10 Things to include in your wedding photography contract

A contract is a legally binding document between at least two parties that defines and governs the parties’ rights and duties to an agreement. A contract is legally enforceable because it meets the requirements and approval of the law.

For a contract to be legally binding, it must contain four essential elements:

  1. An offer.
  2. An acceptance.
  3. An intention to create a legal relationship.
  4. A consideration (usually money).

Below are the 10 things you need to include in your photography contract:

  1. Identify the client(s)Legally, it would be best if you had the full name and contact information if something goes wrong. You need to know the point of contact for the services, and most importantly, you need to identify the end-user, the user who knows how he or she wants the service handled. A client may ask for pictures to be taken from a certain angle, certain effects, so you need to understand what they want and expect from their service.
  2. Identify the start and end date and times.Similar to identifying the client(s), you need to know the hours of service that you are offering because you may come across family portraits where people are late, and you have to drive from location to location, or where the event is postponed. The client(s) will request that you stay extra. I had an event where the groom disappeared and left his phone and wallet behind and got a flat tire with his groomsman. As you can tell, the first hour of the wedding set an unexpected tone, and by the time he showed up, everything was pushed an hour later.
  3. Identify what each side will deliver.I like to remind the client(s) that I will need everyone’s cooperation. I have a contact point in my contract, someone the client(s) identify to help me with people who run away from the photographer. Sometimes, they are the client(s) mom or dad, which, as you can imagine, make it difficult to capture family photos. Aside from cooperation, this should be the most important thing in your contract – what does he or she expect (i.e., getting ready for the big day, group photos, cutting the cake, and more.
  4. Identify the Payment Schedule.Some photographers might want the money upfront. I personally like to get a deposit and have the rest of the money the day of the event. You must include what happens if the payment is not made or worse if the check bounces because you may have the client(s) expect results without paying in full. I have not had issues in this department.
  5. Ensure that you have a cancellation policy.Aside from COVID19, you should have a cancellation policy that is detailed to include what happens if the wedding is called off, what happens if the wedding is moved to another date, or what happens if the venue is shut down. The client(s) relocate to a faraway location that you cannot attend. In most cases, people should warn where this is not a big deal, but I have attended a wedding where it was called off, but no one informed the guests outside of the immediate family.
  6. Copyright and model release information.You want the client(s) to know that you own the photo, but the client(s) has the permission to use them as long as they don’t sell them or violate any copyright contracts scenario you have in your contract. You need to ensure that the client(s) understand the model release document in your contract, which details how you can display photos to the public, blog, a portfolio, or anywhere online.
  7. Disclaimer on photography site(s).Some locations are considered holy. Therefore, you cannot photograph in certain locations. If you already know some of these places, I would suggest you list them in your contract. Otherwise, note this as I have been asked to photograph couples on private property that may be considered illegal.
  8. Identify liability limitations.Because you are in an event where alcohol is served, you will have to project what would happen if a fight or specifical damages your equipment. Although this has not happened to me, I have seen a photographer attacked by a drunken guest, had someone puke on a photographer while running to the bathroom, or I have seen kids run with cake and it hitting the photographer’s camera.
  9. Describe the post-production and editing time.Most photographers will want to have total control over the look of the final photos. Therefore, you have to let the client(s) know how long you intend to edit or see all the photos. You have to let the client know if you will be simply color-correcting vs. full-blown editing.
  10. Extra fees that may be charged. Following on topic 9, you have to know what the client wants. Some client(s) may want special effects on their photos, so you have to explain the difference between removing sweat marks versus fixing makeup versus intense editing. I photographed the bridesmaid dancing with the bride, and as they twirl, the dress fell, and I could have either deleted that photo or photoshop the dress back up to where it needed to be.