Portrait Contract

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Portrait Contract

Brief Introduction of a Portrait Contract

A portrait contract, also called a portrait session contract, is an agreement for the services of a photographer. It is a binding contract between the photographer and the client that covers a portrait photography session. It states the terms of the session, such as its location, schedule, payment, deliverables, and cancellation. It is important for professional photographers to have this agreement in place so that they are protected from legal liability in case things do not work out with a client.

Purpose of the Portrait Contract

A portrait photography contract is important for both the photographer and the client. It lists down all the information about the photography session. This ensures that the client knows what to expect. It protects the photographer from liability from the situations mentioned in the agreement. Since the agreement mentions the time, place, and duration of the session, both parties can work smoothly according to it. Any misunderstanding can be clarified by referring to the contract. It helps to build a strong professional relationship between the parties. For the photographer, it gives the impression that she knows her work and is serious about it.

Contents of Portrait Contract

A portrait photography contract template will generally contain the following key terms:

  • Names and contact details of the photographer and the client
  • Date of the agreement
  • Scope of work
  • Session details
  • Reshoots
  • Special requests
  • Photographer’s fees- It includes printing fees (depending on the size of the portrait), additional fees for specially requested portraits, travel, and location expenses.
  • Deliverables- They can either be portrait prints, albums, or canvas along with digital copies of the portraits.
  • Postponement/ Cancellation
  • Adult presence in case of minors
  • Copyright ownership
  • Model release
  • Client’s usage
  • Delivery of orders
  • Limitation of liability
  • Indemnification
  • Dispute resolution
  • Governing law
  • Signature of the parties

These are some common terms. You may include clauses that are specific to your client.

How to Draft a Portrait Contract?

There are some clauses that are unique to a portrait contract. So one has to be careful when drafting this agreement. Some vital points to note are:

  • Scope of work: It should mention what work the photographer will deliver and how. For example, if the photographer will shoot the portraits in outdoor locations or if she will also deliver digital copies of the portraits.
  • Sessions: It must include the details about the session- its location, date, duration, start, and end time. It should also state the amount of deposit that the client has to pay to book a session with the photographer.
  • Reshoots: This provision can be included depending on the parties. It usually states that if the client is not satisfied with the portraits, the photographer will reshoot them at a discounted rate. 
  • Special Requests: This is a client-specific term that should state the circumstances when the photographer will entertain requests for additional photos from the client. It must also mention that this will carry extra charges. 
  • Postponement/Cancellation: It is an important term that should list the events under which a session can be postponed, rescheduled, or canceled. Sufficient notice should be provided for any of these events. In case of cancellation, it should also state if any amount will be refunded to the client.
  • Adult presence: This is required, especially in a senior portrait contract where the subjects may be minors. During their portrait sessions, their adult guardians will be with them.
  • Copyright ownership: This clause must state who will own the copyright in the portraits. It is usually the photographer who has the copyright over the pictures and can use them exclusively
  • Model release: It allows the photographer to use the client’s photographs for her advertising and other purposes, such as to display on her website. 
  • Limitation of liability: It should state that the photographer will not be liable for any injury or loss suffered by the client during the session and related events. It should also mention that in the case of a cancellation, the photographer will be liable only to a certain extent. 

Negotiation Strategy

Photographer: Before going for negotiations, be aware of which areas are negotiable and non-negotiable. For example, you may be flexible about your fees but not willing to negotiate on copyright ownership. You should be careful not to charge an exorbitant amount. Be firm about your terms but open to hearing the client.

Client: You may negotiate for a reshoot clause so that in case you are not satisfied with the portraits, the photographer can shoot them again at a lesser cost.

Benefits and Drawbacks of Portrait Contract


  • Photographer can control her time and its utilization.
  • It makes the parties aware of what is expected of them.
  • Any misunderstanding or dispute can be solved as per the contractual terms.


Most of these contracts are already drafted by the photographers. So there is not much negotiation that the client can do.

What Happens in Case of Violation?

The contract will have a provision for resolving disputes. If any party violates any term of the contract, then this provision will be invoked. If it prescribes negotiation as a mode of resolution, then parties will have to negotiate with each other. If it mentions any other method, then that will be followed. For certain reliefs, the parties can file a lawsuit in the court(1) of the state that will have jurisdiction. This will be mentioned in the contract.

A portrait agreement is a useful document. It helps both parties function effectively. They are aware of their duties. This makes it easier to manage things. It also protects them from any default by the other. It is not a complex agreement and can be drafted by the photographer. But it is always wise to get it reviewed by an attorney to make sure that it does not violate any law.