Real Estate Photography Contracts

Have you ever taken a photo and then seen it somewhere else and wondered, "who is using my photos?" If you're a Real Estate Photographer or a Realtor who uses a photographer, you know that this can be a huge red flag. With a thorough and straightforward Real Estate Photography contract, you can protect yourself, your client, and your photographer. 

 

In the world of high-end real estate, there are beautiful photos and videos tours of homes, inside and out. As an agent, these are tools you utilize to market and sell a home. As a Real Estate Agent, you want to make sure you own this material. The best way to cover your bases is to have a Real Estate Photography Contract explicitly written for your brokerage. Here are some of the things you would want to have included in that contract—

An Ownership Clause—This is extremely important. This clause states the photos you have paid for belong to you. Outline specifically where you are going to use these photos—on the MLS, on your business's Facebook accounts, printed materials used for open houses, etc.

Be careful because Real Estate Photographers will often use a contract of their own, which allows them to keep the photos. They do this so they can feature them in their portfolios and on their marketing materials. A best practice you want to follow is to ensure you own them, so there are no time limits on how long the photos can be posted or shared. In many cases, a Photographer's contract might stipulate that you can only use those photos for as long as the property is actively on the market. A lot of brokers like to keep those properties on the MLS as sold to brag a little. Don’t worry, you can stipulate specific use for the photographer of the photos if it’s appropriate. (We’ll cover this a little later.)

Payment Clause—Another best practice to follow is to pay your photographer upfront. Always avoid clauses that state that you will pay them at closing or even six months after. If a property ends up being on the market for an extended period, a photographer could become disgruntled about how long it takes for them to be paid. Best to be upfront about the transaction. 

Detailed Description of Photos—Be very specific about resolution, delivery, and file type. There are a lot of things that you can do with a photo, whether it's using it digitally or printing it. Telling your photographer what your intend to do with the pictures will help them know what’s best. Make sure those expectations are spelled out in your contract. 

Give your photographer a shot list. Be specific about the types and number of photos that you want. For example, state that you want five pictures of the kitchen taken from particular angles. Specify that you need to get ten images of the backyard to capture how beautiful it is, and express that it is a feature that will help sell the home. Help your photographer bring out the best characteristics of the property. 

You can include an exclusion for the photographer to use shots of the home, but those terms need to be explicitly stated in the contract. This way, you're not surprised when you see that picture pop up somewhere, you're not expecting. This is especially true with high-end homes where the photos could end up in real estate publications like Architectural Digest. Be specific about which pictures you are allowing to be used where. 

Termination Clause—The termination clause is essential; say, for instance, you have a photographer who does not show up. You make several appointments with them, and they continue to break those appointments, are you still obligated to pay them? You will want to have the ability to terminate that contract and go with another photographer.  

 

A best practice is for your brokerage to have a specific photographer or photography company that they use. That way, they already know your policies, agents, and style. If that's not possible, you will have to have a contract for each photographer you work with. 

 

Remedies Clauses—These are standard contractual clauses that protect you if something goes wrong. Generally these include stipulations about reasonable attorney’s fees and collections costs should they arise.

Drone Clause—Drone images can be very useful when selling some properties. Before you ask anyone you need to be sure they know how to fly the drone. Photographers who are licensed to fly a drone will usually tell you. They need to be responsible for any FAA Regulations, not violating any privacy laws or flying too close to an airport. Include these stipulations in your contract so you can hold them accountable should something goes wrong.

Client Confidentiality—Finally, you want to make sure you are not violating the confidentiality of your clients. Before you allow a photographer to start snapping shots or flying overhead, you want to make sure your client removes any items that would be identifiable to them. Photos should feature the character of the home and not the people who live there. Also, check with your homeowners before you give any permission to the photographer to use the photos they take in other places. You may need to have them sign a release in order for the photographer to use the photos. 

If you have any further questions, the attorneys at SEB Legal would be happy to help you draft a contract that would fit your needs, as well as protect your client.