Contract Essentials for Wedding Photographers
Weddings are a high-stakes business.
While there’s no doubt it’s an honour to be chosen to capture the intimate moments, with all the moving parts and emotions running high, it's crucial that you and your clients are on the same page when it comes to making sure the big day goes ahead as planned, or what happens if it doesn't.
If COVID has taught us that we need to be ready for the unexpected and as I’m sure you know, weddings are full of the unexpected. I recently recorded an episode with Laura Kelly for her podcast, You Might Not Like It (you can catch it here) about why it’s so important to protect your business with your contracts. Laura is a business coach and wedding photographer so she knows first hand the value of ensuring your contract is working for you. During our chat, she shared some horror stories she’s lived through on the wedding scene and how she came to learn why you need a legit contract the hard way! I digress...
Perhaps as a wedding photographer, you’ve also lived through your fair share of horror stories, or maybe so far you’ve managed to avoid them. Either way, the best way to protect yourself and your relationship with your client, is to have a clearly written agreement outlining the terms of being hired to shoot such an important (and stressful!) event for your client.
Essentials to Consider in your Wedding Photography Agreement
Here are a few important things to consider and that should be clearly set out in your wedding photography agreement with your clients:
Is there a third party paying?
The contract may be with the couple, but sometimes another party will be footing the bill. If that’s the case, you’ll want to ensure the person who is actually paying is listed as a party on the contract.
Lock in the date
You’ve gone back and forth in the DMs on Instagram confirming your availability but how do both parties know the date is locked? Make it clear in your contract how the date has been reserved, for example, after they have paid a deposit to you.
When is payment due?
If you collect a deposit, think about when you would like the next payment due. You’ll also need to consider whether you’d like full payment before you deliver the final images or before. Whatever your payment terms, make sure this is all laid out very clearly in your contract.
Length of shoot
Eight consecutive hours is very different from 8 hours sprinkled throughout the day, such as two hours when the bride is getting ready, an hour at the church later that day, then 5 hours late into the night. Ensure both parties are clear on the day’s schedule.
If you’re expecting meals, ensure you know when you will be served and consider anyone else in your team that may need to be fed.
Does your client want you to be the only one shooting or filming during the ceremony? Often, the camera flashes from other guests, or Aunt Vera wanting to get the iconic “first kiss” shot, can interfere with you getting the snaps your clients are paying you to capture. Chat with your clients about this prior to the big day, and perhaps even offer suggestions on how they can let guests know the photography expectations for the day.
Ensure there’s clarity about the final product you will be delivering under the contract. Some things to consider:
Are you promising a certain number of images or a range of the best photos (in your opinion) from the day?
How will you deliver them (electronically or printed)?
What is your fee if your clients want to order more images than promises?
Do you deliver all raw images taken on the day and edit a certain number of images, or are you delivering only edited images?
How quickly will you deliver the images to your clients?
There is nothing wrong with under-promising and over delivering, but over-promising and not delivering when or what you say you will means you are breaching your contract with your client. Even if you aren’t super busy now, expect you will be by the time you are shooting and editing. Give yourself sufficient turnaround time and if you’re done before your deadline, well way to go, superhero!
Be clear with your clients about what they can and can’t do with the photographs. For example, can they sell them to Weddingbells.com, or are they for their personal use only? Ownership and usage rights need to be set out in a way that your client is happy with how they can use what they are purchasing, but also to protect your work and ability to reuse the images for your commercial purposes.
If you are shooting at a specific venue, ensure the client makes enquiries for you regarding the rules of the space (for example churches or synagogues). It’s always a good idea to do your own research as well but have it written in your contract that your client will need to let you know. If you are shooting in provincial or national parks, determine if permits are needed and if so, make it clear who is responsible for securing those permits before the big day.
Cancellation and Rescheduling.
Shit happens and when it does, you need to have a process to handle this that your client is well aware of and agrees to beforehand! For example, what happens to the deposit or any other amounts paid? Especially in these pandemic times, it’s important to set out clear timeframes and policies and confirm your client is aware of these before they sign. That will save them from any surprises should you need to rely on the clauses later. Another important consideration is that you might be the one who needs to cancel so make sure you know what happens if you can’t make it.
PHEW, there sure is a lot to consider and it's definitely not an exhaustive list, but wedding photography is a high-stakes game! If you’re slightly (or majorly!) overwhelmed, don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I’ve created a Wedding Photography Agreement that covers absolutely everything that both parties are responsible for on the day of the event, as well as offer you protection in case of issues like damaged equipment, cancellation and rescheduling options and protects the work you create.
If you’ve got any questions, feel free to reach out to me or hire a local lawyer.
*As always, this information is intended for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended as specific legal advice for you or your biz.