Have you ever wondered how local photographers can travel the world to shoot for weddings and events? Have you also wondered how they can afford it?! In many cases, the photographer can do destination photography simply by requiring the clients to pay for travel expenses. By adding a little clause to their photography contract regarding payment for traveling to venues for the shoot, traveling photographers can shoot anywhere a client needs them to. Let’s break down exactly what clause you need to add to your contract.
Can I be a “destination photographer” without jumping on a plane every week?
Destination photography does not necessarily mean that you have to hop on a plane and travel four states away. Conducting a destination shoot could simply mean driving three hours outside of your home base. Any type of travel whether it is three hours driving or on a plane will lead to travel costs including gas, lodging, or flying. Unless you have an all-encompassing package fee, you should not be fronting or covering the costs of traveling as these should be your client’s responsibility to cover. Hence, whatever traveling costs you may have for a shoot, in order to have these expenses paid for by the client, you need to add a “travel fees” clause to your contract.
A “Travel Fees” clause covers any and all things regarding travel: Gas, lodging, plane tickets, and costs of driving (yes, you should be paid for gas and your time!). There are a few different ways to phrase your travel fees clause; however, most commonly, you will see prorated day rates for driving, mileage reimbursement, and limits set on “X” amount of miles outside of your typical working zip code.
For example, the clause may state that if the trip is within 30 miles from your home base, the client needs to pay a certain amount per mile. This is usually calculated on gas prices in your area or according to the standard mileage rates set forth by the IRS. Every region will have a different travel rate. If you want to ensure you’re getting paid based on the gas prices in your specific state, make sure to check out your state’s standard mileage rate because the rate may be 3 dollars per mile in Florida, or it could be 6 dollars in California.
You could also do a flat rate for all travel over a certain mileage. So your travel clause may say that the client is responsible for paying a one-time fee if the mileage is over 30 miles but under 60. And then again, anything over 60 miles would have a different one-time fee due to additional charges you may have, such as food and lodging. This approach is nice because you don’t have to calculate actual mileage and can make your own decisions on meals and where you’d like to stay. If you take this route, you will need to remember to update this flat rate every year or so based on inflation and the current gas prices.
How do I get reimbursed for accommodation and travel fees?
If you’re jet-setting out of state, you need a travel fee clause related to that! Some questions you need to ask yourself when thinking about your fee clause are: Is there a set fee that your clients need to pay for this type of travel whereby you book everything on your own (flights, hotel, car rental, etc.)? Or do you book all of this and then send them an invoice after the event where they have to reimburse you? Additionally, are you bringing any assistants with you that require reimbursement for their flights and additional hotel rooms? The great thing is that you have the flexibility to decide what kind of setup you want to be able to get reimbursement for travel expenses through your travel fee clause.
A flat fee in most travel scenarios is going to be the easiest setup for you and your client because you can book your preferred accommodations and flights when you want to. This flat fee would be written in your travel fee clause. In the clause, you would state a set price for travel and accommodation expenses. Things that should be included in this flat fee are rental cars, flights, estimated gas, and hotel expenses. It is also important you calculate a little wiggle room in this number for incidentals during travel. A flat fee will be agreed upon upfront and paid for as soon as the contract is signed, and an invoice for your services has been sent to the client.
Sending an invoice for your travel and accommodation expenses, once the event or session is complete, is another option. You would front the cost of the accommodation and hotel and send an invoice to the client after the event is completed. This can be a risky and inconvenient option because clients may not reimburse you right away, you'll have to remind them after they just had their event. For these reasons, we recommend having a flat fee and having costs paid for upfront by your client.
Finally, if your client has paid for an assistant to accompany you, your flat fee or invoice should also reflect their travel costs and accommodations. The other option you may want to give your client is to find an assistant at the location where you are traveling. You would save your client some travel expenses, and many local vendors are willing to lend a hand when needed.
In addition to the fees related to accommodation and travel, you will need a per diem rate for food in your travel fees clause. There are a few ways you can figure out what your per diem rate should be. The IRS puts out an annual “High-Low '' per diem rate for traveling individuals. The current 2022 IRS rate for meals and incidentals is $69 per day for any travel within the U.S and $74 per day for any travel outside the US. You can get a specific estimate for per diem rates by State through the General Services Administration calculator.
Now, let's talk about the unfortunate scenario where your client cancels their travel plans that have already been booked and paid for
Every vendor has dealt with this or will deal with this scenario. To address this issue before it occurs, your travel clause needs to state that your client will be responsible for any non-refundable travel expenses. This means that you will not be personally responsible for any travel expenses that cannot be canceled or refunded by a hotel, airline, or rental car company. So if your client has given you a flat fee for travel expenses, then those non-refundable costs would first be deducted before the client receives the flat fee back. Additionally, you may want to require that your client pays for travel insurance on your bookings so that in the event of a cancellation, your client would be covered. However, you want to address this situation is fine as long as it is clearly explained in your travel clause.
Traveling for weddings and events is a great part of being a photographer. You can see new places and expand your business to different locations. Just remember, you should NEVER agree to travel without a Travel Fees clause in your contract. Travel costs are not something that all clients may know about, and it is important to emphasize travel fees are outside of (or incorporated into) your service fees.
Check out The Legal Paige’s Travel Fee Clause Template if you need some help writing your travel fees clause!