Mr. X has a great online wedding photography portfolio and spectacular equipment, and he is excited about an upcoming wedding shoot. He interacts with a Client, showcases his work and they are impressed. Consequently, the Client hires Mr. X. He arrives on the said wedding date, and shoots the wedding and then starts with post production work. He sends the Clients the deliverables.
But thereafter, issues arise with meeting the client’s expectations and leading to Mr. X’s balance payment not being cleared. Things like this often happen with Mr X, and he wonders even after fulfilling his obligations and sending out the deliverables, what goes wrong? The problem here is Mr X does not get a Contract/ Service Agreement signed from his Clients for his services of wedding photography.
A few discussions with some fellow photographers in the industry, we have realized that photographers struggle in meeting the client’s expectations, in the absence of a well drafted contract/service agreement. This blog post is an effort to address why contracting is so important if you want to succeed in your wedding photography business and want to reduce unnecessary stress and thereafter build lasting relationships with your clients.
What is a Wedding Photography Contract?
A Wedding Photography Contract is the agreement between The Wedding Photographer & The Client. The clients are typically the Bride & the Groom, whose wedding is about to happen. In some cases, the parents of the Bride or Groom are the Clients too.
The Contract or the Service Agreement absolutely covers everything which both the parties are responsible for, for the day(or days) of the wedding event. A well drafted contract covers the scope of work, deliverable, pricing, payment terms and schedule and also things like copyright, cancellation etc.
Learning to draft a wedding photography contract is not a part of the formal photography education leaving a lot of photographers having to struggle. A lot of them try to search templates online and wade through endless websites to draft a contract template, and still they are unable to safeguard themselves from all the contingencies that can arise in future. Here, we have made an attempt to simplify the essentials of a wedding photography contract.
Why is a Wedding Photography Contract so important?
Contract is basically documented to solve problems in the present as well as foresee the problems what can arise in future. Contracting is basically problem-solving. Being a Lawyer before becoming a Wedding Photographer, I have always stressed on having a well drafted contract. Our Wedding Photography Contract is basically the summary of our learnings, and the check-list of things to be taken care of, with our experience of being in the industry for over six years.
A well drafted contract benefits both the wedding photographer & the client ensuring fair treatment to everyone involved. Sometimes, clients can be hesitant to sign a wedding photography contract, it’s important to emphasize how its necessary to sign a contract for their benefit too. During a meeting or over a call, you need to make them understand how the contract ensures that they get all the deliverables what has been promised to them. It’s just like a script that both the parties follow so that the entire relationship runs as smoothly as possible. At any point of time, if there’s any question/difference about the service/scope of work/deliverable, there is a ready guideline at hand that can be pulled out and used as a checklist.
Lets face it Wedding Photography is not an easy job. You have to invest in latest equipment. You have to impress a client and get them on-board. Thereafter, you have to be meticulously on your toes throughout the shoot, and finally work tirelessly on the post production deliverables. A well drafted wedding photography contract ensures fair treatment for the photography team, their copyright & usage of the photographs, provisions for safe working environment, protection against cancellation due to act of god/last minute occurrences etc.
For Clients, a wedding photography contract offers them very firm reassurance that they’re going to get a return on their investment. Wedding photography is a big investment afterall, and clients who might be nervous about the amount of money they are going to spend for photography & film will feel a lot more secure if they have everything mentioned in the contract.
What all should a Wedding Photography Contract cover?
A good and well-drafted contract need to address a lot of points. In our case, as mentioned before, we have added points in our contract based on our experience and the learnings. The language in the contract is kept absolutely simple. Scroll down for the link to KnotsbyAMP Sample Agreement!
Lets take a look at some key clauses that your wedding photography contract must have :-
1. Scope of Work
Setting up the scope of work and putting out your deliverable for photography and film is of utmost importance while drafting a wedding photography contract. The scope should be exhaustive & descriptive of what all you are going to deliver to the Client. The scope of work should also mention the team size comprising of no. of photographers & cinematographers.
The deliverables section would also require a lot of back and forth communication with the Client. But this will set the expectations of the Client, and thereafter no one can put any pressure about certain thing not being delivered. In case if any issue arises in the post-production stage, the parties should stick to what is mentioned in the scope of work.
Payment is the next foremost important thing on your wedding photography contract. Put the total amount payable clearly, along with the bifurcation as to the “Advance Amount” & “Balance Payment”. Along with that mentioning about non-refundable amounts and payment schedule is crucial.
Most of the wedding photographers start the post-production work only once all the pending payments are cleared by the client. This should be strictly followed by all wedding photographers, as keeping a certain percentage of amount (say 10%) on hold for later, have their own shortcomings. Save yourself from the hassles of constantly following up and other unpleasant experiences, by sticking to your irrevocable payment terms.
3. IPR & Copyright
This governs for both the parties. Generally, the wedding photographer maintains the copyright of all the photos they’ve taken. The wedding photographer reserves his right to display the photos taken at the client’s wedding on their website, for their promotion and marketing. If there is any objection to use any particular photo, the client can mention that to the wedding photographer. The client gets the right for unlimited lifetime usage of the photographs for their personal usage.
A contract comes to your rescue in situations of last minute cancellation or events getting cancelled due to Act of God. The scenario of weddings getting cancelled/postponed due to Covid 19, taught us a big lesson in terms of drafting a “force majeure” clause in the contract. The wedding photographers with the force majeure clause could retain the advance booking amount with credit for services later on when they happen in future. Its always advisable to anticipate worst possible scenarios that can ever arise and put them in the contract. For wedding photographers, this is their livelihood, and it needs to be ensured that you’re compensated fairly for your time and efforts. A sudden cancellation would mean a loss of income, so you need to make sure you’re protected.
If, however, there is a failure to perform the wedding photography contract on the wedding photographer’s part due to illness, injury, or other emergencies, then you can stipulate in that contract that you’ll either make an alternate arrangement or return the money to the client.
5. Working Hours for Photographers
Wedding Photography is a demanding job, where you have to be on your toes throughout. Its important that you define reasonable working hours, ensuring gaps between two successive events.
Also that’s why its important to have at least one assistant, along with you on the day, so they can take over photo duties while you’re on a bathroom/food break/ short break.
6. Travel, Accommodation & Food Expenses
Mentioning expenses would be the next important thing. For outstation shoots, travel and accommodation expenses needs to be discussed at the starting conversation itself.
From our experience, we have realised that it’s important to ask for accomodation, if the shoot location is in the outskirts of the same city. If there are not much gap between two wedding events, its important that you check with client and get an accomodation or any other arrangement. All of these will not only ensure seamless coverage of the wedding, but also at the end of the day your goal to make your clients happy will be met successfully.
Food expenses for the team, even though being a basic requirement, should be highlighted in your agreement.
7. Safe Work Environment
Lastly, do mention to your clients for providing a safe work environment. You will usually not find this clause in many contract templates for wedding photographers. But with our experience in the industry, we have incorporated this clause in our contract. Its important that the wedding photography team deserves a fair treatment, as they set out out to give so many happy memories to their clients. Also with Covid 19 scenario, its a risk on the lives of wedding photographers too. Hence, safe working environment is the need of the hour for the upcoming wedding shoots.
The signatures of the clients or an e-mail stating that they have gone through the agreement and are ok with everything, is the final part of all the hard work that you have put into drafting the contract. Once this is done, your job will get easier and the next step would be focusing on the shoot!
Download our sample contract template – KnotsbyAMP Sample Agreement 2020
What are your thoughts on contract for wedding photographers? Do comment and let us know!