Being a wedding photographer can be amazing as you get to help plan a couple’s special day, shoot off to exotic locations on airplanes, and share once-in-a-lifetime (to that couple) shots on your website.
However, weddings are considered a “white glove” type of photography event that requires a bit more experience, professionalism and attention to detail. Let’s look at what will set you up for success and will protect your business.
Successful Photographers Need This
To be a successful and profitable wedding photographer you need to pay attention to these details:
- deliver a quality and consistent product
- proper business formation, licenses and permits
- insurance (such as equipment and liability)
- a well-thought out lawyer-drafted wedding contract
All of these work together to increase the confidence of your client and work to protect your clients and your business. The business formation (such as a Limited Liability Company or Corporation structure) and insurance policies can limit your liability.
But those are just a few tools in your toolbox.
You also need have a well-thought out, lawyer-drafted, photographer-approved wedding contract.
Note: Most lawyers are better than no lawyer, but it is recommended that you seek out a lawyer who has specific and lengthy experience with the interworkings of a photography business. TheLawTog® provides wedding photography contract templates with this perspective and they can easily be taken to a local attorney to tweak. Or else you can use this article and other information on TheLawTog® site as a checklist to take to a local business/contracts lawyer. Our goal is to get you the best protection possible and save you money (read more about that here).
More than a piece of paper
Contracts can be an un-fun portion of the booking process with your clients.
But guess what?
The Bride is more than used to signing contracts by now.
If she is using professional companies as vendors for her wedding then there should be no push back. If there is, the photographer should see this as a big red flag against taking this individual as a client. Don’t confuse this with their inquiry on provisions and understanding though. Clients that ask questions about contracts demonstrate their investment in the success of the business relationship.
Not only are contracts standard in the industry (and clients understand they exist), using a lawyer-drafted wedding photography contract provides you the following:
- enhanced legal protection (if properly drafted!) – think of your protection in layers like an onion. Your contract is the outside layer.
- educational tool – informs your client of your processes and sets expectations for what is to be delivered by the photographer. These expectations also puts the client on notice of action needed on their part to make this a successful arrangement
- preventive measure – contracts work to prevent complaints or issues in the transaction. In fact, having the proper provisions will work to prevent clients from trying to push boundaries to see how much they “can get” from you.
Provisions to Include
We’ve established that a contract needs to be lawyer-drafted and photographer-approved. Now what exactly should be include in a wedding photography contract?
Here is a wedding photography contract checklist that we recommend:
- non-refundable retainer (with liquidated damages language)
- payment schedule
- late fees for late or missed payments
- pre-wedding consultation preference
- cancelation of wedding date
- rescheduling of wedding date
- photographic materials included/defined
- artist right and discretion for images
- copyright and reproductions (whether selling digitals or not)
- client usage of images
- social media usage from photographer social media pages
- safe working environment
- cooperation of clients and guests
- exclusive photographer clause
- failure to perform
- substitute/backup photographer
- incorporation of standard price list
- meals provided for photography team
- breaks provided for photography team
- venue guidelines and responsibility of client
- completion schedule
- travel and overage fees
- and other legal miscellany!
Keep in mind, while in the United States it is not required to list illegal activity as a reason for failure to fulfill a contract (i.e. Jason coming after you with a murder weapon, I hardly doubt the courts will find that you should’ve kept shooting that wedding!).
Should a model release be included?
Things to Avoid
Avoid adding contract provisions that you feel you may need in an ‘off-hand’ chance. It is easy to rush and amend your contracts or request a lawyer to amend them, solely from horror stories from in social media groups.
Vigilance and research is good. Paranoia is bad.
You don’t want to add extraneous provisions that will confuse and overwhelm the client. The goal of the legal document is to get an agreement on paper, but balance the fairness of the document (for legal and customer service purposes).