Nobody likes to talk about contracts, but they’re a necessary part of running a photography business. And even if you don’t consider yourself a “professional” quite yet… you should still have every client sign a contract to protect yourself and to have everything in writing.
Wedding contracts are a whole different beast. You’re relying on one little document to protect you, should something happen and your client blames you for ruining the most important day of their life.
My first piece of advice is to talk to a lawyer! They’ll help make sure you’re covered from a liability standpoint. But as great as they are, lawyers aren’t photographers. So you’ll have to help them out when it comes to all the other stuff that needs to be covered in your contract. Here are a few things you shouldn’t skip on…
1. What happens if your client signs a contract, but doesn’t pay their retainer?
I think everyone’s had this happen at one point or another. You meet with a couple, and they decide to book you on the spot… but they can’t pay their retainer. Maybe they forgot their checkbook, or maybe they just don’t have the money to pay right now. Either way, it happens.
But how long will you wait for the money? Is your contract still binding if they don’t pay? If so, are you willing to go to small claims court to make them pay up?
What I do: After this happened to me a few times, I decided to enact a “2 week rule”. It states in my contract that the agreement is not binding until the retainer is paid. After two weeks, the contract becomes void and the date is released to other couples. This puts a little fire under them to get the money paid and it puts me at ease because I know the plan.
2. What if you’re injured or too sick to shoot the wedding?
Nobody likes to think about the emergency situation that would prevent you from fulfilling your duties as wedding photographer, but it could happen to anyone. Do you have a plan for when that day arrives?
What I do: My contract states that if something were to happen where I know ahead of time I won’t be able to photograph a wedding, I‘ll work to find the best replacement photographer possible. If there’s not enough time for that, then my second shooter will become the first shooter, and I will do my best to procure a new second shooter.
I always tell my clients when we’re reviewing their contract that I will be at their wedding unless it’s a true emergency, I’m deathly ill, or have broken both my arms. It makes them feel better knowing a lousy cold won’t stop me from being there.
3. What happens if your couple postpones or cancels their wedding?
It’s sad to think about, but these things do happen. And as much as it sucks for your couple to worry about paying you at a time like this, it’s unfair for you to not receive compensation for the work you put in so far.
What I do: My contract lays out a payment schedule that tells clients how much they owe when they cancel or postpone a certain number of months out from the wedding. Obviously, the closer we get to their wedding date, the more money they owe me because it’s less likely I can fill that date with a new couple. This also covers me in case my couple decides to book a different photographer last minute and no longer needs my services.
But that’s not all…
I hope these were helpful (and that you’re looking through your contract right now)! Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, so do your own research and talk to one while drafting or revising your contract.
Sometimes it takes a bad situation to make us realize something important is missing from our contract. Do you have any stories to tell? Leave a comment below!
*All Photos by Kelly Benton Photography.
Kelly Benton lives with her husband and two adorable dachshunds in Northeast Indiana, where she works from home as a Wedding Photographer. When she’s not photographing over people’s love, she’s a wannabe-rockstar triathlete with a penchant for funny movies and craft beer. Check out her blog or connect with her on Facebook.