Interested In Purchasing My Contract?

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of my contract to use in your own boudoir business, you can find it by clicking this link: My Ultimate Boudoir Photo Shoot Contract

Related Question

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 want to even show off a little. 

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.

In Closing

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.

Would You Like To Buy My Contract?

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of the contract I use, with everything mentioned above, just click this link: My Ultimate Boudoir Photo Shoot Contract

Thanks for your time!

Charles Mitri

Founder / Lounge Boudoir

If you found this article helpful, please forward it to someone it may also benefit.

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Charles Mitri

Charles Mitri is an award-winning boudoir photographer and also founder and writer of LoungeBoudoir.com, an educational blog and resource website for boudoir photographers worldwide. He lives in Yorktown, Virginia.

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