Deal 10: A hot topic, at a hot price!
You’ve seen it before. It’s not the photographer with the biggest camera or the most artistic eye that wins in the world of wedding photography. It’s the best-practiced business photographer.
Smart businessmen or women know how to create their brand and or product, sell it, promote it – and all before 5pm (well, sometimes). For a wedding photographer, branding and creating a product is only half the battle.
One side of the photography business includes observing a plethora of legalities that will help you make the most of your business. One of those legal considerations is a Wedding Photography Agreement or Contract. This agreement will protect you from liability. It also will very clearly lay out expectations for both you and for your clients.
Many photographers have little idea what goes into a Wedding Photography Agreement. The length and content will largely depend on what type of services you provide. Here are a few non-negotiable inclusions:
This is the basic contact information for both parties making the agreement. Think of this as a “cover page” with impertinent information including:
This specifies that the agreement was made by both parties who fully intent to cooperate within the agreement stipulations.
Here you stipulate the total charge for services provided. You also may protect yourself with a required “save the date” deposit that is non refundable.
Will you give the clients a cd of all the pictures? Or will you give proofs only and keep printing rights? Be sure to get this in writing or else you will open yourself to possible losses.
If you are like most photographers, you will want to use the wedding images in your portfolio and for advertising. Be sure to get this written permission in writing and make things easy by including it in the contract.
If you want to be detailed, consider adding a few other inclusions, such as booking and reimbursement for travel fees, schedule of the day, product return, and a stipulation on being the sole photographer.
Many photographers have their agreements online. Do your research before writing an agreement to keep yourself covered. Also refer to the Photographers Legal Guide for more information.
Update: after publishing this post on Wedding Photography Agreements one of our readers, David, kindly emailed us a sample wedding photography agreement that some readers might find helpful. You can view it at Sample Wedding Photography Agreement.
May 20, 2013 09:53 pm
Darren, I'm including a link to my article regarding Wedding Photography Contracts, because the reader deserves more information on the topic. Steve
April 25, 2013 04:19 am
I have learned from mistakes that I should have a contract written up from the very beginning. Now that I'm further along in shooting weddings, I have what I feel is a pretty straightforward and legally binding contract. The exasperating thing is this: clients will continue to push their boundaries. In the contract, I state the minimum and maximum numbers of images which will be delivered with no unedited images to be delivered. Please tell me why people insist on asking for ALL images despite the written contract?! In addition, brides/couples feel that they should have control over what images will be made public. I again have to remind them of the contract and copyright, etc. Despite feeling frustrated, I must state that I'm completely glad there is a contract to refer back to. Make a contract now!
November 5, 2011 09:25 pm
You should have your form of photographer contract reviewed by an attorney in your jurisdiction. For example, the sample indemnity clause may be too vague in some states. Further, as a lawyer I would never sign an agreement to purchase services with such a clause, because it tries to impose upon the purchaser liability for the negligence of the photographer! Make sure your contract is fair and reasonable, for you AND the purchaser of your services.
August 5, 2011 09:36 am
We place all pictures, with the permission of our wedding couple or customer.
So i don't think so, it is illegal.
February 10, 2011 11:48 am
I'm curious about facebook-type useage as well. When clients purchase digital negatives, does anyone have advice on whether/how to regulate the posting of photos on sites like facebook? The digital negatives I provide to clients do not have watermarks, so is it best to just stipulate that a photo credit be included when posted online? Without a watermark, it seems like it would be awfully easy for a third party to pick them up off facebook and use/sell them (not that a watermark is fullproof). I want to be flexible for clients who like to share online (plus it can be good exposure for me), but online useage is tricky. I'm also curious it others who sell digital negatives to clients allow them to post the photos on sites like Shutterfly for relatives to purchase (not at a profit to the client).
February 6, 2011 09:35 am
Is it legal for the couple to put photos on facebook (with credit to the photographer/ watermark on picture), if the photographer owns the copyrights, and he placed low resolution picson his website (access with password)?
December 27, 2010 11:09 pm
The real wedding photographer not simply makes money. He is your friend and helper in a time of wedding. He is responsible and careful, initiative and ?????????, with exceptional traction and love to the work. And if you found such photographer, be sure - making even small pushes from the side, in your house, on the most prominent position, your only and the best wedding album will proudly lie.
November 30, 2010 03:33 pm
This has been a freaking lifesaver!
I just did a wedding for a close friend... the last person you would expect to pull a fast one!
Now they won't pay for the coverage, won't pay for prints, or for copyrights, but want ALL of it. Also, they want to bring my photos to another photographer... more like her high school cousin who just bought his first film camera. to make an album for her. No way!
Since they signed the contract, they are legally stuck until they pay.
Sucks for our friendship, but it saved my sweet butt from being swindled.
And a note for Paul- or those with similar thoughts... If you want to limit the photographer's usage of your photos, tell them directly (in written form... ahem.. a contract) where they can NOT use the photos. Beyond that, it is legally copyrighted to the photographer as per the Federal Copyright Act, and unless you pay for the copyrights, you don't get a say. Sorry, but its true, and it saves us from stories like my 'friends' above.
October 29, 2010 05:53 am
Wow, I have REALLY enjoyed reading all this information about doing a wedding. I did one for a friend years ago and wish I'd had this information but now feel much more prepared to do a "real" wedding photography session. And THANKS so much to David for supplying a sample contract.
September 10, 2010 07:35 am
Good post. I agree with you that a proper contract simply sets expectations for the parties involved.
I wonder if you’d be interested in a low cost e-signature tool I built. It’s called Agree ‘n Sign: http://www.AgreeNSign.com. It may be of value to your readers by speeding up the contract signing process using email and the web.
Try if free and let me know if you’d like an account upgrade to evaluate it further.
August 12, 2010 04:17 pm
I have recently introduced an amended version of my wedding assignment contract to remove references to bride & groom. I'm booking more and more same sex marriages / commitment ceremonies - bride & bride and groom & groom was still causing issues, so now they are all just clients.
I've also introduced a "paparazzi" clause, which grants me permission to restrict photography by guests if they are interfering with my photos (not that I have ever used it), and absolves me of responsibility if my photos are ruined by guest photographers distracting my subjects / blasts a flash in my shot / etc.
In Australia, copyright in wedding photographs lies with the client (Copyright Act 1968) as wedding photography is deemed to be "private or domestic". My agreement includes a clause which overrides this and provides me with copyright.
WRT model releases - mine allow me to use the images for self-promotion and also for entry into competitions.
June 12, 2010 05:26 pm
Great info! Thanks for sharing!
June 7, 2010 05:12 am
Thanks for information like this. It is really useful !!!
May 24, 2010 06:47 am
Wow-Amazing Blog- Wow -Thanks for all the great information and i love the pictures, thanks for sharing this blog.
March 11, 2010 08:01 am
This is a lot of useful information. I've been reading articles nonstop since I found this site...
January 29, 2010 07:28 am
As someone looking to hire a photographer for my wedding, I can respect the desire of the photographer to copyright the pictures. However, is it the norm for the photographer to also have the right to distribute those photos how he or she pleases? Shouldn't I as the person hiring have some say in what the photographer can do with my pictures?
November 11, 2009 01:16 pm
This is great!! Weddings are always tricky and getting everything in writing is helpful to ensure that both parties know what is expected of the other. I have all my brides/grooms sign one with all the shots and locations on it as well, I know things change on the day but I'm flexible, as long as they aren't going overboard with changes. [img]http://www.facebook.com/theloftphoto?v=photos#/photo.php?pid=2820953&id=80847115177[/img]
October 2, 2009 11:34 am
Does anyone have an example I can look at?
February 26, 2009 12:12 am
I am new at wedding photography, I still struggle on where to stand and take photos during the ceremony, any advise would be appreciated. I feel uncomfortable standing in the isle when they say their vows, I feel like I am going to take away from that moment, where do you stand, etc..
February 17, 2009 04:47 pm
Great tips! Another: Remember to add a friendly clause about specific reimbursement liability.
Something like, "Although all care will be taken with the film, processed negatives, digital files, and photographs taken at the wedding, YourPhotoCo limits it’s liability for loss, total damage, or failure to deliver pictures for any reason to the return of all deposits made. In this unlikely event, XPhotoCo will refund all prepaid amounts, but will not accept liability for any other financial losses incurred by the contracting party including but not limited to: Tux rental, reception hall costs, catering, limo rental, etc."
It just may save you from clients even thinking about it....
December 14, 2008 10:45 pm
Hi!I am interested in wedding photography jobs in U.S.A
Currently I am working as as an artist for Times Of Indi for past 22 years and also working as function photographer for past 20 years.
Waiting for your reply as soon as possible.
September 5, 2008 11:36 am
Make sure you put in that you need to be given a meal too. After 8 hours of working when the guests tuck in you need to sit down too.
August 26, 2008 09:44 am
Gee your sites about Wedding Photography Agreement (Contract) Tips is hmm how can i say, different from the others. Keep adding i will be back
July 15, 2008 07:18 am
Fantastic advice, have a wedding contract has got me out of some really sticky situations. Very often clients will try and pull a fast one. Good job and I have also bookmarked this site for future referencing.
July 2, 2008 07:54 am
good advice. I didn't think to add the model release to my actual contract but that is brilliant!
July 1, 2008 06:23 am
There are many things that you can do yourself. In my mind a wedding photography contract is not one of them. WPPI had featured someone selling a professional photographer contract for $50. Pay the $50 and then take it to a lawyer in your state to review. You hope it is never needed, but you can't play it too safe.
June 28, 2008 06:37 pm
Steven: "Retainer." VERY important clarification. VERY.
June 28, 2008 07:37 am
Under your first point you state: "Think of this as a â€œcover pageâ€ with impertinent information including ..."
Ah, the joys of using a spell-checker.
I presume you mean "with important information."
The rest of your article, and the sample contract from Dave, was excellent. Thank you very much.
June 28, 2008 04:51 am
David, thanks soooo much for the sample contract.
One other thing that I'd love to see is a sample model release used for various operations... Weddings in particular would be appropriate on this post.
Does someone happen to have one of those to share?
June 28, 2008 01:06 am
Please note with the sample contract I provided above that details are important. Don't assume anything. If the bride wants purple frames and poster sized shots of her father then make sure you include that in your "Scope of Work" description.
Also note that the signature "blocks" at the bottom merged somehow. The signers (the photographer & the bride and groom) should all have separate places to sign. The signatures need not be fancy but they should have the names typed out and a signature line and a date line under each typed name.
You want to write it so a judge can look at the contract if there is a dispute and easily understand what each party promised to do and when.
June 27, 2008 10:36 pm
In Massachusetts a 'deposit' is legally refundable if the client cancels, but a 'retainer' is not. To guarantee this downpayment here, be sure to call it a retainer.
June 27, 2008 02:51 pm
I have never ever -in 20+ years- had any planning with a groom only.
It's always bride/parents, bride/groom/parents or bride/groom.
Side note: If you're making half the decisions now before you're married, cherish that time, son.
Cherish that time. (*sigh*)
June 27, 2008 07:10 am
It'd be great if someone could provide a link to their favorite renditions of contracts available online for viewing/repurposing.
It's nice to have these pointers, but I always have a hard time coming up with a form that's easy to read but has all the needed details.
June 27, 2008 03:18 am
It's always good to consult an attorney. Just because other photographers use provisions in their contracts doesn't make them enforceable.
June 27, 2008 02:21 am
Very good article.
Many beginning photographers donâ€™t understand the value of the copyright - you have best right
June 27, 2008 01:35 am
Great advice. However, I have developed a pet peeve over the last couple of months while getting ready for my own wedding. Why is it that everything associated with weddings is written and done with the assumption that the bride is in charge of everything? As the groom, I have done almost half of the planning. I was, in fact, entirely responsible for deciding and hiring a photographer. My bride is only aware that we have a photographer and the general cost.
June 27, 2008 01:22 am
There is a book, Photographer's Legal Handbook by Tad Carlsen (I think that is his name). I've used it several times, it has (nearly) all the forms any aspiring photographer would need, definately worth it.
I just used it for a wedding I will be shooting.
June 27, 2008 01:16 am
Put everything you promised in writing. It honestly saves a lot of grief.
Having a contract shows professionalism. Having a friendly open discussion about copyright is also very important. No one needs a photographers copyright unless they plan on reselling the images. And then they should pay for that right.
Many beginning photographers don't understand the value of the copyright. Just remember this...
If your copyright is not valuable then why is everyone working so hard to get it?
June 27, 2008 01:10 am
Great advice, I plan on doing wedding photography part-time in the future! Good thing my father is an attorney he can help me create a bullet proof contract :)
June 27, 2008 12:10 am
This great advice was given to me a while back and has proven to be well worth the extra effort it takes to accomplish. Gives peace of mind to not only the photog, but also the bride and groom!
Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook
Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook
Receive a FREE SAMPLE of our Portrait Photography Ebook
Sign up to the free DPS PHOTOGRAPHY COURSE
GET DAILY free tips, news and reviews via our RSS Feed