How Spending $500 on a Photography Contract Can Save You $10,000

Sep 9, 2020

Spending money can be fun - when….it’s on fun things.

But spending money on stuff like legalities is..well..not fun. Not sexy. And downright painful sometimes.

But let me tell you a story, my friend. One that is a common situation I am seeing weekly as y’all roll up to my law firm email with issues.

Instead of choosing:

  • peace of mind
  • confidence
  • doing the right thing
  • spending a little cash

Many of you are choosing to simply wait until you have an issue in your business.


Let’s take Frank the Photographer. He came to me at the beginning of the year - FIRED UP to get his photography business ready to roll.  However, Frank didn’t want to spend a few hundred dollars on creating a lawyer-drafted contract for his business.

Frank decided to “wing it” and used freebies on the inter webs, combined with his own hammering in Microsoft Word, to develop his own contract.

Eight months later, Frank is back in my inbox because a client of his has an issue with Frank. Now, mind you, Frank hadn’t really done anything wrong with the client. Provided service, abided by the contract, and all should’ve been good. Client was not happy. Client decided to file a lawsuit.

Here’s where the issues really start to ramp up.  While you may think  that Frank is in the “clear” because he didn’t do anything wrong and had a “contract”  - that is not the case. Frank still has to financially pay out to a lawyer and expend financial and emotional  resources to prove to the court he did nothing wrong.

Frank starts to see how his “saving” of the few hundred dollars are about to cost him a lot of money. When self-drafting his contract, Frank left out some very key legal miscellany, including attorney fees.  Now, even though Frank wins, he is not owed any attorney fees by the client.

Frank has now paid out almost $10,000 to his lawyer and still is paying the lawyer to draft the contract that he should’ve had done in the first place.


Friends, so you see. It’s not a matter of IF an issue happens. It’s when.

It’s also not you saying “well I’d never take my client to court” because they might take you.

The biggest takeaway: spend the $500 to hopefully avoid $10,000 PLUS $500 for contract template in the end.


What are some MUST HAVE recommendations?

  • Contract – This contract should cover all of the pertinent areas any photography business owner should have to cover themselves legally for a portrait photography session and create the relationship with the client. Includes provisions such as: retainer with liquidated damages, payment schedule, cancellation, rescheduling, late arrivals, location and travel, styling, completion schedule, use of independent contractor, photographic materials defined, artistic rights, copyright ownership, creative control, products included and additional purchases, gallery proofing, cooperation, control of subjects to be photographed, photo/video during session, failure to perform, substitute photographer, standard price list, indemnification and liability, legal miscellany (attorneys' fees, jurisdiction, venue, waiver, etc.), and notice.


  • Model Release – A model release is a legal release typically signed by the subject of a photograph granting permission to publish the photograph in one form or another. This form also releases any claims the client may have to future compensation for use of images. Our download includes two model releases (general and limited).


  • Print Release – The print release form is readily customizable to be included with digital file orders to outline the do’s and don'ts that the client can do with your art. This gives the client the permission to print only – does not give permissions for commercial or other uses. This does reemphasize the copyright laws.



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