6 Clauses That Should Be In Every Wedding Photography Contract

As we roll into early summer many of you will be booking your first weddings as a new wedding photographer. Hopefully you took the time to understand insurance and at least have basic coverage for liability and equipment damage.

Also one would hope you have some kind of a contract in place that covers the basics about the service you’re providing, the product you’re delivering and how you’re going to get paid.

Wedding Photography

For many new photographers those contracts came from a boilerplate in a book or that they found online. Some of those will be better than others and I went around to my contacts in the wedding photography business and asked them what changes to their standard contracts they’ve made over the years.

Let me add that these are contract clause suggestions I have gotten from actual working wedding photographers and are not intended to be legal advice. Not all of these clauses may be legal or enforceable in every jurisdiction. That’s why you need an actual lawyer to review your standard contract to make sure it’s properly worded and enforceable where you plan on working.

1. If They Eat, You Eat

If a meal is being served, make sure that your contract states that there is one for you and anyone on your team. Not many people can work 14 hours straight without eating and it’s hard to do your best work when your stomach is growling and your blood sugar is in the tank. There won’t be time to go anywhere to get a sandwich.

Ironically the best time for the wedding photographer to get off their feet for a few minutes and stuff down some food is after the wedding party has been served and the other guests are eating. Do not eat in sight of the other guests.

The caterer can have a table out of sight of the wedding guests for their own breaks, which will usually be wherever they’re staging the meal service, and that’s fine.

2. Creative Control Remains With You

One of my firm rules as a photographer is only show your best work. The client will want you to put all the images on a drive and hand them over. Don’t do that and make sure your contract says you don’t have to give them over. Be a little flexible on the implementation of that clause.

Sometimes the customer is asking for all the shots because there are no pictures of Aunt Martha at the reception. If some of the pictures that show Aunt Martha are merely uninspiring, you might be able to brush them up in post-processing and supply them.

Communication is key when it comes to explaining why those clauses are in your contracts in the first place.

3. Display and Resale Of Images

Some photographers feel like they have retain all the copyrights to their images and I personally disagree with that approach, which seems a little old school for the modern digital world.

You do want to retain enough ownership to prevent the images from being displayed in a context that reflects poorly on you, or used in commercial advertisements of any kind without your written permission.

4. Speaking Of Commercial Advertising

You should specify in your contract that you can use the wedding images in your own advertisements but that should be an optional clause. The reason you want to make it optional is that some customers may have careers that prevent them from having their image used in commercial advertising.

That is surprisingly common in a city with a lot of TV and film production like Orlando, Florida, or just about anywhere in southern California. Keep that clause in when you can, be willing to strike it when necessary. Your local news anchor could lose their job if their face shows up in your billboard advertising.

5. Booking Fees

Many wedding photographers charge a non-refundable “booking fee”, a charge to reserve a specific date on the calendar, instead of a “deposit” because there is a legal definition of a deposit that may stipulate that the money has to be returned in some circumstances.

A few jurisdictions will not recognize the term “non-refundable” in the context of a deposit, but a non-refundable booking fee is a charge for holding a date and missing out on the opportunity to book other work. This is one of those clauses where you need a real lawyer to explain what’s legal and enforceable in your jurisdiction.

6. Collection Costs

Another stipulation your contracts should have is that, if you have to sue to collect on the balance of a contract payment, that attorney fees and collection costs can be recovered. Many new photographers are surprised to discover that attorney fees are not automatically included.

It’s an unfortunate guarantee that, at some point in your career, usually at the most inconvenient possible time, someone will stiff you on a contract. It’s not always deliberate, weddings are expensive and the occasional bride will end up with a short checkbook. Be willing to work with the honest ones, but brutal with the ones who just skip without saying anything.

Business is business and the only way you’ll be able to stay in business is if you collect cash. While you can’t always be nice you can always be fair.

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