As a wedding photography business owner, you spend your time building a strong and reliable brand to share with potential clients. Along with the responsibilities you enjoy in your role, you also have some that are not the most exciting. This may be even more true when it comes to your legal responsibilities, especially regarding your wedding photography contract.
Wedding Photography Contract
Below, we share suggestions of what to include to create a successful contract for your photography business. *Please note: these are merely suggestions of what can go into your contract and not actual legal advice.
One of the first parts of your contract to work on is the basic information for both you and your wedding clients. This information can include:
- Your name and the best way for clients to reach you (whether it be by email, phone, or text)
- Your wedding photography business name and address (if applicable)
- The clients’ phone numbers, email addresses, and emergency contacts
- A short summary of the photography services you will provide and the hours you will shoot
Locations, Dates, and Times
Other items to consider when building your photography contracts are the specific locations, dates, and times. If you are shooting both their engagement session and wedding day, it can be helpful to include the locations and dates for each. Chances are for many of your clients, the locations and dates will differ for each shoot.
To provide complete clarity, include the address of the locations and the times you will arrive. This will ensure your wedding clients know exactly where you will be and at what time, so there are no miscommunications or issues when it comes to the engagement session or wedding day.
The information in this part of the contract can also be valuable when the locations for the getting ready, ceremony, and reception differ. This is where a detailed wedding day timeline is helpful, so you stay on track and know exactly where you should be at every point of the shoot.
Of the information you include in your photography wedding contract, the payment details are one of the most important. As a business owner, you set goals for the profit you will bring in each year. When a wedding client books you, you agree on the payment details and that helps you reach your income goals. To ensure you are paid accordingly and within a specific timeline, it can be valuable to include the agreement and the dates in which the payments are due, into your contract.
In your photography contract, you can feature the amount of the services your clients chose. If you agree upon a payment plan, you can also include the dates each payment is due. This helps keep your wedding clients accountable and allows you to stay on track with your business goals.
Another item you may want to include along with the payment details is if you require a non-refundable booking fee. This is something that protects you if the clients decide to cancel and you are unable to schedule another wedding in its place.
Speaking of cancellations, what happens if your clients cancel at the last minute? This situation could leave you with no time to book another wedding, which affects your bottom line. In your contract, you can define cancellation terms to protect yourself and your business.
It is up to you how you want to handle a non-refundable booking fee and your cancellation terms in your photography contract. What is important is that you decide upon terms that protect you when clients cancel or reschedule the date after they sign the contract.
We’ve talked about what you could do if your clients cancel or reschedule, but what happens if you run into an emergency? Your contract is an ideal place to clarify what will occur if something goes wrong and you cannot perform your duties as their wedding photographer.
When you build an emergency plan and include it in your photography contract, it can give your clients peace of mind that if something goes wrong, there will be a photographer there for them on the day. Along with your emergency plan, you can provide a few “what-if” scenarios and how they will be handled, such as:
- What happens if it rains on the wedding day and the ceremony is outdoors?
- What happens if you lose their images after the shoot?
- What happens if your wedding clients want you to stay longer than the agreed upon timeframes?
The more scenarios or potential questions you can address in your contract, the easier it will be to avoid miscommunications or more serious issues. Plus, you can keep your wedding clients happy throughout the entire process.
When the day of the engagement session or wedding shoot arrives, you may shoot at a location or venue you have shot at in the past. In those situations, you typically know the requirements and restrictions.
On the other hand, there are locations or vendors your clients may choose that you have never been to and are unfamiliar with the specifics for each. If, say, a venue requires you to have a permit, it can be helpful to clarify in your photography contract whether you or your clients are responsible for obtaining it before the shoot. This is a valuable detail to include so you ensure the day of is free of any issues, especially when it comes to the venue or location.
Another important element you can place in your photography contract is about meals and breaks during the wedding day. Depending on how long the shoot is, you could be there for hours and will likely require food and a few breaks. You can add to your contract what you and your clients agree on when it comes to meals and breaks and whether they will provide you with one after a certain number of hours.
These details are specific but are meant to lessen any issues that will arise during the engagement session or wedding day. Both you and your clients can benefit from these details, which is why they are important to add to your contract.
When you and your wedding clients chat during the planning meeting, you decide on the services that best fit their needs. The specifics you discuss with your clients are important to include in your photography contract. It highlights the services and products your clients chose, how much they cost, and how long it will take for you to deliver them once the wedding day shoot is over.
Some of the items you can include in your contract are:
• How many images you will deliver (a range or percentage will work)
• When the images will be available for viewing on your gallery
• The process your clients will follow to order images from your gallery
• How long it will take for you to deliver the images
• Specifics for album(s); how many pages and images included
• The process for ordering and delivering an album or additional prints
• How long you will keep their images archived
These are just some of the details you can include. If you provide additional services for your wedding clients, add those into the contract to provide clarity. The best thing you can do is set expectations for your clients, so they know when to expect their deliverables. When you include the specific details into your contracts, you also lessen questions from clients and diminish the chances they will be upset with you.
The copyright of your images is an important subject that you can address in your contract. Unless your clients are photographers, they may not know how to properly share (or the importance of providing credit for your images).
Spend time talking with your wedding clients and let them know the way you would prefer them to share your images. Once you discuss it with them, you can place it in your contract so you have it in writing. That way, if they for some reason share incorrectly, you can refer back to your photography contract to highlight what you discussed. You protect your images and make sure there are no conflicts that will arise with your clients.
Second Shooter/Assistant Details
Many wedding photographers work with a second shooter or assistant during the wedding day. If this is true for you, it can be valuable to include details about liability in your contract so you protect them from any issues or conflict. Your second shooter or assistant will likely come into contact with your clients and you may not always be around when that happens.
It is important to protect yourself and your business, but also those who work alongside you. If a second shooter or assistant upsets your wedding clients, it leads back to you. The details you place in your contract about liability for second shooters, assistants, or other employees in your business ensure they are protected and your brand remains intact.
Those are just some of the suggestions to include in your contract. Every photographer and business owner will have different requirements and goals for their contract. Use what works best for you in your business so you help to eliminate issues and create happy clients.
Why is it important to have a wedding photography contract?
A contract is there to protect you and your photography business (plus anyone you work with). It is also a way to ensure your clients have full transparency into your services and what they can expect. Without a contract for your business, you risk:
- A lawsuit: Without a photography contract in place, there is a risk of potential lawsuits. This can happen based on miscommunications or confusion from your clients, which could turn into anger. Your contract can list out specific details that your clients sign off on so if something happens, you can refer back to it and avoid any legal action.
- Damaged reputation: One of the things that can happen when client issues arise without a contract is your reputation can be damaged. A lawsuit or negative review can negatively impact your wedding photography business, especially when it comes to potential clients who may want to book you.
- No credit for images: We discussed the importance of copyright law and how to explain it to your clients earlier in the post. Without a contract, you risk having your images shared without credit. And it without documentation of how to properly share images with credit, you are unable to go back and point that out to clients. The same can be said for other vendors or companies you work with and share images to. If you do not have a contract in place with them, which clearly states how to handle copyright of the images, your images could be used to promote their businesses without credit to you.
The suggestions above for a successful wedding photographer contract are just a start. Contact a local legal professional or use a wedding photography contract template to get started. Remember, these are just suggestions of what you can place in your contract and should not be considered legal advice.
One thing is for sure: a contract is key to protecting your business, which means you can focus on the things that help you grow. Because there are several parts of your wedding photography business you can focus on for growth, where exactly should you start? Download our free Guide: How to Grow Your Wedding Photography Business to discover 50+ pages of expert tips and tricks, all geared toward growing your business!