During the last Live Q+A on Instagram (@jessicamangia_photography), a question asked by
@lightshipphotography shook the interest of many on this topic:
Where to find a legit wedding photography contract and how have it tailored to your business needs.
For this reason, I decided to deepen the conversation and give a more complete answer.
First and foremost, let me say that the best way to get your contract written and tailored (to a certain extent), is to ask to an attorney who specializes in creative businesses and event industry professionals.
That is what I did, and even if there are a lot of services online that offer free (or paid) general templates, I would still recommend you to have a professional to take a look.
Also keep in mind, that each State or Country may have different rules and regulations so you want to make sure you’re taking that into consideration, too.
If you're still up for giving the online world a try, then you can take a look at TheLAWtog.com
Now, let me be clear up front: I AM NOT A LAWYER and I am going to share only what I learn with the experience as a wedding photographer, so what I say may be imperfect or not applicable at all circumstances.
There are few things that I learned over the years that are good to have in your contract, so maybe when you meet with your attorney, you can ask about this specifications.
WHAT SECTION YOUR CONTRACT SHOULD HAVE:
1. A Section for your clients to fill in the gaps about their full names, address, location of the wedding, nave of the venue, etc..
2. A section where you establish which are the services subject to the contract
3. A section about the payment methods and conditions
4. A section about the liability
5. A section about the cancellation policy
6. A section about the termination policy
7. A section about travel fees and accomodation
Let's start talking about the second section first, because is very important to list the details of the service you are offering, for instance:
8 hours wedding day coverage - 2 photographers
2 hours engagement session - 1 photographer
1 Keepsake photo album
The reason why that is so important, is because you need to make sure that in case of any misunderstanding you have a clear written agreement to refer to.
The section in which you clarify your payment conditions and methods is extremely important to clarify how you intend to be paid for the services that you offer. Be careful with the language you use because a retainer is not the same thing of the security deposit. This distinction between a retainer and a deposit is a big one. However, the two are frequently confused, and often the terms are used interchangeably; when they are in fact not interchangeable.
The retainer is a fee paid in advance, which secures the date on the calendar for your services. Typically, retainers are not refundable. A client may pay a retainer to a photographer in order for the photographer to ensure the client has the photographer’s services at some future time and place. If the client then cancels the contract, if the signed contract so delineates, the photographer can then keep the retainer as compensation for the loss of business that they might have been able to book during the period for which the retainer has been paid.
A deposit is a payment made in order to show good faith that the buyer intends to complete his end of the transaction. It functions as a pledge for a contract, with the balance being paid on a later date. Deposits can be either refundable or non-refundable. It is for a specific job at a specific time and place in the future. There is no industry standard here; you have to formulate a refund policy that works for your studio.
The Section about the liability is important for you to state what are your duties and responsibilities and how you intend to compensate your clients in case of dissatisfaction for the service you provided.
The section about the cancellation policy is pretty much essential! In this section you specify which are the terms with which you are going to manage the potential client’s cancellation of the contract. For instance: you are going to explain that you will keep the retainer if they don’t give you notice of their cancellation before a certain date.
The 6th section is about the termination, which instead talks about the end of the agreement due to the photographer decision or unfaulty event. For instance: in my contract I specified that if, for whatever reason beyond my control, I won’t not be able to photograph a wedding (a family emergency, a sudden illnes, etc.), I will provide a substitute of equal skills and standards, on top of proofs of the related emergency.
Lastly you want to make sure, especially if you travel a lot for your photos, that you include a section about travel fees and accomodation. This is specifically important to avoid all sort of misunderstanding and to knowledge your clients.
On my contract I detailed all the little fees and expenses that I can run into and I explain how I’m going to charge the clients, accordingly.
I hope you guys, this was a little useful.
Next week I will talk about: Wedding photography right to post (or not), wedding guests photos, and when you need a model release.