What Your Real Estate Photography Contract Must Have
When it comes to the real estate industry, you can be certain you will always deal with high-priced items and clients that are looking for nothing short of high quality output.
However, what this means could be different for various clients. They all have their own set of expectations, goals, references, and preferences. Because of this, and other many reasons, it is important to set up a clear list of conditions that should be agreed upon between you and the client before your project even starts. This way, both of you are sure to be on the same page and understand what your common goal and its limitations are.
Real estate photography contracts should include both yours and your client’s needs, and the compromises in between. Ensuring that your contract is strong and thorough will help protect your photography business, reputation, and professional relationship with your clients. It is the best way to set forth conditions based on the many factors that make up a project, and we will discuss each of these in more detail below.
The Importance Of Having A Real Estate Photography Contract
Many budding real estate photographers, and even some seasoned ones, overlook the importance of setting up a real estate photography contract before agreeing to do a project.
While we highly encourage a healthy work relationship between photographers and their clients, one filled with trust and respect, there is still some room for error and miscommunication. For this, and other reasons, it is crucial and responsible to protect both parties in case this happens.
Consider that there is a possibility the client will not pay you on time, or that they decided to switch their terms in the middle of current work? What if they say their deadline changed and need it within the day – those are not fair on your end and cannot be easily agreed on.
There are many other issues that can be covered by a professional contract, including deliverables, time frames, and details of payment. It will save both parties a lot of time and energy in the long run to have an established set of boundaries with each coming project.
Once you get to draft your first contract, the second, third, and all the rest will be much easier to write up since you can use a standard template and just update the specifics as you go along.
When Can You Use A Real Estate Photography Contract?
Areas of the project wherein it would be useful to have a set contract may include, but are not limited to the following scenarios:
- When showing your work process to your clients
- When establishing your payment terms and conditions
- When discussing property rights and photo ownership
- When setting up your list of responsibilities, and explaining what your clients could expect from your end
- When describing the things you need from your client in order to fulfill your end of the project
- When setting up your cancellation policies and conditions for rescheduling projects
- When the client wants to hire you on retainer and have you work for them exclusively for the duration of the project.
Important Elements Of A Real Estate Photography Contract
There is no one set way to set up a real estate photography contract, however, there are some standard parts to it that mostly cover everything that needs to be accounted for. These are the most important elements we recommend adding to your standard contract:
Information Of Both Parties
This part of the contract focuses on the contact information for both parties. It should include the full names, mailing addresses, email addresses, and phone numbers. This information will also be used for billing purposes later on in the project.
The reason why this is important is to be able to hold each person legally responsible for his or her end of the agreement.
Terms Of Services / Scope Of Agreement
This section of the contract is what you will most likely be tweaking for each client. It describes the details of the types of services your client is expected to receive. It should include the following information
- Location or exact address of the property being photographed
- Key areas that will be photographed
- Objectives of the photo shoot
- Date and duration of the entire project
- Personal preferences expressed by the client, such as angling, lighting, post-production effects, etc
- Number of images included in delivery
- Number of photographers and assistants working on the projects
- Basic or extensive photo editing, including the number of hours allotted for this
- Method of delivery (email, temporary cloud storage link, USB)
- Cancellation policies
- Additional services requested by the client with their corresponding fees, which may include staging the space, drone footage, or videography.
Terms Of Payment
This section ensures that you get paid the right amount and on time. It should include how much the client is going to pay you and a detailed breakdown of the package inclusions with corresponding fees.
Over 82% of businesses have a hard time keeping up because of issues with their cash flow, which really stems from a disorganized invoicing process. This helps you keep your business afloat, your projects running smoothly, and your relationship with clients healthy.
Be sure to include these details:
- Whether or not the client needs to send a partial down payment at a given time before the project starts in order to secure the booking.
- The varying modes of payment that you accept.
- When the client is expected to send the full payment.
- Travel costs for locations outside your service area. You can opt to charge a flat rate or a fee per mile.
- Costs for special post-production processes, such as the client requesting for HDR (high dynamic range) photos, or advanced photo manipulation.
- Cancellation, refund, or rescheduling payment process.
Furthermore, we recommend stating that the lower resolution versions with watermarks will be sent to the client for review prior to sending the final files. The latter should only be released once final payment has been made.
Property Preparation Requirements
Having to stage the property can be very time consuming, not to mention physically demanding. Either the homeowner or real estate photographer can be in charge of making sure the property is ready for the shoot. If this falls under your obligation as the photographer, it is best to clearly state this within the contract, along with the specifics of what needs to be done, such as:
- Ensuring the same is dust and clutter free
- Making sure that the necessary decorations are in place, and those not needed are kept
- Making sure that the lawn is well trimmed and the other areas such as swimming pool and Jacuzzi are clean
- Similar items
If other contractors will be involved to fill in for these services, it should be stated who is in charge of contacting them and what the photographer expects the other parties to provide for the shoot.
Property and Equipment Provision
This section of the contract centers on what exact software and hardware you will be utilizing to capture and deliver your end of the project. This is to be able to set your client’s expectations properly regarding the type of equipment being used. This part of the contract can include:
- List of cameras to be used
- List of lenses to be used
- List of lighting and staging equipment to be used
- Information about your chosen photo editing software/s
By being very transparent about the tools available for the project, you can prevent any miscommunication or unpleasant surprises throughout the project such as the client not being agreeable with the type of lens used and similar scenarios.
Delivery / Turnover
To prevent any issues arising later on, contracts should clearly state the agreed upon photo specifications, timeframe of project, and delivery method. By communicating that the postproduction of the photos can take up a lot of time, you can better make you client understand the timetable set out and prevent them from demanding more than is attainable.
Some details to include in this section are:
- The exact date and estimate time that you will send the digital files and physical copies
- What sizes would the photographs need to be in
- Best image resolution and aspect ratio for the client’s website
- Format of files to be delivered
- Mode of delivery (temporary use of cloud storage, email, USB, etc)
- Number of times a client can ask for revisions
Extra Fees When Applicable
We all go into a project hoping everything goes smoothly and according to plan, but it does not always work out that way. In order to protect both you and your client, your contract should have the following variables:
Cancellation Fees. In the case of cancellation of the project before full completion, consider including penalty amounts. You may opt to get detailed with this by adding different fees depending on which stage of the project you are currently one when the cancellation occurs.
Rescheduling Fees. If in case a photo shoot gets rescheduled, that is one less day that you could have used to book with another client or do other productive tasks. You can opt to include a rescheduling fee if the client decides to change the time on the day or by a certain hour the day prior.
Late Arrival Fees. When it comes to real estate photography, the crew can only start working if the clients, real estate agents, or a representative of the property is present. In cases wherein the other party is greatly delayed, you end up losing a lot of good lighting and shooting time. Ensure that the hours you spent waiting on them are accounted for.
License Agreement and Usage Rights
There are many clients who automatically think they own the full rights to all of the photos once the files have been turned over. While this is true for the most part, there are still a few limitations.
For instance, if the client sends the photos to other parties without your prior permission, this can fall under copyright infringement, unless otherwise stated on the contract that it is perfectly acceptable for them to do so.
Billions of photos get stolen every day, and having everything digital makes it easier to get away with it. That is billions of profit lost in the air. This is why clarifying from the start what the boundaries of usage rights and licensing of your photos are can prevent others from exploiting your work.
Adding copyright and usage right clauses helps you specify the extent of how long your clients can own the rights and on what platforms they are permitted to publish your work on.
Commercial Usage Terms
This section of the contract should state that the client would need to pay to license images if they are used outside the original intention of the project. This clause should specify that they are purchasing the images and are free to use them within a given context, such as real estate listings. For other types of medium and intentions, the client must obtain a commercial license from you and send additional payment.
Safe Working Environment and Indemnification
Contracts are there to protect everyone while on the job. This means having to consider the possibility of the worst-case scenario becoming a reality, even if seems a little far-fetched.
This is why including a section regarding the client’s responsibility to provide a safe working environment for you and your crew is recommended. For instance, it is only reasonable to expect that the property has no major construction will take place on the day of the shoot.
Additionally, an indemnification clause ensures that you are justly compensated for any losses, liability, or damages during the project. For instance, the client may accidentally trip over your lighting and break your equipment.
In some instances, photographers would want to submit certain images for publications and to add to their portfolio. For these situations, we highly recommend adding a property release clause in the contract that authorizes you to do so, depending on your detailed terms and conditions.
Finally, this may seem like a silly thing to point out, but ensure that there is a signature from both parties to seal the deal and make the whole contract legally binding. Otherwise, no signature means the contract will be considered null and void.
Tips For Photographers Who Opt Out Of A Real Estate Photography Contract
Despite the hard-hitting advantages that contracts can provide, there are some photographers who find it downright unnecessary. Perhaps, in cases wherein the shoot is very informal or there are just some individuals who feel uncomfortable with legal documents.
If you or someone you know refuses to draw up and sign a legally binding document for protection, there are other ways to be secured.
Set Clear Expectations. During one of your meetings, explain in detail your work process, including your shooting schedule, editing scheduling, and expected turnaround time. Give a close estimate as to how much everything would cost, where they are allowed to use the images, which areas are they not allowed to use the photos, and any other conditions that could get in the way such as cancellation or revisions. If you feel comfortable doing so, at least take notes or minutes of the meeting to have a copy of what was discussed.
Get A Deposit. One of the most common issues when it comes to projects without a legally binding contract is miscommunication with payment. To ensure you get something out of the project, let your client know that you require a 50% partial down payment before the shoot itself, and a deadline on when they can pay. Once they hand over the payment, give them an acknowledgment form. Without the payment, you are at higher risk of getting a canceled project and wasting your time and resources.
Open Communication Always. To ensure that both of you are always on the same page, make sure to communicate with every new step of the project. For instance, when you are done with the shoot and are moving on to post-production, briefly speak with them about how long you expect to take when editing and set a realistic timeline. This of course should be discussed in the initial meeting, but it is always good to reiterate if a contract is not present.