Contract Basics: What’s Inside

Last week we went over when you need a contract, how detailed it should be, and who creates it. This week I want to take a look at specific things a contract should cover. It’s important to remember that I’m talking about contracts for commissioned jobs – editorial work, product photography, etc. While each contract is job specific these are some universal things that should almost always be covered.

General Info

Regardless of the contract it should always have basic info about the job and the people involved. Be sure to include a job name (use this in any correspondence and file naming), the full names of both you and your client as well as the full company names, contact info for both you and the client, and the date.


Usage is the main part of a contract. This is where the details of how the client is allowed to use your work and for how long is stated. Some of the points often covered are: the length of the usage, the geographical region, the context of the use (print, web, marketing, advertising), when the usage starts. It can also be good to mention what type of usage is not included so that there is no confusion between different terms.


The fee you will be paid should be clearly stated. You should also specify if taxes and expenses are include in the fee or if they will be extra.


Deliverables are what you are giving the client in exchange for the fee. These could be the number of final images, how many design iterations, will you provide a web gallery, etc. This doesn’t have to go into detail about every little things but any big things you agreed on should be here.

Promotion Rights / Confidentiality

There should be a line clearly stating that you are allowed to use the final product in your own portfolio to promote your work. This is standard and the only time it that it’s acceptable for you not to be able to use your work to promote yourself is if there is an issue of confidentiality. If this is the case your client will certainly push for it to be in the contract. Often you cannot share or talk about the project until it is published or rolled out. If this is the case then it’s a good idea to state it clearly.


If you are creating work that will have surplus materials your client might want to restrict the use of those materials. Some examples of this are extra images from an editorial shoot that aren’t published or a logo design concept that wasn’t chosen. Whatever the case may be the contract should state if you’re allowed to resell surplus work and how long, if at all, you are restricted from doing so.


At the end you should have the signatures and printed names of both parties as well as the dates.

This should get you well on your way to understanding contracts and figuring out what the various parts mean. As I mentioned in the last post, if there is any uncertainty about what is in a contract you are asked to sign consult a lawyer or ask someone more experienced. It might not matter much when you are dealing with small jobs but as thing get bigger so do the consequences of something going wrong. Feel free to send us specific questions – while we’re not experts in this, we might be able to clear things up or at least point you in the right direction.


Image by Michael Jefferies