One of the most common worries for any wedding photographer is protection of their funds. Most weddings are booked well in advance and things happen. Having a good contract will protect you from loss of income and so much more. But what should you include in a wedding photography contract?
Copyright and Model Release
When crafting a proper wedding photography contract, potentially the first two points of business that you consider are copyright and model release. Be sure to include specific language that clearly defines how the images created are to be owned. Are you completely releasing your rights to your created images or will you be registering them with the copyright office? This portion of your contract should clearly state what uses are acceptable for your clients, with YOUR created images.
Do you plan to use them for promotion of your business in the future? If so, you will need to include specific language that comprises a “model release”. This will allow you to utilize the photos for your own promotions or even to sell as stock photography if you want. When outlining the model release include language that describes how you plan to use the images.
Schedule, Timing, Cooperation, Venue Limitations
When outlining your wedding photography contract, it is prudent to outline the schedule for the wedding day and include any anticipated timing issues. Adding a clause regarding “cooperation” can save you from any photos that were missed due to drunk groomsmen or picky priests. Additionally, you will find that clients may ask you to “ask forgiveness instead of permission” and violate the rules of a church or venue to capture photos. It is good to include a clause in your contract that specifically denies this practice.
Reservation, Expenses and Payment
When outlining expenses and payment, this should be the clearest and most easily read portion of the contract. This section should outline the total expenses for the wedding photography package, a breakdown of each expense and included items. You should outline the reservation and payment process making it clear what payments are due and when.
If you are traveling to the wedding or it is a destination wedding, this is the location of the contract where you would include any travel expenses that need to be covered, stipend and incurred expenses. Consider including an “additional expenses incurred” disclaimer that if you are to incur expenses like duties or fees, that the couple are or are NOT responsible for this.
Cancellation and Rescheduling
While no one wants to talk about it, weddings are cancelled or moved all the time. Your contract, alongside the payment information, should include clauses that protect you from cancellation. At this point, you have held their date, sometimes for months, often produced engagement photos and now the month before the engagement is off. Wil you refund their retainer? Will they be responsible for the remaining payments? All of these are things you need to think about as it will equal lost income for you as the photographer.
Backup Equipment, Acts of God and Insurance
Any good photography contract will provide protection for both the photographer and the client. It cannot be one sided or the clients will have issues signing it. When you draft your contract be sure to include protections for the client such as mentioning backup equipment and your plan if there is an act of God such as a death of a photographer. The wedding photography contract is also a good place to include reassurances such as insurance carried.
Captures, Editing & Delivery of Images
Any wedding photography contract needs to specifically outline the general number of images that you expect to produce, how those images are to be handled, edited and relayed to the client. Will you be giving them digital images and in what resolution? Will there be a copyright release or a EULA included? Will the images be edited or raw? Will there be additional fees for in depth editing and body modification? Will the images be given on disc, prints or digital download? Will there be a gallery?
Keep in mind that this portion of your contract should be VERY specific. This is not the time to scrimp on words. Ensure that you are clients are clear on what will be the final product included with their payments / package. This will alleviate disappointment and unhappy clients.
Exclusivity and Interference
This may sound really petty but it is a good idea to include an exclusivity clause for all wedding contracts. If you shoot enough weddings you will come to find that there is always a friend or uncle who is an “aspiring photographer”. This limits their ability to use images from the function to advertise as their own. You don’t want to be confused with someone’s uncle and have people believe that HE shot images that you worked hard to create.
Interference is a necessary limitation that should include specific wording limiting your liabilities due to other people interfering in your photography process. Often, parents, wedding planners or even the couple will cut photography time short. They regret it after the wedding photos arrive and this protects you from not getting “as many photos” as “they thought” due to interference.
Limit of Liability and Disputes
When composing your limit of liability, this is the portion of the contract where you protect your business from failures or acts of God. As a photographer you cannot always plan for things like camera failure, data loss, or even bad weather. While this should be fair to your clients, this will protect a photographer, especially if they are a sole proprietor, from financial devastation if something goes wrong. These things could be limited regardless of whether it was your fault or not.
If a dispute DOES arise, you will need to have clearly outlined in your contract, how this should be handled and what recourse both you and your clients should have. Outlining potential complaint processes and mediation prior to “court” is a good idea.
All in all, writing the wedding photography contract is one of the most important building blocks to establishing a wedding photography business. This document will very likely evolve and change over the years. Most good contracts are fluid documents that are reviewed and edited regularly to ensure their legal standing and fairness.
Want a great sample wedding photography contract? All PPA members can access one here!