So you’ve found your perfect wedding photographer and want to hire him or her for your big day. Inevitably, the next step will be to sign a wedding photography contract. For many of us, this can be a little intimidating; we can’t all be lawyers! But you do need to inform yourself before putting pen to paper.
There’s a plethora of information on the web that can help guide you through this process, but what better place to start than here? While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive—there are as many different contracts as there are couples getting married— it’ll give you a good idea of the kinds of things you should be looking for in the fine print.
1) Printing Release
Having the rights to print is becoming more and more important to couples. In fact, for many brides- and grooms-to-be, it’s a prerequisite. When meeting with your photographer, be sure to ask whether or not the rights to print are included in the fee.
I’d like to note that a printing release is not the same thing as a copyright release. A copyright release designates ownership. Your wedding photographs will forever remain the intellectual property of your photographer, meaning you won’t be able to make reproductions for financial gain. A printing release allows you to make prints for personal use only.
Check out our blog post on copyright vs. printing release for more info.
2) Hours of Coverage
Not sure how long you’ll need your photographer day of? Don’t worry, nobody is. This is something you’ll want to flesh out with your photographer. Some photographers offer packages with a limited number of hours included (e.g. 4, 6, 8, etc.) and allow you to add additional hours of coverage on the wedding day at a set rate. Others offer “full-day” coverage, which typically means they’ll be there for as long as it takes to tell the full story of your wedding.
For reference, Moira and I average average 10-14 hours per wedding day, depending on logistics, locations and other variables.
3) Two Photographers (but which photographers?)
Having two photographers (primary plus second shooter) has become commonplace in the wedding industry. But many of the larger wedding photography companies out there substitute photographers based on availability. Will the two folks with whom you built trust in January be the same two individuals who show up at your wedding in August?
I think this is as good a time as any for a shameless plug. When you book J. La Plante Photo for your wedding, you’re guaranteed to have the same two photographers (Jesse and Moira) with you for the duration, from the initial email/phone call/meeting to the final delivery of your images after your wedding. Moira and I have been shooting weddings together for 13 years and, rest assured, you won’t have to worry about us pulling the ‘bait and switch’ and bringing a portfolio-building photo student as a second shooter.
4) Do I get a refund if _____?
Will I receive a refund if my photographer runs out of gas on the way to my wedding and can’t make it? Absolutely. Do I get a refund if it rains and I don’t get all the photos I wanted? Absolutely not. Do I get a refund if my photographer drops her camera in the fountain and loses all of our images? Of course. Do I get a refund if my church accidentally double-booked my wedding day and we can’t have our ceremony? Nope. Do you see the pattern here? If forces beyond the control of your photographer contribute to a lack of photos, you won’t be entitled to a refund. But if you miss out on photos due to circumstances for which your photographer is directly responsible, you have every right to a refund.
But this is a two-way street. If you cancel your wedding for any reason, your photographer will keep your retainer. This is usually somewhere in the neighborhood of 25-50% of your total bill and due upon signing. In fact, this is the very reason your wedding photographer requires a retainer. He or she probably had several couples interested in your date, and if your wedding doesn’t happen, regardless of the reason, your photographer is now left with an open date.
5) Photographer Meals?
This isn’t so much something to look for in your wedding photography contract as it is something that some couples are curious if we put into our contracts. Let the record state: unequivocally, no! While it sure is nice to have a bite to eat during the course of an 12-hour shoot (and you probably don’t want your photographers’ blood sugar to drop during your first dance), we deem it unnecessary to include the needs of our bellies in a legally-binding business document. That said, whether or not you’re contractually obligated, feeding your photographers (and all your vendors, for that matter) is just the right thing to do.
Thanks for taking the time to read our article on 5 things to look for in you wedding photography contract! Feel free to reach out anytime if you have questions about this topic or anything else wedding or photography-related. Cheers!