An aspect of wedding planning that new engaged couples rarely give much thought to is how much time they will be spending with contracts during this process. These documents, while not very exciting, can be key to a successful event. Navigating the ins and outs of a solid contract shouldn't take a law degree, today I would like to suggest some key elements you should be on the lookout for specifically when reviewing wedding photography contracts.
1. Get Specific
Make sure that the specifics are spelled out, where the services will be preformed, by whom and on what date. Its ok is you haven't yet settled on a ceremony start time yet but do make sure the the proper venues are listed and your wedding date is correct. Also look for specifics on who will be leading the services day of. Second shooters and assistants will be sorted out by your photographer closer to the big day but the contract should list your primary shooter.
2. How will you Pay
A payment schedule should be very clearly laid out in your contract. This includes the total cost of good and services (including tax where applicable) and a breakdown of what payments are due when. Its completely normal to pay a retainer when booking to secure your wedding date. Beyond retainers each photographer will have a unique payment schedule. It might be broken into two or more additional payments, often falling on benchmark dates in the process. The contract should also include information on how the photographer expects to receive payments; credit card, check etc. Likely there will also be a note about the late payment policy.
3. Refunds & Cancelations
Should disaster strike know what your options are. Retainers are almost always non-refundable. Other payment installments may be though depending on the the situation. If for some reason you need to alter your wedding date understand how that effects your photography booking.
4. Travel & Meals
The majority of wedding photography contracts are going to have clauses for travel and vendor meals. depending how far you are away from the Photographers home studio a travel fee (for transport and or accommodations may apply) Every contract will be unique on this item, but the policy should be very clearly stated up front. It is also widely expected that you will be providing dinner for your photographer and their team on the wedding day. Some contracts will have specifics about dietary restrictions and seating be sure to read this carefully so you take care of these important folks.
5. Contract Lifespan
As you can imagine a photographer can't be expected to hold on to your wedding date indefinitely. The contract should state how long they will hold your date from other inquiries and also how long the quoted price is good for.
A photography contract should let you know how you will be receiving your images after the wedding. Common options here are a digital gallery, USB and occasionally you will still see delivery on CD. Prints, albums and gallery wraps are all options too. The contact should also state that your total cost includes the professional editing and retouching of your final images. I can't stress enough how important the post production work is to the process of a photographer. Trust me that you 1. don't want all of the photos they took that day and 2. you want the images you do receive to be completely edited.
7. Copyright & Credit
Brides and grooms are often unaware that they aren't actually the owners of their photographs. This distinction lies with the artist who took the photo. You are free to use your photos as you wish as long as those uses comply with your contract. If you haven't purchased print rights as a part of your photography package then you must go through your photographer to order any prints. Also it is important to note that photographers should be credited (online its nice to 'tag') when their photos are being used.
A photography contract should lay out the terms for settlement should a disagreement occur between yourself and the photographer. If anything in this very legal section of the contract doesn't make sense to you or isn't spelled out as plainly as you would like, ask the photographer for more information.
10. Behavior of Guests
I still chuckle when I see this section, because you just know that some poor wedding vendor has lived through all of their crazy scenarios. However, poor behavior on the part of guests can be a real concern and distraction from a vendor being able to do their job. I've seen my fair share of flirtatious guests and let me tell you this is a hard aspect of any wedding to control. Ultimately your guests are your responsibility and if they act in an inappropriate manor towards the vendor team those vendors do have a right to discontinue services.
Many photographers will include a section in their contract that states that they can't possibly capture every single moment of the day and that they may not be able to capture each image that you have requested. I believe that all photographers will try their absolute hardest to photograph as many moments as they can but it should anticipate that they can't be everywhere at the same time.
12. Acts of God
Another very popular note in a photography contract is that there are somethings that even the best intentioned photographer can't control. Natural disasters, death, illness etc... all fall into this category. What you should look out for here is that the photographer will find a replacement individual at no additional cost to you. Bad things happen and of course we all hope that those bad things won't interfere with our wedding day but preparing and protecting yourself in the event that something may happen is wise.
13. Model release
One final section that you will find on most every photography contract is a model release. This means that the photographer has your consent to use their images publicly on social media, their website, marketing materials and so forth. I find that this section can be up for discussion if you would prefer not to have your images shared publicly but it would be in bad form to ask your photographer not to use the images but then post those same photos on your own social media channels.
Each wedding photography contract is going to be different. They are as unique as the vendors themselves. Please don't hesitate to speak up and ask questions when reviewing these documents. These are legally binding agreements and I don't want to see anyone locked into something they did know they were signing up for.
Do you have more questions about photography contracts? Or the contracts of other wedding vendors? Please don't hesitate to reach out to me, I would be happy to help!