Why you need photography studio policies

Why You Need Studio Policies and the 5 Things You’ll Want Clients to Know

Why you need photography studio policiesDo you run your business? Or does your business run you?

Do you have an immediate answer when a client or potential client asks you something along the lines of “what happens if I don’t like my pictures?” or, “can I just pay you when my order comes in?” If you don’t, it’s time to put together some studio policies!

Two Types of Questions to Consider: Information vs. Policy


As your business grows, you’ll find that potential clients will call or email you with many different questions. Most questions will be what I consider basic information seeking. Let’s keep in mind that this potential client may not know anything about you yet – perhaps they saw your Facebook ad and liked your photography but need more details to make a decision whether to hire you or not.

These information seeking questions will be along the lines of, “how much does a session cost,” “how much for photos or files,” “how long is the session,” etc. Things like your studio pricing and length of sessions are things that will change over time or even with different locations or types of photography offered.

These types of questions will not be included in your policies, but it’s a good idea to have a list of commonly asked information questions along with your answers so that you don’t have to recreate the wheel every time you get one of these questions.


In my mind, policies are like the rules that you run your business by. You might change and adjust them as situations arise or as your business changes or grows, but for the most part they are a constant in your business.

There are several benefits to creating and implementing policies for your business:

  • Policies help keep things fair for everyone (all clients can expect the same terms).
  • You don’t need to create new answers for every question – you can simply copy and paste responses from your policies.
  • If you ever hire employees they will know how to respond when a situation arises.

Do I really need formal policies if I’m just starting out?

The answer is yes. It doesn’t matter if you are a one person studio or a studio of ten. By having clear cut policies, your clients will respect your professionalism and you will avoid any tense, embarrassing, or costly problems down the road.

By having clear policies, clients will respect your professionalism and you'll avoid tense or costly problems down the road. Click To Tweet

Put it in writing!

Policies are something that you will want to formalize and have posted somewhere so that you always have access to them. By having a formal system in place, this also lets your clients know that that you aren’t just winging it.

What should my studio policies cover?

If you have been in business for even a little while, you probably have some areas that you already know need to be formalized to avoid confusion. However, for those starting out let’s take a look at a few items that we have put into our studio policies.

  1. Refunds and returns- How will you handle a situation where a client wants their photos retaken or they receive their finished portraits and are not happy for some reason? You definitely want to provide great customer service but you have to set up a timeframe that is reasonable for returns or retakes.
  2. Rescheduling a photography session- What happens is a client doesn’t show up for a scheduled appointment? Do they have to pay a new session fee? These are all things to consider before they happen.
  3. Portrait copyrights- It is important that your clients know whether you own the rights to the photographs or they own the rights.
  4. Payment plan- When and how much of a deposit is due before production begins on their order.

    Pro tip: Make sure that you receive a deposit that at the very minimum covers your costs. There will be a small number of clients that place an order than never return to pick it up.

  5. Turn around time- When can your clients expect to receive their finished portraits.

Where should I post my policies?

We include payment policies on our invoice so that people don’t have any excuses about how much is due and what is expected after their portraits are ready for pick up. When our client is signing their invoice, we will take a minute to point out the policies.

We also have our policies printed in the back of our product price guide. Our price guides are kept in the studio, but a client gets to look through them at the time of the image viewing.

Lastly, we have some of our policies on our website under our Frequently Asked Question (FAQ) area. In this area we don’t refer to them as policies but instead use the Q&A format to let people know what to expect.

You can check out our FAQ section of our website here: www.scottsylvia.net/faq.

A word of caution – what not to do

Be careful not to include policies that cover that one-in-a-million-customer that drives you crazy. The majority of clients are a pleasure to work, with so we want to be careful that we don’t punish them by being overly restrictive.

I know there have been times that I felt like a client got the better of me and I was going to make sure that never happened again by putting a new rule in place. But once I calm down and realize it has only happened once in ten years, I realize it’s not worth scaring away good customers with nit-picky policies.

Your turn!

Get out a note pad and jot down some ideas on policies that will help you run your studio as efficiently as possible. Be sure to cover areas involving payment and appointment scheduling.

When both you and your client know what to expect, it will be much easier to keep you both happy… and happy clients are one sure way to guarantee success!