The Freelance Wedding Photographer: The Wedding Photography Contract

Wedding photography is very stressful and one needs to start with having an iron-clad contract to cover yourself and your client.

Wedding photography is one of the most stressful fields of photography that anyone can choose to pursue. Weddings are happy, joy-filled events, but it’s a once-in-a-lifetime event, and there’s no room for error. The successful wedding photographer knows this and he or she leaves nothing to chance. There’s a lot that goes into planning the successful wedding shoot, but we have to start somewhere, so we are going to take a look at the wedding photography contract in this article. Eventually, with more articles to come, we will cover all aspects of wedding photography.

The wedding photography contract should leave nothing to chance. In this article, we will consider seven essential things you should consider when creating your wedding photography contract. You can create your contract from scratch or you can base it on a contract that has been used successfully by other photographers. At the end of this article, I will provide links to nine sample contracts that you can adapt to fit your business profile. No matter which route you take, you should still have your finished contract checked by a competent lawyer. A good contract protects you and your wedding client alike.

In your contract, you need to consider the following points

  • In almost all cases, the contract will consist of a number of pages and there needs to be a place on each and every page for the “Bride,” “Groom,” and “Photographer” to initial it indicating that they have read and understand what was covered on that page.
  • In some cases your client will be out of town and all your paperwork will be completed by email or snail mail. Never send a contract as a Word attachment. Word attachments can be edited by your clients as they see fit before signing it. Always convert your contract to a .pdf file before emailing it to the client to read and sign. Otherwise, send a printed contract by snail mail for your clients to read, sign, and return to you by snail mail.
  • All the essential wedding details should be delineated in the contract. The bride's and groom's names. The names of the groomsmen. The name of the bridesmaids. The time and place of the ceremony. The time and place of the reception. The addresses for the bride and her family, and for the groom and his family. A complete list of the services to be provided.
  • It’s a good idea to include a clause that will allow the photographer to adjust the final payment for an unplanned increase in his or her expenses. Many weddings are booked a year or more in advance and the cost of operating his or her business and the cost of producing the wedding package contracted for can change significantly in that time. The photographer should not have to take the increase out of what he or she is charging for their professional services, which is comprised of their time and their skill.
  • Every wedding photography contract should include a model release that spells out how the photographer may and may not use the photos that he or she makes. Most brides and grooms will not mind the photographer using pictures of their wedding in their portfolio and for promoting their business but never assume that you may simply because you retain the copyrights to the pictures. Some couples may not want you to use those pictures for anything other than filling their orders for additional prints and/or album orders. Include a model release that spell out how you may and may not use the pictures. Always better safe than sorry.
  • Spell out the financial agreement in minute detail. How the payment schedules will work. Explain all nonrefundable, “Good Faith Deposits.” The photographer is committing a big chunk of his or her time when he or she agrees to photograph a given wedding ceremony and reception. He or she cannot commit that time slot to another assignment and has a right to some compensation if the client cancels before the actual shoot. Many shoots are scheduled months in advance and unfortunate events can take place during those months that cause a wedding to be canceled.
  • Failure to perform. The contract should spell out how much of the “Good Faith Payment” the photographer will return if he or she cannot complete the assignment. This is usually the payment less any expenses the photographer has already occurred. Let me say here that the professional always knows other professionals that they can call upon to step in for them in case of illness or personal emergencies. No, transportation and equipment failures aren’t legitimate excuses for not completing any assignment. A photographer should have backup equipment and cars can be rented. Nevertheless, this clause should relieve the photographer of any future obligations once the refund is made. My personal feeling is that the client has a right to cancel their wedding but you, the photographer, have no rights to canceling out on photographing the event.
  • Once you have worked up your contract, have your lawyer check it to make sure it’s legally binding to all parties and to make sure it will stand up in court.

Here are the links to the sample contracts that I promised you when we started this journey together.

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