The Business of Wedding Photography is an extensive subject, best
answered by a team of professional wedding photographers, who also
happen to be star photo.net members. In this article, these
professional photographers have contributed advice and personal
experience gained from running wedding businesses. Not only have they
provided advice on specific items to include in a photographer's
wedding contract, but they also included example wedding photographs
of rings and bridal dresses. Whether you are just entering the field
of wedding photography, or are a seasoned professional, the tips and
insights shared here should be helpful with your own business.
We asked our panel of experts the following questions:
The wedding photographers contributing to the Business of
Wedding Photography were not required to answer every question in the
series. Thus, on this topic, some found only one or two questions to
be most relevant to their wedding business.
Items to include in a wedding photographer's
David Wegwart - Denver/CO.
What are some essential items to include
in the contract, including clauses to protect you as a
Wegwart: Exactly what you will provide, clearly spelled out. This
includes who will be there to photograph the day; when the balance is
due and how; how much time they have to get all printing done before
prices increase; agreement to use an arbiter in the case there is a
discrepancy; and a statement clarifying that the provision of an
arbiter will not be used to gain 'freebies'. This also includes
specifying storage of images and their need to keep their files
current with changing technology; the stability of negatives and the
need to store them correctly; provision of refreshments and (if over 4
hours) a meal on the wedding day; and a provision to refund a prorated
amount of any part of the contract not being delivered by you. This
list is only an outline of some of what I use.
Ohara: Model release, right as primary photographer, reprint
rights, money due and when exactly what is provided.
Ball: I found a company that did "form" photographer contracts. It
was very simple but I expanded on it using it as a kind of template. I
think you can find some on the Internet. We can't stress enough how
important it is to pass your contract by a lawyer.
Mowery: A statement establishing the fact that the files are
exclusive property of the photographer with a copyright. State that
you can use the files for web site, samples and publication. Get your
money in advance before the wedding or at the time the proofs are
delivered. I divide it into three payments. Some married couples
have broken up and never ordered an album. Some couples just never
order an album. Make sure your liability is just on money paid by the
client and nothing more.
State what you are providing, what you expect from the clients, what
they can expect from you, your usage rights and restrictions, your
delivery time window for the images, what happens if you cannot show
up, what happens if the clients cancel the wedding, and when payment
is due. Basically include all logistical information regarding the
wedding (addresses, times, etc), and just about anything that you
don't want to have to fight about later. If you do not put it in
there, someone at some point will want to argue
Ascough: Depends on your marketplace. Photographers dealing with a
celebrity clientele will have a different contract to those working
with the general public. A contract should clearly set out the terms
of business between you and the client. The level of protection that
you afford yourself will largely be determined by your level of
experience and the marketplace you work in.
Presenting the contract to clients
How and when do you present the contract to the
bride and groom?
Wegwart: After they have selected me via email/phone call, I mail
them the contract for their approval.
Bernardo: We present the contract to the couple at the end of the
first interview. We give them the contract to take with them and
I show an example of the contract at the first prospective meeting. I
do not expect the clients to sign it immediately.
Nadine Ohara - SF Bay Area/CA
Mowery: When they agree to hire me, not necessarily at the first
Erb: I actually go over the contract during the initial
consultation. I use
it as a sales tool and show how everything I promise is in
writing. This gives them confidence that I'm honest and transparent,
and that I'm willing to put things on paper.
Root: When I meet with them the first time. If they want to sign
and pay a deposit then, that is great. If not, they can take it with
them and mail it back to me.
Would you be willing to share a copy of a
contract you use? (disclaimer: each state may be different and
photographers should always contact a lawyer)
Wegwart: If emailed directly, yes, but not for public domain.
Bernardo: I would not share a contract for a public domain even
though a contract attorney wrote mine. The reasons are many. One line
in our contract says we can use the photos for advertising. The issue
is you can only use the bride and groom. They cannot sign the rights
away for everyone, such as the ring bearer and flower girl. Therefore,
contracts in a sense are useless. If you wish to use images of the
kids or images of anyone present at the wedding you really need a
Erb: Yes, absolutely, with the caveat that it should only be used
as a reference, and not used by anyone the way I have it.
Root: I probably would not. At least not without the advice of a
lawyer. With the liability in the US today, I would be worried that
another photographer would sue me due to the contract not protecting
them fully in some situation. That is probably more likely than a
bride ever actually suing me for some reason, knock on wood...