If you’re a wedding photographer, then you already know that there are a number of requirements for being successful. Besides just taking great pictures, there are other things you must also stay on top of in order to achieve and maintain a lucrative business. Most importantly, you should be using a wedding photography contract that covers all the details regarding the service you’re providing, the packages you offer, the product you’re delivering, and how you’re going to be paid.
Wedding Photography – A Brief History
Wedding photography actually began in the early 1840s. Although during this time period, photography had limited commercial use, the idea of creating lasting memories of the wedding day was inevitable. However, once the craze began, wedding photography remained strictly studio photography for another century.
It wasn’t until after World War II that the idea of capturing the actual event on film was born. This spike in ceremonies created new and profitable opportunities for people with cameras to take pictures at weddings. However, back then, it was done without a contract or “on speculation”. Equipped with their portable roll film cameras and flashbulb lighting, photographers would simply show up without an invite. After taking ‘unauthorized’ pictures of the wedding, they would then try to sell the photos to the bride and groom.
Wedding Photography Today
Things have changed a lot since those days in regards to photographers and the services they offer, also because ‘crashing’ an event is no longer allowed. Nowadays, this service for weddings is prearranged and contracted. Professional photographers have taken over the industry and weddings are a big business for them. That’s why contracts for photographers have become commonplace. Luckily, creating one isn’t as difficult as it might seem.
Although many wedding photographers currently use contracts with their clients, they’re often done somewhat recklessly. This is because they have written it themselves without conducting proper research and covering all the bases. Or they are using a free generic template that came from a book or website. Though some of those will be more suited than others for the wedding photography business.
Writing a Good Wedding Contract
More detail is always better. It can also help to have the bride and groom answer a few photo-related questions regarding the wedding plans. Include details regarding timeframe, payment, album design process, and image use; you could also use a checklist to make sure that you won’t leave important details to chance (this one, for example, is a good starting point). Whenever possible avoid excessive legal jargon: you don’t want to create an intimidating agreement that may scare clients away before you can even explain everything.
Above all, make sure it’s easy to understand. If there is something that the other party wants in the contract, do your best to accommodate them. But, if there is something in the contract that you’re not comfortable with, speak up. Don’t let a bride re-write your contract, unless perhaps she’s an attorney and has agreed to an exchange of services. Which may work for you?
Wedding Photography Contract Tips
For additional assistance, here’s a list of 10 things that you should consider addressing in a standard wedding photography contract:
Arrange a Retainer in Advance
Many wedding photographers charge a non-refundable booking fee or retainer to reserve a specific date for their services. Different from a deposit, you can often keep this fee in the event of a cancellation or last minute rescheduling.
This is the who, what, when, and where. Be sure to get pertinent addresses, phone numbers, and emails. This way you can keep clear and quick communication with clients throughout the entire process.
Products and Services
Provide every detail in your description, down to the number of pictures you intend to take on the big day. Include everything your price/package entails.
Deposit and Payment
Besides discussing a retainer, precisely spell out how everything else is to be paid. From the deposit to the final payment, be sure to enter exact amounts and due dates. Although there are industry standards, this can be customized to whatever works for you and your client.
Copyright and Reproduction
You value your work. Therefore, make provisions that protect the unauthorized use of your photographs. You don’t want your creative property to be stolen or misused, whether it’s accidentally or intentionally.
Archiving of Digital Files
Be clear on how long you will be keeping the images after the job is finished. That is, when the client is happy and you’ve been paid. Otherwise they may assume your photography services also include long-term data storage for free.
Shipping and Handling
What if the newlywed couple moves out of state soon after the wedding? This is more common than you may think, whether it’s preplanned or unexpected. So, it’s best to decide upfront which one of you will pay for the additional shipping fees should this happen.
Display and Resale of Images
You probably want to retain enough ownership rights to prevent the images from being displayed in a way that reflects poorly on you. Clarify that your photos can’t be used in any kind of commercial advertisements without your expressed written permission.
You should also specify in your contract that you be permitted to use the wedding images in your own advertisements. This could be an optional clause in case a client has a career that prevents them from having their image used in commercial advertising.
Stipulate that should court or collection action be required on a balance, attorney fees and collection costs can be recovered as well. It’s unfortunately likely that at some point a client will leave you hanging on a contract. It’s also likely that it won’t be deliberate, or premeditated. Weddings are rather expensive and every so often the client runs out of money.
Other Contract Considerations
There are of course other things to consider, but this info should help to get started. Keep in mind that not all contract clauses may be legal or enforceable in all jurisdictions. So, further research may be required. In addition, be sure to figure out what items are taxable in your particular location. Plus, when you send out your contract online, save it as a PDF first, so changes can’t be made by others.
Remember, as long as people continue to get married, then wedding photographers will always be needed! However, providing great shots for your customers is only part of the process. Conducting business properly with the use of contracts is also a big part of the picture. Prepare one immediately and eventually there should be no shortage of opportunities for you to take great wedding shots AND get paid appropriately.
So, now is a prime time to step up your business by using a wedding photographer contract. With a clear and concise written agreement, both parties will feel much more comfortable. In fact, it will make for a better Wedding Day – which means better pictures!
When it comes to weddings what standard clauses do you include in your contracts?