Ironclad Contracts and Releases

Dog Tail Designs, Ironclad Contract, Agreements, Model Release, Photography

Sign It on the Dotted Line

Before I say anything about contracts and agreements, I’m going to make the most important statement of all… I am not a lawyer and none of this should be taken as legal advice. You are responsible for creating an agreement that is legally binding and in your best interest. Consulting with a lawyer is ALWAYS a good idea. I am not responsible for any decision you make regarding the contracts and agreements you choose to use. Can I make it any clearer?

Regardless of what you take away from this post, I can’t encourage you enough to always have an agreement in place every time you take someone’s picture. And, depending on your intentions, you might need an agreement even if there’s no person in the picture at all. Let me break down just some of the benefits of a solid agreement. 

  1. Limits your liability. This is the number one reason you need a contract. You could be taking pictures of your best friend, but, if something goes wrong, that bff could very easily become the person who’s suing you for damages. “Liability,” covers a gamut of topics. Without a contract in place, you could be liable for the customer’s satisfaction, the safety of individuals you’re not even photographing, the wear and tear on the subject’s clothes, the efficiency of the photo shoot, or the costs incurred to use locations. And trust me, that is just to name a few.
  2. Gives you selection and editing permission. You do want to edit your pictures, don’t you? What if, in your attempt to make someone look better, they decide you’ve made them look “unnatural?” What if someone doesn’t like your editing style, so they want all their money back? What if you take thousands of pictures and your client claims they have the right to see ALL of them (trust me, that’s a no-no)? You must make it clear in the contract that you OWN the pictures, not the client. Until they pay for the picture, including a print release, they have NO rights to the pictures.
  3. Allows for future marketing use. Even when a customer pays for their pictures, they’re not buying the copyright. You still OWN the images. And, you should retain the right to use those images for marketing purposes. You want to show off your great work on your website, in pamphlets, through social media… and any other marketing avenue that comes along.
  4. Opens the potential for selling the work. Some images turn out so good, they’re practically works of art. There are photographic communities that can take those works of art and place them for sale, with you getting a hefty commission! But, this is a no-can-do if you don’t get the right release form signed.

Dog Tail Designs has several different releases and agreements that we have signed, depending on the occasion and intention for the pictures.

The Wedding and Portrait Contract

We use the same contract whether we’re taking Senior pictures of photographing a wedding. For that reason, this agreement is somewhat long – it has a wide variety of topics to cover. I scoured the internet for photography agreements and simply couldn’t find one agreement that met all our needs. So, I consolidated several different agreements, changed the wording in some areas, and added clauses of my own. The final product is a multi-page contract that we have signed anytime someone is paying us to take their picture.

I never just hand the client the contract and ask them to sign. I always go over the key clauses and make sure they truly agree with what they are signing. If you choose to download this contract and use it in your business, you REALLY should read it from beginning to end, even if contracts “aren’t your thing.” Yes, there is quite a bit of “legalese” in these pages, but I firmly believe every clause is necessary and beneficial.

If you have questions regarding this agreement or how to use it, feel free to contact me. Use the handy contact form on this site or email me directly to  I will do my best to explain anything that is unclear, or I will refer you to a lawyer if it’s above my head. You will need to modify sections of this contract to make it specific to you. That’s why I’ve made it available in an editable Word document. Remember, some clauses (primarily the first page and a half) only make sense for wedding photography. The other clauses are universal.


Dog Tail Designs, Photography Release, Model Release, Contracts, Agreements

The Model Release

If we’re doing a Portfolio Building photo shoot, we always have the model sign a Model Release. Often times, we want the option to sell pictures that are taken for portfolio purposes. A quality model release will stipulate that this is the photographer’s right and that no additional compensation will be owed to the model. Stock image websites typically require a release of this nature before they will sell your picture.


Dog Tail Designs, Property Release, Contracts, Agreements

The Property Release

This release serves the same purpose as a Model Release, only it applies to owned property that you are photographing. Whether you’re shooting pictures of just a building or you’re taking pictures of someone within a building, it never hurts to get a property release signed by the owner.


For Your Protection

Contracts and agreements are not the “fun” part of photography, but they are necessary. They protect you, the photographer, from potential lawsuits and major money mayhem. Though I have provided sample agreements and releases, you should NOT assume that these are legally sound documents. Anything you decide to incorporate into your photography business should be reviewed by a lawyer. If you choose to use the documents provided in this post, Dog Tail Designs is not responsible for any litigation, liabilities, or other negative effects that may arise from such use. These documents are simply a courtesy offering, free of charge, for your review. Use at your own will.

Do you have a contract or agreement that you use? Let me know what you think about this aspect of photography!

This Article Was Written By


Wendy is the assistant behind the magic. She helps Casey on all the photo shoots and handles the marketing side of Dog Tail Designs.