understanding your portrait photography contract

What Should Be In Our Family Photo Contract?

In my opinion, there are a few musts when it comes to family portraits. First, your photographer should make you feel comfortable in front of the camera. Second, you should love your photographer’s creative style. And finally, you should understand what the experience will be like before, during, and after your session. There is one essential element which I believe helps with all of these elements: your family photo contract.

You may be thinking, “I don’t need a contract for family photos…” But in my experience, it is best to have a few things written down so that everyone knows what is what, who should do what, and what happens if things go wrong. Not only that, but your photographer presenting you with a thought-out contract shows that they’ve invested time in protecting not only themselves but your interests in the investment you’re making in your family memories. However, these things are sometimes difficult to understand. So I’m here to help you decipher what should be in your contract and what everything means. Here are the items we’ll be addressing below:

  • Your payment schedule
  • Additional fees you may incur
  • Delivery and timeline of your photos
  • Termination, cancellation, and return of your deposit
  • Liability
family photography


The details of your portrait package must be included in your family photo contract. This should include the total of your package, what is included for this amount, and when each payment should be specified. So be sure to have a close read over this section.

Payment Checklist

  • The amount of your retainer.
  • The due date of each payment.
  • The total amount of each payment.
  • Whom to make payments to.
  • How you will make each payment.
  • What happens if payments are late.
  • Your photographer’s refund policy.


ur quoted price. You may be subject to additional fees not included in your package. While your quote should outline tax, you may be subject to travel and accommodation fees, fees for permits, and late fees. Your contract should outline every potential charge you might be subject to. It should also outline under what circumstances you may need to pay these additional fees.

Additional Fees Checklist

  • Taxes, if applicable.
  • Fees for additional hours of photography.
  • Travel expenses including mileage, parking, meals, and accommodations.
  • Late fees if you order products included in your package after your order deadlines.
  • When you will receive your digital or printed photos if any payments are late.
  • Your responsibility for permits.


You may be wondering when you will get your first look at your photos. Your contract should include this. You should also find when you can download your photos, and when your final printed artwork will be delivered in your contract.

Here are some examples from my contracts of what you should find in your contract regarding your photo gallery:

Wall art will be delivered within 21 days of being submitted for print. You will be notified when your artwork has been submitted for print.

Albums will be delivered within 60 days of being submitted for print. You will be notified when your album(s) has been submitted for print.

Digital downloads of your photos will be made available after your print orders are confirmed via your online gallery. Digital downloads are available in medium-resolution (up to 5×7 inches), and may be shared on social media and printed in small format at your convenience. You can keep these photographs forever.

Your online gallery will be accessible for 1 year. You may purchase additional artwork from your gallery, and share your gallery with family and friends. You must download your photographs and save them somewhere safe prior to your gallery expiration.

Delivery and Timeline Checklist

  • The date your sneak peek will be available.
  • The date when your final gallery will be ready. 
  • How long you will have access to your gallery and what fees for extending this timeline.
  • The final date when you can order artwork.
  • Expected artwork delivery dates.
  • How your photographer will deliver your printed artwork.


Pardon my French, but shit happens. Weather happens, people get sick, and kids smack their faces off the ground leaving big ugly bruises. A family rescheduled a session with me once for this very reason. This element can be a source of stress for families. So pay close attention to this section. It should outline what happens when, and it should seem reasonable to you.

Here are some examples from my portrait contracts regarding cancellation and rescheduling:

If you notify me that you will be rescheduling your session more than 7 days in advance of your session date, there will be no rescheduling fee.

If you notify me that you will be rescheduling your session within 7 days in advance of your session date, a $50 rescheduling fee will be payable in order to confirm your new session date, and this contract will be applied to the new session date.

In the unlikely event that I am unable to shoot your session or event, I will do my best to find a replacement. If I cannot, I will refund all of your money. 

If you cancel your session your payment will not be refunded.

Termination Checklist

  • What happens if you reschedule your family photo session.
  • Your photographer’s policy or cancelled sessions and their refund policy.
  • Reasons why your photographer might cancel your session, and what happens.


When I was in college, our teachers told us regularly to back up our photos. I didn’t. And one day, my laptop gave up and I lost all of my assignments. Stuff happens, sometimes. I back up all of my photos (several times) now. But we should always be prepared for and have an idea of what happens if things go sideways. So your family photo contract should include your photographer’s liability should things go wrong.

Liability Checklist

  • The limits of what your photographer can do and provide.
  • What to expect regarding your shortlist, what is possible, and what is not.
  • What happens if your photographs are lost or damaged.
  • How long your photos will be backed up and how you can access those backups in the future.
  • Procedures for acquiring permits for photography locations.

Your Family Photo Contract

As you can see, there is a lot that goes into your family photo contract. And that confusion just adds to the stress you’re already feeling about getting in front of the camera. If you’re wondering what will happen before, during, and after the session, don’t worry! Photographers like me are transparent about how the process works. And you can tap right here to schedule a consultation with me to put those questions to rest about what your family portraits will look like.

Share This With Your Family

Is your extended family planning a new family portrait this year? Share this with the organizer in your family. They’ll want to know all of these clauses for your family portrait.

What Should Be In Our Family Photo Contract?