Having a detailed set of studio policies and procedures is a critical foundation for your business. It establishes that you are a serious and legitimate business, and sets expectations of respect.
Your client needs and wants to know what the rules are. They need to understand the ‘rules of play’ and expectations in order to relax and have a positive experience.
Imagine being invited to a neighbor’s house for dinner. You offer to bring a first course to start the meal, and the host is delighted. When you arrive, you present your host with your famous lobster bisque that you spent all day simmering, along with a gift of your favorite bottle of pinot noir.
Imagine the look of shock and embarrassment on your face when you discover that your host is deathly allergic to shellfish, and on top of that is a recovering alcoholic just 3 months sober.
Not only are you horrified and humiliated by your blunder, but so is the host. She realizes too late that she should have made a point to clearly state these things when extending the invitation, and now the dinner party is ruined.
This is why it is important to be extremely clear and professional in presenting your policies to your client before the session. It is also vital that you have your client sign a copy stating that they understand and agree to these policies – both for your protection and for theirs.
I recommend setting up an online form for your policies to give your client the convenience to read through and sign them electronically. This gives you the added benefit of being able to keep things organized and secure in the event that an issue does arrive in the future.
NOTE: I also recommend sending a copy of your policies in your studio welcome packet so that your client has a set to keep for themselves.
Here are some recommendations of things to consider including in your own studio policies:
1. What is included with the session fee.
Here are some examples of possible ways to word your session fee policies:
- The session fee includes a pre-session design consultation.
- The session fee covers 2 hours of shooting time at 2 separate locations.
- The session fee allows you up to 8 different outfit changes during your session time.
- The session fee includes up to 50 finished images to see when selecting products you would like to order.
- The session fee includes one in person sales appointment.
- The session fee does not include any digital or physical products. You will make your selections and finalize your purchase at the custom in person sales appointment that has been scheduled for you.
- The session fee is non-refundable.
2. Your policy on rescheduling sessions and appointments.
This is an example of what your reschedule policy might look like:
- You may reschedule either your session date or your in person sales appointment one (1) time for no additional fee, provided that you contact the studio at least 48 hours prior to your scheduled appointment.
- If you choose reschedule your portrait session prior to being photographed, you may use 100% your session fee towards a future session fee that occurs within 6 months of your original scheduled date.
- If you need to reschedule an additional time, or if notice is received less than 48 hours prior to the scheduled appointment, there will be a service fee of $150 due at the time of rescheduling for each rescheduled appointment.
3. Your cancellation policy.
This is an example of what your cancellation policy might say:
- If you choose to cancel your portrait session prior to being photographed, and do not wish to reschedule a future session, you will forfeit 100% of your original non-refundable session fee.
- If you choose to cancel your sales appointment after the session has already been photographed, you will be responsible for an additional $500 service fee for the artist’s work on the images photographed during the session.
4. Who may/is required to attend the portrait session.
- We require that a parent or legal guardian accompany all minors to their portrait session.
- Immediate family is welcome to attend the portrait session, and one friend may also attend if cleared with the photographer ahead of time.
5. Personal camera policy.
For example, your policy might look something like this:
- No personal cameras are allowed during the portrait session.
- You may take behind-the-scenes photographs with your phone as long as the photographer clearly appears in all images that you take (and share on social media).
6. Your in person sales appointment policies.
These are some examples of possible sales policies you might include:
- We require all decision makers to be present at the pre-scheduled in person sales appointment in order for the appointment to proceed.
- You will be placing your final order at the pre-scheduled in person sales appointment.
- Minimum payment of 50% of the total order amount is required the day of the pre-scheduled in person sales appointment. Any remaining balance is due within 2 weeks of this appointment.
- Images not ordered at the in person sales appointment are removed from our system immediately following the appointment.
- All ordered images are archived on our server for a period of two (2) years.
- We are unable to offer online sales appointments for any reason, nor are we able to release any form of previews of the images prior to the pre-scheduled in person sales appointment.
- If you require an additional in person sales appointment, there is an additional courtesy fee of $350 for this appointment.
- Once you have finalized your order at the in person sales appointment, you will sign off on your selections. At this time, all sales are final.
- Cancellation of an order within 24 hours of the in person sales appointment will incur a cancellation fee of 50% of the order total. After 24 hours, all orders are non-refundable.
7. Order pickup policy.
- No portion of the order may be picked up or received until the entire order has been paid in full. There are no exceptions.
8. Graphic design policies (i.e. books/albums, announcements, etc.).
- The initial design fee is included in the price of the [book/album/card/etc.].
- The initial design fee includes one (1) revision by the client when presented for initial approval.
- Any additional revisions or changes to the design will incur a fee of $100 per occurrence.
- All designs will be approved in a private, password-protected online approval gallery that may be accessed for a period of 24 hours. Signoff is required by the client in order for the process to proceed. If additional time is needed, an in person approval appointment will be scheduled for you. The fee for this additional appointment is $100.
9. Image presentation policy.
- While the artist may photograph several images of you during the session, only the best images that tell your full story as determined by the artist will be presented at the in person sales appointment.
- The artist has carefully selected the best images of the highest quality, and removed any duplicate or similar images (as well as any images that are not up to standards) prior to the in person sales appointment. No additional images will be presented.
10. Digital file policy.
For example, your policy on digital files may look something like this:
- All digital files that you purchase are for web-sharing use only.
- Digital images may not be reproduced or printed in any form, except by the photographer.
- Digital images may not be cropped or altered in any way.
11. Delivery of final products.
This is an example of what your policy may look like, keeping in mind that you need to allow yourself the opportunity to be able to go above and beyond to delight your clients as opposed to simply being able to ‘meet their expectations’ in the event of a worst case scenario:
- Please allow up to 6 weeks for your order to be completed.
- Before leaving your in person sales appointment we will schedule your pickup date and time for you. Should your order be ready earlier, we will contact you to arrange an earlier pickup appointment.
12. Reorder policy.
- All ordered images will be placed into an exclusive password-protected online gallery for a period of one (1) year from the order date. During this time you may order additional gift prints (sized 10″ and smaller) at special reorder pricing.
- Additional product orders (such as wall portraits, books, etc.) must be placed in person at the studio.
13. Liability waiver.
- Client agrees to hold harmless you, your LLC/business, and your employees in any dispute regarding any event where the client and/or their family or friends should become injured during the session or on the premises of your studio.
- Your client agrees that your studio will not be held accountable for loss or damage of any personal property during their session, or while they are on site at your studio.
14. Copyright policy.
- The US Copyright Act protects professional photographers by granting them the exclusive reproductive rights to all images they produce. Violations include, but are not limited to, making physical copies of digital or print images, scanning images, printing images from home or at any physical or online printing company, and screenshotting or downloading images from our website (without prior written consent from the photographer).
- Please understand that we take our service to you as a professional very seriously, and you have hired us for our quality, artistry, expertise, and reputation. In order to protect our reputation and the quality of work that we provide to our clients, we must maintain full control over the printing and quality of the presentation of the images, as well as all forms of reproductions of these images.
NOTE: The wording above is provided merely as examples of each type of policy, and has not been reviewed or approved by a lawyer. You should always have your own lawyer check your policies against the laws of your state for legality and for your protection, as well as to ensure that the proper wording is used in each scenario that protects both you and your business.