3 Questions to ask your photographer before signing the dotted line

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you know what types of photos you need for your business and what to have in order before hiring a photographer. Now you’re at the point where you’ve found the right photographer and are about to go into business with them and sign the contract, which every legitimate photographer should have a client contract because it can save a lot of miscommunication, headaches and it’s just good business practices. Before signing on the dotted line here are a few things you should ask about and make sure are in the contract

What amount of post production goes into the final images?

Many people assume that every image that they receive from a photographer will be retouched to the gods and that they’ll look like a Victoria’s Secret swimsuit catalog. This is not necessarily the case. Never assume when it comes to photography. Retouching and editing are two different things. Editing is the narrowing down of images to a certain amount and/or placed in a certain order. Retouching is the actual act of getting rid of the blemishes that chose to show up the day or your shoot. Color correction is the fixing of the white balance so your photos don’t look green or yellow due to horrible indoor lighting conditions. Although photographers may rope all that in by saying “editing,” know the different and ask in detail about it. A photographer may already have it listed in their package that a certain amount of images come with minor edits such as adjusting lighting and color and that in-depth retouching is extra or if it's a beauty shoot that it is included. Make sure that it is clearly stated what will happen to the images in-between the shooting and final delivery process.

When and how images will be delivered? How long will the photographer have access to the images before they are not responsible for them anymore?

How the images are being delivered should be in your contracts as well. Some common methods of delivery include via a flash drive, CD, Google Drive, Dropbox, WeTransfer or an online gallery posted for you to look at. Sometimes photographer’s will meet up with clients in person and have them choose the images on the spot. Knowing how you are receiving your images because it could alter the price. If you receive images such as on a flash drive, CD or in a printed book format then sales tax must be charged for the physical item as well. Also make sure to know how long the photographer is responsible for the images before they are allowed to delete their copies. If you so happen to lose and image or want to pay for new edits and they don’t have the images anymore it wouldn’t be the photographer’s fault but your own.

What are the usage rights and/or who owns the photos after they are released to me?

This is an issue that confused many photographers and clients they work with. According to the Federal Copyright Act of 1976, the photographer that created the work owns the photos from the moment of creation. To obtain the rights to the photos a photographer takes there must be a transfer of the rights included in the contract. When contacting a photographer about your project you need to know what you plan on using the images for because this can affect your pricing. Images that are used for web only cost differently than images that are being displayed on a billboard and a catalog for a 3 month time span. If you want to use the images indefinitely without having to go back and pay for more usage from the photographer then you have to buy the rights to the images outright. This also applies to the post production as well. Since you, the client, don’t own the photos you cannot do any additional edits after receiving the images from your photographer without their permission unless you buy the rights to the photos. But since you are hiring the photographer for their expertise and knowledge of photography and retouching, it would be in your best interest to express how you want the photos to be edited and let the professionals achieve the desired effect in the first place.

See: Copyright Laws for Photographers.

If you or your photographer don’t have any contracts then look for sample independent contractor forms and tailor them such as this one from the Professional Photographers of America or hire a lawyer that specializes in contracts to draft up sample contracts.


Blogger Cathy, of Poor Little It Girl, took it upon herself to hire a lawyer so she could draft up a contract that gets her exactly what she wants out of her contractual agreements with her photographers for her blog. Check out her post, “WHY YOU NEED A CONTRACT WITH YOUR BLOG PHOTOGRAPHER, AND HOW TO CREATE ONE.”

Of course there are numerous things that you should be asking your photographers when you are working with them. I just wanted to include the 3 that I’ve found are spots of trouble or confusion between clients and the photographers they’ve chosen to hire.

If you’re in the Atlanta area or are willing to pay for travel, I offer photography services for fashion and beauty related brands and always have my contracts together for client relations at Aspen Cierra Photography.