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Real Estate Photography Contract Guide

Published: 12/04/2021

Being a photographer is not all about photo shoots; you also have to prepare enough legal protection for your business and your clients. We're going to look into tips on writing a real estate photography contract to protect your work better and help you gain a higher reputation as a professional.

Everything You Need to Know About a Real Estate Photography Contract

If you want to get more serious in the industry, it's important that you know what kind of real estate photography contract to create. From there, you can identify the terms or conditions of a shoot. In this way, you can protect your business, as well as your clients. As you work on your contract, remember to connect with a lawyer in your area before you finalize it to verify that the language is accurate and precise for your location.

What Can a Real Estate Photography Contract Protect?

A photography contract is a necessary business document that binds you and the client into a legal agreement, protecting both parties in case one or both fails to meet the expectations agreed. Hence, it should offer a mutually beneficial business relationship.

Furthermore, it ensures you get paid on time and according to your agreed-upon rates. It serves as your first line of protection against the improper use of your real estate photos.

On the other hand, a written contract also protects an agent, broker, or home seller should you fail to provide the specifics, such as the expected turnover, number of images, or type of service.

Woman viewing real estate interior photos in her camera

When to Use a Real Estate Photography Contract

You should always create and sign a real estate photography contract each time an agent or homeowner wants to use your services. These are among the most common instances when you should use photography contracts.

Commercial and Editorial Purposes 

Commercial real estate photography is commonly used for property listing, websites, advertising, etc. This is among the most in-demand kinds of real estate photography, so it also corresponds to a higher service fee and quality of images.

Since you may work with big corporations and commercial establishments, you also have to protect yourself against such giant clients.

Meanwhile, print materials like magazines, newspapers, and brochures may need interior property photos. For this reason, copyright terms must detail the allowed usage of your images.

Exclusivity and Retainer

If you have a unique shooting style, some companies or real estate agents might want you to become their exclusive photographer. In such cases, you can draft an exclusivity agreement.

Your employer would give a corresponding retainer payment to ensure you photograph for them at a given time and space. When you sign an exclusive agreement, you must not work for other people that might interfere with the retained client's future sessions.

Potential Problems

Even after a meeting and getting a quotation, some agents might still forget the agreed terms and conditions. If clients look for other products or services beyond initial oral agreements, you can dispute this with a contract as your backup.

Types of Real Estate Photography Contracts

Once you have these contract types, you can easily identify which is best for you, look up contract templates and modify them according to each client's needs.

  • Short Form: This standard document is perfect for ordinary yet several interior and exterior sessions. However, the terms and conditions are usually set by the photographer alone, and the other party has little or no ability to negotiate.
  • Editorial: This kind of real estate photography contract focuses on the marketing and promotional usage of your images.
  • Drone: You can indicate the drone information in the project inclusions if it's just an add-on service. If the project solely focuses on aerial footage, a drone photography contract further specifies important details like a permit to fly drones and a professional drone pilot license.
  • Architectural: Architectural photography makes use of aesthetics, as opposed to the simplicity of real estate photography. Thus, this kind of contract must identify the limitations on your creative freedom.

Things to Include in a Real Estate Photography Contract

In general, a contract must include the duties, roles, responsibilities, and rights of the photographers, agents, companies, or home sellers. It details everything you would expect to fulfill in the shoot and what would happen should someone fail to do so. 

Let's look into the specifications of a real estate photography contract that can help provide clarity in every real estate photo session.

Person signing contract for real estate photography

Information of Both Parties

Getting the basic information of the agent or seller should be one of the first things you need to acquire, yet some real estate photographers tend to overlook it.

This part contains the full names and contact information of the client and the photographer. You may also include an address if you need to deliver something or the client needs to visit your studio.

Scope of the Project

The scope is among the essential parts of real estate photography contracts because it describes the services your client will get. It should include the following information.

  • Location or exact address of the property
  • Objectives of the shoot, so it will be clear on your end what you need to achieve
  • Date and duration of the project to allow both parties to prepare and have ample time to accomplish the tasks
  • Personal preferences of the client, such as angles, lighting, effects, etc
  • Number of images
  • Number of photographers
  • Basic or extensive photo editing
  • Cancellation policies
  • Additional services and their corresponding fees, which may include visual staging, aerial footage, or videography

Payment Terms

Payment is another important part of real estate photography contracts as it ensures you get paid accordingly and on time. It identifies how much the client is going to pay, as well as a detailed breakdown of the package inclusions and extra fees.

  • Does the client need to send the partial down payment at least 14 business days before the work to secure the booking?
  • Aside from cash, do you accept credit or debit cards?
  • Do you accept international payment channels like Paypal, Payoneer, or Transferwise?
  • When should the client send the full payment?
  • Should the client pay the rest of the balance before getting the edited photos?
  • Travel costs for locations outside of your service area, which can be a flat rate or per-mile fee.
  • Cost for extra post-processing, like HDR or advanced object removal.
  • Cancellation, refund, or rescheduling payment process.

About 82% of businesses fail due to cash flow problems, which partly stem from a disorganized invoicing system. With a signed agreement, you can ensure you gain enough financial worth for every service you provide.

Styling and Preparation Requirements

Styling can be time-consuming, so be sure that the contract clearly states who is responsible for this task. Basically, the homeowner or agent must always prepare the property for the shoot, although as a photographer, you can help enhance the space by styling based on your needs.

  • Make sure that the client cleans the property before the scheduled session, so you don't waste time removing dust and clutter before you take photos.
  • Do you need minimal decorations for the interior, such as vases, picture frames, or fruit bowls?
  • For exterior shoots, advise the client to trim the lawn or clean the swimming pool.

You should be able to begin shooting after doing a walkthrough on the property. It's not ideal to spend a day's worth of work cleaning and styling. Otherwise, consider rescheduling the photoshoot.

If you arrive at the location and can't take photos due to things beyond your control, like renovations, a contract legally requires a client to give the full payment, even if you have to reschedule.

Turnover

Real estate photography contracts must clearly state details about the photo specifications, timeframe, and mode of delivery.

  • The exact date on when you need to send the digital files and the physical copies
  • MLS photo size
  • Best image resolution and aspect ratio for the client's website
  • Number of agent profiles or headshots that require basic retouching
  • Format of files to be delivered: JPEG or RAW files
  • Use of Cloud storage providers like WeTransfer, Google Drive, or DropBox
  • Sending of low-resolution and full-watermarked photos for revision
  • Number of times a client can ask for revisions

The real estate photography post-processing can be, if not more, equally tiresome as the shoot. This is why it's vital that you set delivery terms to avoid the client from demanding more.

Man saving his real estate photos on a laptop

License Agreement and Usage Rights

Some clients think that they automatically own the full rights of photos after payment. If an agent or seller transfers the photos to others without your permission, contracts help you sue them for copyright infringement.

About 2.5 billion photos get stolen every day, with the United States accounting for nearly 23% of image theft. This problem results in billions of losses, which is why writing explicit terms for usage rights and licensing can prevent other people from exploiting your images. 

When you add copyright or usage rights clauses, you can specify the extent of how long clients can own the rights or what kind of platform they can publish your images. As this part is a bit complex, it's wise to seek legal advice.

Property Release

It's not only the clients who can commit mistakes; there are instances when photographers can fail to meet expectations. This usually happens when a real estate photographer wants to submit the images in a publication or use them as a portfolio.

For such cases, it's best to add a property release clause in the contract. In this way, the agent or homeowner can authorize you to use the photos, depending on the agreed terms and conditions.

Signature

Finally, to seal the deal, you and your clients must sign the contracts. A real estate photography contract would only be legally valid with a signature.

Tips for Real Estate Photographers Who Don't Use Contracts

Despite the advantages of a contract, some photographers still find this document unnecessary. Sometimes it's because of informal shoots, or some people are a bit apprehensive with legal documents. Either way, there are still things you can do to make sure you get fully paid for the job.

  • Set Expectations: Ensure that the agent or home seller understands your work process, including shooting schedule, editing, and turnaround time. Likewise, give an idea of the cost of services, usage rights, and rescheduling conditions. If there's no contract, being honest is one way to establish a successful business relationship.
  • Get a Deposit: With an acknowledgment form, instruct your clients to pay a 50% deposit before the shoot. However, make sure to give a deadline until when they can pay. Otherwise, you risk getting a canceled session at the last minute and wasting time.

Conclusion

A real estate photography contract enables you to transact with clients safely. It gives better value to your services as it serves as a formal term of the agreement. As long as you follow our tips, you can create a contract that would be beneficial for all people involved.

Let us know in the comments how contracts have helped your business grow!

Devon Higgins
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