How to Write a Photography Invoice

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Include the art director's name on invoices for agency shoots.
Include the art director's name on invoices for agency shoots. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Image counts for photography businesses, so presenting easy-to-read, well-documented invoices takes on added importance. They reinforce your professionalism and, when organized and accurate, facilitate the client's approval process. No one official format exists, and you may adapt yours to suit different jobs. However, key elements belong on every photography invoice regardless of its layout. Including them protects you and your clients and makes your bookkeeping more efficient.

Create the Heading

One of the most important words to bill by is "Invoice," which Hallmark Institute of Photography recommends placing at the top of the page so it doesn't get overlooked in the client's other mail. Include your logo for recognition. To get paid, include your company name, employer identification number, or EIN, and contact information such as: address, phone numbers, email and website.

Add Transaction Identifiers

Your invoice should indicate the client's purchase order number, name and date. Number your invoices and easier tracking and avoid confusion. Your numbering system might assign a sequential number to a client code or be date-based. Another tracking tool, the job number you assigned to the project, belongs in this section. Note the due date and your payment policy such as "payable on receipt" or "balance due upon receipt of images" and any discounts for early payment.

Outline Licensing Conditions

Photographers own their images. Include a section that stipulates the usage rights and image ownership you grant to the client as these may trigger licensing and creative fees. The American Society of Media Photographers recommends using Picture Licensing Universal System -- PLUS -- language and category order for a boilerplate, or statement, that covers media permissions, required photo credit verbiage and the rights being purchased. For simpler assignments, use a phrase like "Advertising, publicity and collateral use of 40 images in perpetuity."

Detail Expenses

The meat of your invoice is the detailed description of the work and your charges. The assignment description, which leads this section, covers specifics such as shoot location, subjects photographed, number of images and special requirements met. For example, the description for a company brochure photography session might read, "Three-day shoot of facilities and employees at the Racine, Wisconsin, complex for 40 portrait images to be delivered in digital format. Client provided releases, props and hair/makeup and wardrobe styling."

The order in which you list expenses for reimbursement should mirror the one used on your estimate. The costs of travel, supplies, rental and any one hired to assist the shoot go in this section, as do preparation fees for digital files, CDs and web gallery or proofs. Separate fees from expenses and recognize any payments and credits received to date. WonderfulMachine suggests this order for your billing summary.

Fees:

  • Licensing, creative and personnel fees listed separately with any applicable per-day cost
  • Proofs
  • Images processed for reproduction and per-image fee
    Fees total

Expenses:

  • Personnel
  • Equipment
  • Airfare
  • Lodging
  • Catering
  • Car Rental
  • Meals and Misc.
    Expenses total

Attach Receipts

Organizing your receipts by expense category reduces the time a client needs to approve and pay your invoice. Keep your original receipts and provide copies to support your invoice. Consider scanning each group of receipts to create a .pdf document you can then edit for clarity. Add a title, highlight the category expense total and repeat the page total as a footnote on the bottom right corner. List expenses without receipts, such as mileage and tips, on a petty cash log and scan that. Your client can then compare the receipt total for equipment rentals with that line item on the invoice.

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