Say the word “contract” to a group of wedding photographers, and you will often get the same collective sigh that the word “homework” elicits from a group of seventh graders. Most wedding photographers go into the business because, well, they love photography — not because they wanted to spend their time understanding copyright law. But working without a wedding photography contract not only puts the photographer at risk but leaves a lot of the big details of the day up to chance. To ensure everything runs smoothly, here are six things every photographer needs to know before they get started on a contract.
New photographers working without a wedding photography contract often say that they don’t want to stress out the client or make them feel like they’re signing over their big day. But in reality, wedding contracts are for the client, too. Contracts help both the photographer and client to work on the same page, with no misunderstood verbal conversations and no details left out. Besides serving as a quick resource for the client, contracts help clients to feel at ease because contracts actually make photographers appear more professional.
There are a lot of to dos during wedding planning time and this can create a lot of stress. Do you really want to leave the details up to a verbal discussion at a time when the client is not only under a lot of stress but already has quite a few other things to remember? A written agreement helps make sure that both parties remember everything they discussed, exactly as they discussed it. This includes things like a payment schedule, booking fees, deposit amounts or a non-refundable retainer.
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From the date, time and place you need to be at for the big day to the delivery of prints, wedding photography contracts can (and should) detail the entire experience. You don’t want to put only your booking fee in the contract only to have the clients realize later that they can’t actually afford to purchase any prints of their day. Surprising a couple with unexpected fees is a good way to get a bad review even when you do good work. Along with the deposit amounts and complete fee, it’s a good idea to include a price list for all your wedding photography services including extras like prints and albums right inside your contract — so the client isn’t surprised (and so you know what couples booked before or after a price change). This contract or wedding photography agreement represents the entire understanding of the couple’s experience with you so it’s important to outline all the key points and small details.
The photographer automatically owns the copyright to the wedding photos — but that doesn’t mean you can share them. Wedding photography contracts should include a section that clarifies whether or not you can use the images in your online portfolio, social media pages or even for submitting to contests or wedding magazines. Even owning the copyright, without a model release form, could run you into issues if sharing photos of the bride and groom.
A common misconception is that contracts scare off potential clients, but in reality, clients don’t even see the contract until you’ve already had some time to chat with them about their wedding and have started to build a relationship. Not only that, but contracts are negotiable and they don’t have to be the same with every client. If your client doesn’t want you to share any of the images online, you can adjust that clause — and better plan for your portfolio. Whether the client wants additional coverage or swaps out what’s included in the package, the best contracts are easily adjusted to meet the needs for each wedding.
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