When couples find their wedding photographer, they want to skip straight to the fun things like engagement photos and choosing locations for bride portraits. However, reviewing and signing a wedding photography contract is an essential next step.
What is a wedding photography contract?
A wedding photography contract is a binding agreement between a couple and their photographer that sets out the photographer’s responsibilities, services, and policies, including rescheduling or payment timing.
With a signed contract, photographers can be sure that the couple will make their payments, as a contract that is concluded and signed is legally binding. Legalities and small print may sound stuffy, but wedding photography contracts, as with all seller contracts, shouldn’t be overlooked. We consulted with Samantha Clarke, a photographer and former attorney, to highlight the pros and cons of wedding photography contracts.
Meet the expert
Samantha Clarke is an Atlanta-based attorney and wedding photographer. Since 2009, she has recorded over 200 weddings across Canada, the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean.
Why wedding photography contracts are important
Contracts are not glamorous and Legalese hardly raises butterflies for wedding planning. For this reason, they are pushed into the background, as exciting topics such as planning engagement photo sessions have priority. But Clarke urges couples and their colleagues who are wedding photographers to take these documents seriously.
“In the excitement of planning and preparing for a wedding, photographers sometimes forget the importance of having a solid contract,” says Clarke. “The contract describes the expectations. If something goes wrong later on, it’s great to have this document in retrospect. This way photographers and couples can protect themselves. ”
Contract meaning makes sense in theory, but do photographers or couples actually use their contracts? In short, yes. According to the contract platform Wedding Industry Law, couples often inquire whether they want to sue their wedding photographers. The most common disputes arise from three points:
- Breach of contract: if a photographer does not provide the agreed services.
- Misrepresentation: if, for example, the photographer promises a certain type of photo but does not deliver it.
- Embezzlement: when a photographer uses a photo of a person without authorization.
Without a detailed contract, it is difficult to prove that a photographer has not performed the agreed services. That could leave couples high and dry without the photos they dreamed of. However, contracts are not just intended for potential litigation. Contracts help photographers clarify their roles and responsibilities for the wedding, which removes confusion before the big day. “Sometimes the couple don’t fully understand the photography industry, so the contract outlines the details of what will happen,” says Clarke. “It is important that everything is written down so that the couples can relate to it.”
What points should be outlined in a wedding photography contract?
While photography styles, packages, and poses vary, most wedding photography contracts look similar. Clarke says a wedding photography contract should include the following details:
- Biographical information and information about the wedding day: Provide names, addresses, and contact information for both parties. But don’t stop there. “It’s also great to have specific locations like the address of the ceremony, the name and address of the venue, and of course the wedding date – the month, day, and year,” says Clarke.
- Selected package details: It is not enough to just state “Highlights package”. The contract must be specific to avoid confusion. It should list everything that is in the selected package, with details like “eight to ten hours of coverage” instead of “all day coverage,” says Clarke.
- Agreed payment: Package information should also include important monetary details such as payment schedule, late fees, and deposits. “Be specific about money and be aware if there is a non-refundable redemption fee,” says Clarke. “Many photographers ask for a 50 percent deposit when signing a contract. The balance is due 30 days before the wedding. Some break it open even further. It’s up to the photographer to decide what feels good. “
- Schedule for the services to be provided: For a wedding photographer, the work is only halfway through by the end of the wedding day. The final product is delivered weeks and in some cases months later. This can be a point of frustration for eager couples, so making the product timeline clear is important. “Answers to questions like” When will you get the album? “and” how is it delivered? “are important,” says Clarke. “Sometimes brides and grooms are so busy they spend their honeymoon that they forget about the extra benefits.”
- Payment method: It may be convenient, but credit card payments are rarely accepted by photographers. That’s because the additional fees add up, which means a loss of income for wedding photographers. The payment requirements should be clearly stated in addition to the agreed remuneration. Does the photographer only take checks? Do you accept credit card payments if the customer pays the fee?
- Reschedule parameters: The COVID-19 pandemic forced many wedding photographers to clarify their rescheduling and cancellation policies. “This is something that no one expected, so many customers wonder if there is room to postpone or cancel their weddings,” says Clarke. “The contract should contain the photographer’s cancellation or rescheduling policy thoroughly, such as an agreement that he can reschedule within 90 days of the wedding if something should happen.”
- overtime: When couples and photographers sign their contracts, the actual wedding takes months and in some cases more than a year. The bride and groom have no idea what the day of the schedule will be, so it is difficult to pinpoint the exact hours. For this reason, most wedding photographers avoid “all day coverage” in their contracts (unless stated with a phrase such as “up to 12 hours”). Make sure the contract includes how long the photographer will be working and the cost of extra hours if he has to stay longer.
- Copyright Specifications: When couples receive their wedding picture files, they want to share them with the world. Instagram and Facebook are usually fine (it helps the photographer with word of mouth marketing), but some photographers say newspaper announcements and magazine submissions are a no-go. “Many photographers are sensible and assume that your photos will be printed out and hung on your wall, and that is entirely the right of couples with a personal license,” says Clarke. “But sometimes a contract states that a couple is not allowed to submit a release without the photographer’s permission, so be careful before you share photos on a large scale.”
- Model release: On the other hand, some couples want their images not to be used in a photographer’s promotional materials at all. “A lot of couples expect their photos to be posted on social media, but some don’t want it, especially when children are involved,” says Clarke. “Permission to release a model is something the photographer and the couple should talk about. This should be stated in the contract so that the bride and groom are not upset about the way their pictures are used later. “
- Secure permits: Some popular photo locations require pre-approved approval. But who is responsible for ensuring that this is actually achieved? “Talk to whoever gets the approval in the contract,” says Clarke. “It’s important to be one step ahead so that you don’t get thrown out in the middle of bridal portraits.”
- A meal clause: The bride and groom are responsible for providing meals for front desk providers such as the photographer and band. However, this usually only applies to coverage of events that last longer than a set number of hours. The wedding photography contract should clarify this time frame as well as the number of meals required.
Wedding photography contract FAQs
Is the contract valid without both signatures?
In the flood of wedding planning, it’s easy to forget to request the countersigned version of the contract from your photographer. The photographer is usually on top, but the chaos of the wedding season can cause even the most organized photographers to forget about this step. But without both signatures, the contract will not hold.
“A contract is not binding without both signatures,” says Clarke. “Most of the time, people just forget that they aren’t doing it on purpose. It seems small at first, but when things go south and the couple or photographer realizes that only one person signed it, this is not a good place. The couple should have authority to remind sellers to send their signed copy. ”
Should a contract for a destination wedding include specific details?
Destination weddings are a dream for many photographers, but require thorough contracts. Clarke, who travels frequently to film weddings in tropical locations like the Caribbean, says a destination wedding photography contract should include who pays for the trip, what travel-related expenses will be covered (e.g. checked baggage), and accommodation details .
Another equally important consideration about wedding photography? Whether the photographer can legally work there or not. “Some countries require a visa to work legally,” she says. “It’s always good to have these conversations before signing the contract so the couple can see if the photographer is familiar with the needs of different nations.”