Do you have wedding bells in your future? No, not for yourself but for your very first wedding photography client? Before saying “I do…agree to be your wedding photographer”, send your clients your wedding photography contracts!
First off, congratulations!! Taking on a wedding is no small feat! We don’t say this to scare you off but there are many important unrepeatable moments happening on a wedding day. Good for you for taking on the challenge of capturing it all, we know you can do it!
But, you’ve been dragging your feet when it comes to making wedding photography contracts. Perhaps you just don’t know what to put in the contract. Maybe you’re afraid of offending your client, or that your client won’t choose you if you ask them to sign a contract. Trust us though, do NOT skip out on this contract. Many photographers before you have regretted not getting a contract signed. So where do you start?
What to include in wedding photography contracts
Ah, the most important question of all! Wedding photography contracts should cover everything from cancellations, to guests interfering with your shots, to the payment terms. After putting in so much hard work to shoot and edit the wedding, you do not want your clients to try to take advantage of you. So let’s jump into the nitty-gritty.
Contact information for all parties
Worst case scenario: You’re locked out of the wedding venue and no one is answering your knocks on the door. You’ve tried calling the bride but she isn’t answering.
How to avoid this problem: Get the phone numbers, email addresses for all parties in the wedding including the groom. Having the parent’s and maid of honor’s contact information as a backup never hurt. Asking for contact information for other vendors is useful for networking and social media tagging after the wedding.
Wedding Day Cancellation
Worst case scenario: the couple splits up so close to the wedding that you don’t have time to book a new client to fill that spot. You’ve put in lots of hard work scouting locations and planning every photography moment of the wedding day start to finish and you don’t even get paid.
How to avoid this problem: charge a retainer for the wedding day and put a clause in your contract stating the retainer is forfeit if the wedding is cancelled. This ensures you get paid something for your time. So how much do you charge for the deposit? Established wedding photographers charge anywhere from 25-50% of the wedding package to hold the date. BONUS: by charging a retainer fee, there is less chance the couple cancels on you to go with another wedding photographer.
Worst case scenario: Wedding day has already passed, you did everything you promised on the wedding day and edited the photos. The clients don’t want to pay you the money owed for the job they’ve posted yours or other peoples wedding day photos on Facebook already. You’ve put countless unpaid hours into making everything perfect for them.
How to avoid this problem: discuss payment terms with your clients during your initial meetings and then state the agreed upon terms in the wedding photography contracts. State the amount of the payment and the dates payments are due .Whether that be a one time payment, a retainer with the remaining due two weeks before the wedding, or monthly payments leading up to the wedding. It is highly recommended that payment is collected in full before you start shooting on the wedding day. Outline the consequences of missing payments: do you reserve the right to not take photos on the wedding day?
Worst case scenario: The couple just exchanged vows and the pastor has invited the couple to kiss. Uncle Vernon steps right in front of your camera just as the groom kisses the bride. You step to the side of the uncle but the moment has passed and the couple is waving to the crowd.
How to avoid this problem: Discuss the possibility of this scenario happening during the planning stages. Does the couple want their guests to be able to take their own photos? If so ask the couple to remind guests to please keep out of your way throughout the wedding day. Better yet? Ask the couple how they feel about asking their guests to go ‘unplugged’ during the ceremony. Whatever you agree to, put it in the contract and make sure to state you’re not to be held liable for missing a photo due to circumstances out of your control.
Wedding date and hours of service
Worst case scenario: you agreed to spend 8 hours with the couple on their wedding day. The bride took too long to get ready and now the couple wants you to stay longer because everything got pushed back. They claim you never told them you would be leaving at 7pm.
How to avoid this problem: You guessed it, write it in the wedding photography contracts. Also include how much extra you will charge and when that payment is due if the couple asks you to stay longer. One week after the wedding or before the images are delivered is the recommended payment date. Don’t ask for payment at the wedding.
Wedding photography template
Avoid an ordinary wedding photography contracts template and risk the language not being held up in court. You will want to talk with a lawyer in your area to make sure the wording is legally binding and avoids loopholes. Rather than stating in your contract that:
If the photographer is unable to make the wedding due to sickness, they will inform the couple as soon as possible.
Be safe and go with an established contact. Did you know that Cole’s Classroom has it’s very own client management system that has wedding photography contracts? Did you also know that Cole’s Classroom members get free access to Hey Ned?! So rather than using the clause above, go with the Hey Ned contract which states:
If Photographer is unable to attend the Event due to fire, flood, casualty, strike, civil disturbance, war, terrorism, Photographer’s sickness, or other acts of God beyond the parties’ control, then Photographer shall return all money paid by Client (including any retainer), and this agreement shall immediately terminate.
Notice how the wording here closes the loophole for other reasons you might not be able to make the wedding? It also reassures the client that they get their money back if you cannot fulfill the agreement. Hey Ned contracts have clauses you might never have thought to add yourself to a contract.
Sample wedding contract
With sample wedding photography contracts, there is always the chance that you miss adding your name or the client’s name or an important date. Hey Ned takes this worry away by asking you for all the important information before you see the contract. Hey Ned automatically fills that information into your contract for you! Plus, Hey Ned already has all the clauses pre-written for you, so you don’t have to come up with your own language for the contract. In a matter of minutes Hey Ned sends the electronic form to your clients to sign and send back. No need for your clients to print, sign, and scan the wedding contract to send back to you.
Hey Ned also has clauses covering the retainer, cancellations, how the copyright for photos works, model release, delivery of photos and more. You’ll feel much safer knowing you have a contract that was prewritten for you. You’re welcome to bring the Hey Ned contract to your lawyer to double check nothing was missed if you’re still nervous.
When to send a wedding contract
So now you’ve written your contract, double and triple checked it for mistakes. What’s the best time to send the contract? Once you meet the couple and determine if you’re a good fit for each other! You’re going to scare away potential clients if you send them the contract before you’ve even met. Once you’ve talked about the couple’s vision and your methods and aesthetic, then you can bring up the contract. Bring a printed copy of the contract with you, and walk through the contract with the couple. If you’re nervous about pressuring them into signing with you, invite them to talk it over with each other and sign it in a few days. Invite them to contact you if they have any questions.
How to send a wedding contract
In today’s digital world the most convenient way to send a contract is online, where they can also sign digitally. Hey Ned does exactly this. It is a swift, paperless, system that is hassle free for your client. It doesn’t require your clients sign up for any service in order to sign either. You can also send your contract through good old fashion mail or send it in an email where they print and sign it. Alternatively, you can get them to sign in person during your meeting. However you choose to send the contract, ensure that method works for your client.
Now that you’ve got the wedding photography contracts out of the way, you can get back to enjoying the better parts of your job! You go rock that wedding and impress the heck out of your clients, so they love you for life!