It’s not often that we have guest posts on the blog…but today is an exception that I am SO excited about! We have the amazing Paige Griffith of The Legal Paige sharing hew knowledge on senior portrait contracts. She was a guest speaker inside of The Senior Scoop earlier this month, and we wanted photographers (even those who aren’t members!) to get access to this valuable content! Paige’s amazing shop is my go-to resource for all things legal: contracts, clauses and copy to protect myself and my clients. You can CLICK HERE to shop her entire store!
Written by Paige:
Crafting a comprehensive senior photography contract, complete with these 8 essential clauses, is paramount not only for safeguarding your photo business but also for fostering trust and transparency with your clients (seniors and parents!). Effective communication is crucial because you want your clients to thoroughly comprehend the terms and conditions well in advance so that they can have a successful and enjoyable senior photography experience.
First off the primary clause in your senior photography contract pertains to the specifics of the photo shoot. Begin by clearly defining what you include in your senior photography session, including detailing the allocated hours, selected locations, provisions for outfit changes, and any additional services offered. Specify when the shoot will begin while emphasizing the significance of punctuality of your client. Your time is valuable! Address the consequences of client tardiness, explicitly stating whether the session will be extended or if missed time will be forfeited. Additionally, if extra coverage is offered, articulate the rate per additional hour within this clause to prevent pricing misunderstandings for extended sessions. [Note: sometimes this clause is in the outlined package at the top of your contract and also within the contract under legal language in your coverage and fee clause.]
Next on the list are actually two different clauses: Cancellation and Rescheduling Clauses. These clauses should explicitly outline the process for canceling a session, including associated fees and deadlines for fee refunds. Emphasize the non-refundable nature of retainers and how under most circumstances cancellations initiated by the client will result in you keeping the retainer. You should also be providing clear guidelines for rescheduling to ensure a smooth transition and avoid conflicts. You need to specify how a client gives notice and at what point before they forfeit all monies paid. For example, we usually suggest a 14-30 day cancellation and rescheduling notice by the client. This will help you stay on track with your own schedule and also allow you to try and mitigate damages for canceled or rescheduled sessions (i.e. find another client to fill that spot). Also, when you set deadlines on refunds/transfers for canceled or rescheduled sessions you make clients aware of the financial implications of cancellations and often lower the chances of cancellation or rescheduling.
Another essential clause is the Inclement Weather Clause. This clause is crucial for informing clients about the contingency plans in case of adverse weather conditions. Define your approach to inclement weather, discussing potential alternatives or rescheduling options, and what kind of weather will warrant a cancellation. It’s important that you maintain transparency in managing expectations related to weather-related changes and specify how and when you will communicate such decisions to the client.
For senior shoots that want to add a photo to their school yearbook, the Yearbook Deadlines Clause is vital for your contract. This clause should clearly state that clients are responsible for informing you of any yearbook deadlines well in advance so that you can properly edit that particular photo to your client’s liking and send it off to the correct person at the yearbook. It’s important that you explain the potential consequences of missing yearbook deadlines, emphasizing the importance of timely cooperation.
One of the most critical clauses in all photography contracts but especially the senior contract is the Model Release Clause. When you are wanting to share photos from a photoshoot for your own marketing or advertising you need to figure out your clients comfortability with sharing photos and get it in writing. For senior shoots, especially because they are oftentimes photos with minors, you may alternatively include a privacy clause for parents uncomfortable with sharing their children’s photos. If your client prefers a privacy of photographs clause instead of a model release it is standard to add an additional fee since you are losing out on some marketing profits. TLP has an a la carte Privacy of Photographs Clause that you can change out with your default Model Release Clause in your contract for this very purpose.
Including a Photographing Minors clause in your senior photo contract is also very important because it should be a non-negotiable requirement for a parent or legal guardian to be present during the photography session when there are minors present. This negates any issues with parents coming to you later saying you didn’t get the shot they wanted or a pose was not to their liking or an outfit was too revealing. Additionally this clause should clearly state that by signing the contract the parent understands and consents to their minor being photographed, ensuring informed consent and avoiding misunderstandings.
Towards the end of the contract it is important to incorporate a Limitation of Liability Clause which clarifies that the photographer will not be held liable in the event of media loss, theft, or unusable content. Providing a brief explanation of the limitations of your liability ensures clients understand the inherent risks involved in photography as you never know when something can go wrong in your shoot.
Finally, you always should conclude a contract with signatures. Specifically in a senior shoot you are explicitly requiring that only the parent or legal guardian is authorized to sign for seniors under 18. Emphasize that the parent’s signature implies legal consent and responsibility for the contract terms, ensuring legal compliance and preventing potential misunderstandings. Remember minors cannot be legally bound by a contract! [If your senior is over 18 years old, TLP still recommends that they sign it and a parent/legal guardian signs it so you have two client signatures and because it is often one of the first real contracts they have likely signed so it’s best practice to have an additional signatory.]
Now you are fully prepped to get legally legit when shooting seniors in high school! A senior photography contract is more than a mere legal formality; it serves as a tool for clear communication and mutual understanding. Incorporating these essential clauses not only safeguards your business but also contributes to a positive and enjoyable photography experience for both you and your clients. If you need any help getting started with a rock-solid Senior Photography Contract, The Legal Paige has you covered.
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