Real Estate Photography Contract Definitive Guide and 4 Free Template Download (PDF and DOCX)
High-quality pictures are essential in creating a good first impression on a listed property that ultimately attracts potential buyers. This means serious business for real estate photographers; hence they should conduct their dealings professionally, including drawing up contracts to back their work. However, many shutterbugs, often the new ones, in particular, tend to skip the formalities with their clients. They are quick to dismiss a contract as something that will only complicate matters, deeming it unnecessary, especially for those who will only engage in one-off transactions. Some just wouldn’t want to bother writing up one thinking they are difficult to do, while others would like to but don’t know what to put in it. Suppose you are a photographer with this mindset; you must know that, one, it’s important to have a real estate photography contract. Two, it’s actually quite simple to do so. We’ll discuss what needs to be included so that you can easily apply them accordingly to your own.
But first, what is a real estate photography contract? It is a legally binding document like any other contract. Specifically, though, it is signed off by the photographer and the client, which puts into writing the services that the former will render and the conditions surrounding the agreement, including rights to the images, among other things.
Why do you need a real estate photography contract?
While it is common for real estate photo sessions to proceed without any form of paperwork, contracts are strongly recommended in any business situation involving payment, more so if you are using the pictures for commercial and editorial purposes. It could also be that the client would require exclusivity of your services, which makes contracts a must. In any case, this piece of paper is important. After all, you can’t expect everybody to keep their word or act with honesty and integrity all the time, especially when there is no visual representation of what was agreed on in the first place. In fact, even with a signed contract, breaches can still occur, but at least you can hold the other party legally liable when that happens, something you can’t do if you don’t have a signed agreement.
Service contracts are crucial in building professional relationships, accomplishing tasks, and ensuring you get paid for your work. Without a contract in place, any of the involved parties may choose not to honor a verbal agreement and get away with it. In other words, if a client or the contractor does not follow the contract stipulations, you’re not at a complete loss because the contract is essentially your insurance.
Meanwhile, here are other reasons real estate photographers should always come prepared with this legal arsenal.
For operational efficiency
We could not stress enough that it’s better when transaction details are laid out in ink. A contract holds those involved to their agreement since it is enforceable by law. Thus, it helps everyone stay on course, knowing that work expectations will be met. For example, the deal requires
producing 100 promotional photos of three properties for the company’s website for a package rate of 1,000 dollars. Thus, the photographer holds a contract, which serves as a guide, so they don’t make the mistake of presenting 120 images instead. And when that happens, the client will not be obligated to pay for your mistake or extra pictures should they decide even at the last minute not to accept them, thereby leaving your efforts unpaid.
As a collaborative and communication tool, having a contract adds professionalism since both sides act based on expectations and are confident in the final output. It will save you precious time and, more importantly, reduce potential problems and misunderstandings.
For accountability and protection
Sometimes you would prefer to forego a contract when it’s with a person you know or have been working with for a long time, which, to be fair, presents less risk. But in that slim chance that they don’t pay, since no binding agreement exists between you, your recourse as the service provider is to hang on to your photos until you get your promised payment. However, you have already lost money; your efforts are wasted, given the possibility of not getting paid at all. A real estate photography contract provides crucial details of the business transaction that holds the photographer accountable if they don’t deliver or fail to meet its terms and conditions. Although filing a civil case can be a hassle, chances are you will still get your payment and then some in the end.
A contract protects you from being taken advantage of, especially if it concerns using images other than for listing purposes, for instance. Similarly, when the client fails to pay the real estate photographer for their services, they can always sue for a sum of money plus damages, if any. Hence, it is vital to have a strong contract with well-defined boundaries that can facilitate matters should problems arise during or even after the transaction.
Things to include in your real estate photography contract
As mentioned early in the article, drafting your real estate photography contract can be a simple task – having a lawyer would be better but not necessary. Transparency is key to help ensure you are on the same page with the other party, literally and figuratively. To help you craft a strong contract, here are the important points you need to include:
1. Contact information
2. Property location
3. Scope of the agreement
4. Image ownership
5. Client responsibilities
7. Other conditions
C. Dispute resolutions
1. Contact information
Do you know who you are dealing with? How do you reach the other party when there are questions? Whether entering into an agreement with somebody you already know or with a first-time client, your contract should begin by stating the primary details of the contractor (real estate photographer) and the client, such as their name and postal address, in the first section.
If you are rendering your services under a company, you should use your company name, not your name. Such applies to the client as well. You can include both parties' email addresses, social media handles, and phone numbers. This information will serve as a reference, which is sometimes taken for granted. The address is particularly important when the real estate photographer has to submit a hard copy of the images or the client needs to visit their contractor's office.
"The following parties are executing this real estate photography contract:
John Smith, of legal age, with address at XXXX, (hereinafter referred to as "Photographer")
- and -
Florida Realty Corporation, with address at XXXX, (hereinafter referred to as "Client")"
2. Property location
Both parties should be clear about the specifics when dealing with real estate photography. The client, often a realtor or homeowner, may have several property listings on hand but not necessarily require a photographer’s services for all of them. Thus, the contract should indicate the complete property address or list of addresses you have agreed to work on alongside their listing name or code. In case the client changes the property, the photographer has the option to decline unless there is a contingency clause in the contract, or they would allow such changes.
3. Scope of the agreement
This section is the meat of your contract, where you will set the boundaries and provide a detailed description of services. You will include the schedule of the shoot, number of property images, image formats, staging requirements, special requests, photography techniques, additional services, etc. Presenting this information makes you less likely to have miscommunication and conflicts. You should note that a contract can also provide flexibility since things will not always go as planned. As such, this should be stated as well.
"The Photographer will submit in Tiff and Jpeg formats a minimum of 10 pictures with a resolution of 1024 x 768 pixels for each interior section of the property such as living room, bathroom, dining room, etc. for approval of the Client.
The shoot will begin on <DATE> from 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM and end on <DATE>. This schedule may change in the event of unfavorable weather or untoward events beyond the party's reasonable control. As such, the new schedule will be mutually decided by the Photographer and the Client."
4. Image ownership
An important aspect of a real estate photography contract has something to do with copyrights. It's easy to assume that once the client gets a hold of the pictures shot by the real estate photographer, they automatically own them. That is usually not the case.
While clients pay for the services of a photographer, the pictures remain under the latter's ownership. If that sounds confusing; picture this (pun intended) instead. The photographer sends a soft or hard copy of the images to the client. This means they are authorizing the client to use their images on the listing websites and online promotions surrounding the particular property until it becomes sold. Beyond that, the client must seek the photographer's permission, such as sharing the said pictures with real estate agents who will post them on their social media pages unless they include captions like, "photo credit to John Smith," for example. Hence, the photographer should state in the contract the time, venue, and other instances where the pictures are intended to be used.
On the other hand, if the photographer relinquishes full ownership of the images, they have to ask for permission when they intend to use any such photo in their portfolio; this bit should reflect in the contract as well. Under this circumstance, the client can do whatever they please with the photos, either publish them in magazines or sell them to third-party stock photography.
5. Client responsibilities
While a real estate photographer contract is a service agreement mostly involving the photographer's tasks, the client has their share of responsibilities in preparing the property. It may involve cleaning, gardening, decorating, and staging, which the client can farm out to a third party. The photographer would relay their input on presenting the property, the decorations, lighting, or anything that will help produce the most appealing images. When the day of the shoot comes, the property should be ready by then; otherwise, the photographer can also include a clause for getting compensation in case the client does not fulfill their end of the bargain, causing them to postpone the activity. In other words, the photographer can refuse to perform their task if the property is not in "shoot-ready" condition since it can affect aesthetics or how it will register in the pictures.
Perhaps the crucial part of the contract, money matters are often the cause of many conflicts; hence it’s important that everything is clear from the get-go and put it all on paper. You have to be paid for your work and want to be sure that your client will pay the amount you agreed on after delivering your services. The photographer may have a package rate in which all the other tasks are included, such as editing, color adjustments, etc.
Securing a deposit is highly recommended because there are times the transaction gets aborted for some reason caused by the client. This initial payment can also cover a part of your work, and you will only demand the remaining amount after you have turned in all the pictures. As mentioned earlier, contracts can only reduce your risk of not getting paid, which means the possibility is still there. Others protect themselves by sending watermarked low-resolution images for approval. They will only unlock the viable version when they receive their full payment within a set period, like 15 days, for example, or less. You can indicate this in the contract as well for transparency.
This part depends on how you charge for your services. Even if you have a package rate, there may be extra work outside the initially agreed package and other expenses that you can only determine as they come. One example is transportation cost, but others may provide a fixed rate nonetheless. If the client wants more pictures or an even higher resolution, you can provide an add-on rate for every image. Simply put, any deviation that incurs cost should entail extra payment. However, when you want to go above and beyond with your services and value client satisfaction, you can turn in additional pictures for free or waive other fees that are minimal anyway.
7. Other terms and conditions
This is a portion where you enumerate situations under which you can cancel the contract, who can initiate it, and at what cost. An example would be a shoot cancelation 24 hours before the schedule by one of the parties is allowable. This means you can reschedule for another time without penalty. But if you initiate a cancelation in less than the allowed period, you can stipulate a penalty by forfeiting the deposit or charging a specified amount.
Certain instances would compel either of the parties to deviate from some of the conditions set out in the contract. A modification clause indicates that any changes, deletions, or additions in the agreement should be made in writing and approved by the other party.
“Any modification in this contract must be expressed in writing and approved by both the Photographer and the Client.”
When misunderstandings arise, a dispute ensues. But before you turn to the law courts, a discussion or mediation would be the first attempt to solve the dispute by bringing both parties in
one place with at least one independent individual present to help narrow down the issues and see if they can be resolved.
“Disputes or any breach arising from this agreement shall be facilitated by arbitration under the laws of <STATE> without regard to the conflict of laws in other states.”
A separability clause indicates that when a portion of this agreement is void, it will not affect other aspects stated in the rest of the contract.
“The unenforceability of any part of this contract shall not affect the remainder of the provisions herein.”
This provision states that any party in the contract can forfeit a claim without holding the other liable.
“This agreement will recognize a waiver only when expressed in writing and signed by the Photographer and the Client.”
The final step that makes the contract legally binding is by affixing the signatures of the involved parties and witnesses. It seals the deal and assures that this contract is the only existing legal document pertaining to the transaction and will be fully enforceable.
No doubt, having a real estate photography contract that is filled with detailed and necessary information will provide clarity in the business relationship, agreement, and rights between the photographer and the client. It won’t hurt to include all the content recommended in this article, as it will only benefit both parties.