Congratulations, you are now engaged!
It is such an exciting time for both of you and definitely a stage where you will concentrate on what is important to you the most. From setting a date, choosing a venue, searching for vendors to paying deposits and signing contracts. Hang on for a minute, did you just say “contracts”? Yes, I did and I am going to get into all the details I, as a wedding photographer, recommend you to look for.
My name is Olga Bhana and I have been in this industry for long enough to learn how to avoid stress where is possible and keep things simple and straightforward. When I started as a family photographer, I used to send an email with an invoice attached. In the email I would add some notes to cover myself and give something to my clients so they know what to expect. Those notes would normally include price, session details such as a date and location, deadlines and a number of images my clients would receive. At that stage this was enough to make sure that both sides are on the same page. When I had my first wedding inquiry, I realised that there are so many details I have to include into my notes, that I might have to look into creating a contract. After spending some time with an industry lawyer, I had a good base and understanding of what should be included in the agreement and why it is important. Below I am outlining the most important parts of a wedding photography contract I believe you might need to look for and also explaining the importance of every one of them. You probably want to save this page or print this as a guide for when the time comes for you to sign your wedding contract.
Personal and business information – full names of the bride and groom, their residential address, contact details.
These are an important part of any contract as it states who is actually signing it. There also should be details of the photographer – the name of the business, address, contact details and who will be your photographer in case if there are a few representing the same brand.
Wedding details – date, ceremony and reception venues (if they differ), time when your photographer is expected to start and finish. These details are simply compulsory because you want to make sure that your photographer knows where is the wedding location and what time he/she is required to start and finish.
Fees and payment schedule – this part should state how much you are paying for the service and if it includes GST. Quite often the quotes that were sent in the beginning of the booking process do not state or include GST in them. If the business is big enough and paying GST, they should clearly state this in the original quote. Can you imagine adding 15% to let’s say a $2000 service fee? A bit of surprise, isn’t it? It also should have a deposit and/or payment schedule outlined very clearly so you are aware of how much you are expected to pay and when to make sure you do not lose the
The minimum number of images you are going to receive – it is always good to have this mentioned too as it will help to avoid any disappointments later. Whether it is 100 images or 1000, it should be stated in the contract. I would also add some details on how the images will be delivered to you at the end – via online gallery, USB or any online storage facilities (Dropbox etc.). Some packages might include prints as well – this purely depends on the way the photographer runs the business, but also should be outlined in the contract.
Photographer replacement should anything go wrong on the day – this is one of the most important segments of any service contracts in the wedding industry. I truly believe that if someone agrees to work with you on the day (and towards it, of course), they should have a back-up plan should anything go not as planned. We are all humans, and we can get sick, there could be a force-major situation where your photographer simply cannot be there for you on your wedding day. So, what happens next? The photographer you hired or the company the photographer works for should provide a replacement for you so you are not left out without someone to capture your day. No additional costs should be involved here.
Cancellations/Changes – when you book your photographer 2 years prior your actual wedding, you are more likely to be very excited which I believe is how any bride and groom should feel. However, sometimes things do not go according to the plan and we need to be prepared for it too. Once you pay the deposit, you secure your booking and the photographer blocks the day so he/she can no longer look into any other inquiries for your date. The closer it is to the wedding day, the harder it is for the photographer to fill the day should the booking fall through and get changed. In this instance, as a client, you need to be aware of any cancellation/change fees and loose of deposits. In most of the cases you are more likely to lose your deposit should you cancel/change the photography services 30-60 days prior to the wedding day. I would definitely recommend you to look into this part of a contract. There is also should be a clear outlining of what responsibilities will the photographer have should he/she decide to terminate/amend the contract.
Copyrights – if I were a client and paid for the images, I would be thinking that I own them and can do whatever I want with them. However, the reality is a bit different. The photographer owns the copyright of all the images and by paying for those images you are basically getting a permission to use them for your personal use. Should you decide to use
them commercially (let’s say sell them to a magazine), you have to notify your photographer first, and get the permission to sell them and probably even set aside a commission (this should be discussed with your photographer). This section is not limited to selling/using the images. You are more likely cannot edit or change the images without asking your photographer as well. By editing I mean using any filters, changing colours etc. This is simply because professional photographers work very hard to keep their style consistent and recognisable. If you would like to do any changes to the images, please have a chat to the person who took them.
There are might be other details included in your contract, as every photographer works differently. However, as a photographer myself, I would highly recommend to pay very close attention to the sections I have outlined above. Wedding contract is not just a legal document, it is also a good summary of all the details related to your wedding photography. At any time, you can refer to it without going through many messages and emails you and your photographer have exchanged. Please also remember that should some of the parts of your wedding contract be not quite clear to you, you can always seek for an independent legal advice.
I wish you enjoyable and easy wedding preparations and do hope that your Big Day will be exactly as you have always imaged it!