Contracts & Rates (what everyone avoids talking about)

Contracts aren't the most fun thing in the world, nor are talking about rates, but having these two pieces of information already set in stone will make your life so much easier.  Here's what I suggest.  Make a contract outline that will work for all your future clients.  Then, establish your rates and don't change them.  Let's talk about contracts first.

The Importance of Contracts

I don't care how new you are to photography, if you are charging for your services, you must write up a contract. It can be as basic as you want it to be, but at least it exists.  Contracts are useful for both you and the client.  When you send your client over a contract, they know exactly what photo services to expect from you.  It's helpful to you for the same reason.  You know exactly what is expected of you.  

I once had a client almost double the amount of product photos I was expected to take during the photo shoot.  Normally, I would have just said okay, sure, I'll take an extra 300 product photos for you (and then I'd be ripping my hair out later with all the extra editing), but because we already had that written contract I was able to say, sure, I'd love to take more photos for you, however this will change the rates we agreed to in the contract since I will be spending more time shooting and editing.  Are you okay with that?  I've had clients react two ways.  The first way is them saying no problem, the second way is them saying no, let's stick to our original agreement, and usually they realize they don't actually need an extra however many photos.   

Here's one of my contracts for you to have a look at.  It's really ugly looking, but it seems to do the trick.


Editorial Spread for Vanity Fair
Kim A. Thomas Photography 

Proposal - July 31, 2013 (aka: what I want for my birthday)

Photo Agreement:

1). 2 portraits of Ellen Degeneres 
- one portrait in gazebo setting
- second portrait at Ellen's house

2). 1 portrait of Ellen with Beyonce
- landscape spread - picnic theme
- them hanging out with photographer (so use self timer)

3). 8-12 candid shots of Ellen and Beyonce hugging and hanging out with Kim



1). 1-2 hours of shooting (but if Ellen really shows up, I'll shoot all day).
2). 2-3 different outfits (but if Beyonce shows up, I'll try on her clothes for her).



Half day rate (up to 4 hours)*: $10,000.00 
Full day rate (up to 8 hours)*: $17,000.00
Hourly rate*: $3000.00
Editing rate*: $2500.00/hr

 *If Ellen and Beyonce show up, all services are free, just please make them show up.



All photos edited and delivered in high resolution.  Photos taken landscape style to fit layout of magazine.

Photos will be delivered between 1-2 weeks from day of shoot.  I will provide a dropbox link for you so you have immediate access to all of the high resolution photos. 

Production company has agreed to print billboard sized photos of all photos where Ellen, Beyonce and Kim are all pictured in a photo together.  


Okay, so maybe this contract is a liiiiittttle stretched, but a photographer can dream, right?  Your contract may be more detailed than the one above, or your contract may be less detailed.  Just make sure you have a photo agreement in there, your rates and the delivery expectations.  Services you may be able to scrap, or maybe you'd add a make-up artist to your services, it's totes up to you.  You get the idea, though.  Everyone knows what to expect.  If things get awkward in the future because the client wants more photos or wants to change the entire shoot, you have an easy way of coming back to this contract.  You can both change it together, or decide to stick to it.


I don't know about you but I find it incredibly awkward when talking about rates with clients.  Whether we are talking about a potential photo shoot on the phone or in person, everyone is usually dreading bringing this topic up.  Here's a recent conversation I had:



Ellen (E): Well hey Kim! It's funny you say that because I am even more excited to talk with you, my favorite photographer evaaaaa (Ellen is dancing now).

(Kim is dancing now, too.)

E: So, let's talk about this photoshoot!  What are your rates?

K: My hourly rate is $3000.

E: That sounds good to me!  See you Saturday, Kim!


So obviously I got that gig with Ellen because Ellen loves me.  But if I had that conversation with another client, they would hang up on me.  Whenever a client asks me about my rates, I reply, how about I email you over a proposal (contract) that includes everything we've discussed and want in the photo shoot, and that will include my rates for something like this.  Once you read over that email we can go from there.  Everyone always thinks this is a fantastic idea, because then they don't have to talk about rates either and whether they can afford it or not.  You avoid all that awkward conversation.

The other reason a contract is helpful is because when you send your rates over, they see what this all includes. A $3000 hourly rate may seem steep, but if they see everything it includes, then they will be able to understand it better.  And just for the record, I am no where near charging an hourly rate of $3000. :)

You should have a half day rate, a full day rate, an hourly rate and an editing rate.  It seems excessive, but if you are getting a lot of varying jobs, having these already established will save you a ton of time.

Hope all this helps!  Let me know if you have any questions!


All opinions are my own, and I have never been hired by Ellen Degeneres.  But I just feel like her and I would groove together well, and I would totally take her photo for her. Or go on her show for her. Eat ice cream with her. Go to a dance party with her. Hang out at her and Portia's pool. I feel like Ellen needs me just as much as I need her.  We're practically best friends she just doesn't know it yet.