Growing your wedding photography business is no walk in the park, and protecting it can turn out to be equally challenging. But with a solid, legally binding wedding photography contract, it might just become a little bit easier. Whether you are thinking about starting your own wedding photography business or you’ve been in the industry for a while now - wedding photography contracts can save you and your clients from many uncomfortable and certainly undesirable situations or miscommunication. If you’ve been a wedding photographer for a while now, you must also understand that your contract also has to evolve and adapt as you progress in your journey. And if you are yet to create one or think that your contract from 5 years ago will still serve you well, this blog is your sign to get in touch with your legal consultant and discuss the potential of an update.
The Importance Of A Wedding Photography Contract
1. Copyright Information
When your couple shares a photo taken by you, it’s important that they share pictures with your logo on them or give you credit for the image. You may have a verbal agreement about the copyright of your wedding photos, but they might forget or not consider it seriously and share photos without giving you credit. This harms your business. How? Well, if nobody can see who took the photos, nobody will really know who you are or what you do. So, it makes it difficult for potential clients to reach out to you or see your work online. If you don’t have a contract that clearly says that all photos need to be shared in a way that can be traced back to you, you can’t really ask your clients to take it down. But with a contract in place and the details of how to properly share photographs are included, you can quickly refer to the contract and make sure your clients are clear on how to share the images in the future.
2. Maintain Credibility And Professionalism
Another reason it is important to have a wedding photography contract for your business is that it shows you are a legitimate professional who clients can trust. As a wedding photographer, building trust with your clients will give them confidence in you and your abilities to document one of the most important days of their lives. The more your wedding clients trust you, and the more clarity you can give them about your services through your contract, the easier it will be to avoid conflicts and miscommunications.
3. Protecting Your Assistant/Second Shooter
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.
4. Share Images With Vendors
Vendor relationships are a large part of expanding your reach and meeting new clients. To build a relationship with vendors, and to create valuable referral sources, you may take images of them during the wedding day to capture them in action. If you share images with vendors, they are likely to share them on their website, blog, and social media platforms. When you have a contract with vendors, you can ensure your images will be properly credited as they are shared. The same can be said for other businesses or companies you work with. A contract makes it easier for you to share your expectations and ensure your business stays protected.
The Dos And Don’ts Of Wedding Photography Contracts
No doubt - for the artist in you, the details of wedding photography contracts are no fun. Compared to shooting weddings and meeting with clients, an afternoon spent brushing up your photography contract is probably not high on your list. But, protecting the photography business you have spent so much time building is incredibly important too. This is also true for a photography business you are just starting. Whether you start with a contract template or hire someone to write it, it is important you understand what you are setting up. That’s why we partnered with Agree, Songfreedom, Fotoskribe, and TheLawTog to bring you a guide filled with suggestions of what you can place in your photography contract.
1. Include Basic Information
One of the pieces of information you can add to your contract is basic information, which may 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
This allows you to easily contact them when necessary throughout the process. Other basic information you could include in your wedding photography contract is your contact details so your clients can reach out to you when necessary.
2. 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, add 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. This way, there’s no room for confusion. 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.
3. Payment Plan
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 when 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.
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 as deliverables 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, you can also 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 offer clarity to your clients without them having to ask you for it.
5. Cancellation Terms
An additional piece of information to include in your photography contract are cancellation or termination terms. This is especially crucial because your income may be primarily based on the weddings you shoot per year. If you miss out on just one wedding, it can affect you and your photography business financially. In your wedding photography contract, protect your income and add in detail about what will happen if a wedding client changes their mind (or something comes up).
6. Emergency Plan
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 on the day of the event and you cannot perform your duties as their photographer. When you build an emergency plan and include it in your photography contract, it can give your clients the peace of mind that if something goes wrong, there will be a photographer there for them on their big 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 time frames?
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.
7. Day Of Specifics
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, you may sometimes have to work in locations or with vendors that are completely unfamiliar. 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 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 might 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.
The Risks Of Not Having A Wedding Photography Contract
1. Potential Lawsuits
As a wedding photographer, you work with different clients every time you book a wedding. You spend a lot of time communicating details and finalizing specifics for their engagement shoot, wedding day, and post-wedding products. Because you are one of the MANY decisions your wedding clients need to make, their stress levels can often be high. Say, for example, your clients ask for additional pages in their album. You have the conversation verbally, but forget to update your wedding photography contract. Without the details written in their contract, your couple could be upset with the charges for the additional pages. Even though you discussed it, it is possible that your clients could forget those details. At this point, there is a risk that your couple could be so frustrated, they could take legal action against you and your photography business.
This is why it is very crucial to keep your wedding photography contract updated and as detailed as possible. When you share your wedding photography contract PDF (or print it), it protects you from legal action, which can be very damaging to your business.
2. Damaged Reputation
With everything you do for your wedding clients, you want to ensure their experience is positive. If a client takes legal action against you, there is a risk of damage to your reputation. Think about it like you would if someone leaves you a negative review. A new ideal client, who is searching for a wedding photographer, could see that comment and decide not to work with you. With your updated and detailed wedding photography contract, you can avoid any damage to your reputation.
Your Contract Must Cover Everything
A contract can not only save you from a lawsuit, but it can also protect those who work with you. Moreover, it’s not just beneficial for one party. Your wedding photography contract is also helpful for your clients. It helps them keep up with all the discussions that you guys have and also ensures that they get what they paid and signed up for. You could choose a wedding photography contract template and build your own using that, but we’d strongly recommend that you consult with someone who knows the ins and outs of contracts. From the dates and deliverables to payment and emergency plans - it’s important that you go through every detail with a legal professional while drafting your contract. It’s always better to be safe than sorry, especially when your reputation and finances are on the line. [H2] Your Contract Must Cover Everything
At ShootDotEdit, we are committed to helping you grow your wedding photography business. And to help you dedicate more time to the business side of your work, we lessen your post-production workload with our professional photo editing services. To learn more about how we can help, check out our pricing plans.
Please note: ShootDotEdit is here to provide quality content to help wedding photographers succeed. We are not legal professionals, nor do we receive any benefits from any of the companies or advice mentioned in this article. If you want to learn more about photography copyright laws and what to do if your photos are used without your permission as a US-based photographer, Professional Photographers of America is a trusted source that can help, as can most legal professionals.