How do I make a wedding photography contract?

Hey wedding photographer! Okay, you already have a great online wedding photography portfolio and spectacular equipment, and you’re excited about an upcoming gig where you’ll be shooting photos at someone’s wedding. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

Now, all you need to sort out is the wedding photography contract. 

When couples find their wedding photographer, they want to move straight to the fun stuff like engagement photos and choosing bridal portrait locations. But reviewing and signing a wedding photography contract is an essential next step.

With a signed contract, photographers can rest assured the couple will follow through on their payments because a completed and signed agreement is legally binding. Legalities and fine print may sound stuffy, but wedding photography contracts, as with all vendor contracts, should not be overlooked.

This can be the most daunting part of the entire process, but there’s no need for you to panic! We’ll hook you up with some fabulous wedding photographer contract tips and even have a bunch of sample wedding photography contract options for you to refer to, depending on where you’re based.

What Is a Wedding Photography Contract?

A wedding photography contract is a binding agreement between a couple and their photographer that outlines the photographer’s responsibilities, deliverables, and policies, including rescheduling or payment timing.

In simplest terms, it’s the agreement between the photographer and the client who hires them to take photos at an upcoming wedding. That latter person is often a member of the bridal party or a member of the extended family who’s hiring vendors for the event.

This agreement covers absolutely everything that both parties are responsible for on the day of the event. It’s where the bridal party expresses the types of shots they want to be done, and you let them know how much it’ll cost.

The contract will also stipulate how much everything costs, when and how payment is to be arranged, and things like potential cancellation, insurance, etc.

Unfortunately, how to write a wedding photography contract isn’t usually part of formal photography education. As a result, this leaves independent photographers responsible for educating themselves on the topic, wading through endless advice websites and trying to figure out what’s what.

Since these contracts can be tricky to navigate, using a wedding photography contract example as your foundation is an excellent idea. That’s why we’ve rounded up several different contract options for you: so you don’t need to waste precious hours doing research that may not offer you any solid answers. Check out our range of wedding photography for your wedding day.

Why is a Wedding Photographer Contract for Services So Important?

These contracts outline absolutely everything associated with the event’s photography, with both parties signing off in agreement about it all. A good, primary wedding photography contract will benefit both the client and the photographer and will ensure fair treatment for everyone involved.

Contracts aren’t glamorous, and legalese hardly elicits wedding-planning butterflies. That’s why they’re put on the backburner as exciting topics like scheduling engagement photo sessions take precedence.

In the excitement of planning and preparing for a wedding, photographers sometimes forget the importance of having a solid contract in place. The agreement outlines expectations, so if things go wrong later, it’s great to have that document look back. It’s a way for photographers and couples to protect themselves.

Clients can be worried about signing a contract, so it’s important to emphasise just how much it benefits them. During your meeting with them, explain that the wedding photo contract serves as a guideline for you to refer to so you can make sure you deliver everything they want.

This is their opportunity to spell out precisely what kind of photos they’d like, along with any other specific directions they may have for you. It’s like a script that everyone can follow, so the day runs as smoothly as possible. Any time there’s any question about the service you’re offering, you have a guideline at hand that you can pull out and use as a checklist.

In turn, a standard wedding photographer contract also ensures fair treatment for the photography team, with provisions in case of damaged equipment, last-minute cancellation, etc.

This contract protects both parties. On the off chance that things don’t go as planned and you have to settle a financial dispute in court, you have that aforementioned solid reference guide to refer to. After all, if they’re claiming that there’s a wedding photographer breach of contract situation, you need to be able to tick off everything that you provided as part of your defence.

Also, it offers them substantial reassurance that they’re going to get a return on their investment. Wedding photography isn’t cheap, and clients who might be nervous about the amount of money they’re spending on a photo package will feel a lot more secure if they have all of their photo demands in writing.

Contract importance makes sense in theory, but do photographers or couples use their contracts? In short, yes. According to the contract platform Wedding Industry Law, couples inquire about suing their wedding photographers pretty frequently. The most common disputes arise from three issues:

  • Breach of contract: when a photographer doesn’t provide the agreed-upon services.
  • Misrepresentation: when the photographer promises, say, a specific type of photo but doesn’t deliver.
  • Misappropriation: when a photographer uses a picture of a person sans authorisation.

Without a detailed contract, it’s tough to prove a photographer didn’t follow through on their agreed-upon services. That could leave couples high and dry without the photos they’ve been dreaming of. But contracts aren’t just for potential lawsuits. Agreements help photographers clarify their roles and responsibilities for the wedding, which helps clear up confusion before the big day. Sometimes the couple doesn’t fully understand the photography industry, so the contract will outline what to expect. It’s essential to have everything written down so the couples can refer to it.

Planning your dream wedding and don’t want to miss out on the special moments on your big day? Worry no more, Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

What Points Should Be Outlined in a Wedding Photography Contract

How do I make a wedding photography contract?

While photography styles, packages, and poses vary, most wedding photography contracts look similar. A wedding photography contract should contain the following details:

  • Biographical and wedding-day information: Include the names, addresses, and contact information for both parties. But don’t stop there. It’s also great to have specific locations like the ceremony address, the venue name and address, and of course, the wedding date—the month, day, and year.
  • Selected package details: Simply stating “highlights package” is not enough. The contract needs to be specific to prevent any confusion. It should list everything included in the selected package, with specifics such as eight to 10 hours of coverage” instead of “full-day coverage”.
  • Agreed-upon payment: The package information should also note important monetary details like payment schedule, late fees, and deposits. Be specific about money, and note if there is a nonrefundable retainer fee. Many photographers require a 50 per cent deposit upon contract signing, with the final payment due 30 days before the wedding. Some break it up even further. It’s up to the photographer what feels comfortable.
  • Deliverables timeline: For a wedding photographer, the work is only half-finished at the end of the wedding day. The final product is delivered weeks, and in some cases months, after. This can be frustrating for eager couples, so it’s essential to make the product timeline clear. Answers to questions like “when will you get the album?” and “how will it be delivered?” are essential. Sometimes brides and grooms get so caught up then go on their honeymoon that they forget about the additional deliverables.
  • Payment method: It may be convenient, but photographers rarely accept credit-card payment. That’s because the extra fees add up, which means income lost for wedding photographers. Payment requirements should be clearly stated alongside the agreed-upon pay. Does the photographer take checks only? Do they accept credit card payments if the client covers the fee? 
  • Rescheduling parameters: The COVID-19 pandemic forced many wedding photographers to make their rescheduling and cancellation policies more transparent. “This is something no one expected, so a lot of clients are wondering if there’s leeway to reschedule or cancel their weddings. The contract should thoroughly include the photographer’s cancellation or rescheduling policy, such as the agreement that they can reschedule within 90 days of the wedding if something were to happen.
  • Overtime hours: When couples and photographers sign their contract, it’s months and, in some cases, over a year before the actual wedding. Brides and grooms have no idea what the day-of schedule will look like, so it’s hard to nail down exact hours. That’s why most wedding photographers steer clear of “full-day coverage” within their contracts (unless it’s specified with a phrase like “up to 12 hours”). Ensure the contract includes how long the photographer will work and the cost of additional hours if they need to stick around longer. 
  • Copyright specifications: When couples receive their wedding image files, they want to share them with the world. Instagram and Facebook are usually fine (it helps the photographer with word-of-mouth marketing), but some photographers say newspaper announcements and magazine submissions are a no-go. Many photographers are reasonable and assume you will print your photos and put them up on your wall, and that’s totally within the straight couples have with a personal license. But sometimes, a contract stipulates that a team is not entitled to submit to a publication without the photographer’s permission, so make sure to look out for this before sharing photos widely.
  • Model release: On the flip side, some couples don’t want their images used in a photographer’s promotional materials at all. Many teams expect their photographs to be on social media, but some don’t want that, especially if children are involved. A model release permission is something the photographer and couple should talk about. This should be outlined in the contract so later on, the bride and groom are not upset about how their images are used.
  • Securing permits: Some popular photo locations require pre-approved licenses, but who’s responsible for actually reaching out and making that happen? Speak to who gets the right in the contract. It’s vital to get ahead of this so you don’t get kicked out in the middle of bridal portraits.
  • A meal clause: Brides and grooms are responsible for providing meals for reception vendors like the photographer and band, but typically this only applies to event coverage that lasts beyond a set amount of hours. The wedding photography contract should clarify this timeframe, as well as how many meals will be required.

What Should a Wedding Photo Contract Cover?

Quite a lot. That’s why so many photographers can get seriously overwhelmed when creating one of these contracts: there’s so much that needs to be incorporated. We have the best wedding photographer in Yarra Valley to capture your beautiful moments on your wedding day.

Let’s look at the items that should be covered and what they mean in the grand world of contract land.

Expenses

Your expenses should be first and foremost on your wedding photography contract. Not only will this spell out wedding photography package pricing options, but it also offers detailed breakdowns and explanations for each expense.

This is also where you stipulate your reservation and payment guidelines. You clearly state how much of a deposit you’ll need to book X amount of your time for that day, whether the remainder is paid in full the day of, or in instalments, etc. Mark out specific dates, who is responsible for payment, and potential late fees.

Things get a bit tricky if you’ve been hired to tag along to a destination wedding. Some people recommend that you have a destination wedding photography contract separate from your general wedding photography contract form.

As an example, if you’re flying to the Caribbean or something to do their photography, then include travel expenses and a disclaimer for additional costs that may be incurred. Essentially, determine whether the couple will or will not be responsible for things like duty fees, a daily stipend for a rental car plus gas, and so on.

Deliverables

This one is pretty self-explanatory: it covers the client’s expectations about what you’ll deliver to them during and after the wedding—laying out everything that’s expected on both sides works wonders for avoiding any potential miscommunications the day of.

If you aren’t yet familiar with making a wedding photography contract, then be aware that the deliverables section is the one area that will likely require a lot of back-and-forth communication.

When you meet with your clients, get them to be incredibly specific about the approximate number of photos they want you to provide. They also need to be clear about whether these images will be raw or edited in Photoshop (or similar).

If they’re edited, are you the one responsible for editing all the pieces? Or just the ones they select? Will there be additional fees if you have to do a lot of body retouching and extensive background cleanup? Do you need to provide them with prints? Or just a USB/digital download?

Don’t leave any room for miscommunication here. You might feel awkward about revising the wedding photo contract with them a few times, but it’s far better to clarify absolutely everything than to risk a misunderstanding.

Privacy/Cooperation

One aspect of privacy in a wedding photography contract revolves around where the photographers are (and aren’t) allowed at various points of the celebration. For example, certain cultural and religious groups have very stringent rules about who can and can’t be seen by people of different genders while they’re getting prepared for the ceremony.

Similarly, cooperation refers to guests, vendors, and other people involved who may or may not be helpful while you’re shooting. The celebrant/priest/rabbi/etc. might be picky about when and where they’re photographed. There might also be stringent rules about photographing within the venue, especially if it’s a religious temple.

This is why it’s vital to have a solid, in-person meeting with the client ahead of time. You may also encounter guests who don’t want to have their picture taken. The clients might try to wave that reticence off as inconsequential or insist that asking forgiveness is a lot easier than asking permission. Keep in mind that it’s your reputation on the line, not to mention that it’s important to respect people’s space and personal autonomy.

Make sure there’s a clause in your wedding photo contract that stipulates that you’re exempt from taking photos of people who don’t want to be photographed or in areas that are forbidden for various reasons.

Cancellation

A wedding photography contract cancellation provision covers potential cancellation on both sides, not just the wedding party. Sure, someone might get cold feet, or a hurricane might obliterate the wedding venue, requiring cancellation or rescheduling. Still, it’s also possible that you might fall ill or have a personal emergency to attend to.

This is why even the most simple wedding photography contract needs to incorporate a cancellation policy. Nearly all clients will readily agree to this, as it protects all of you on the off chance that something may go wrong.

You don’t need to have a separate wedding photography cancellation contract, but rather just a clause that covers the contract’s mutual rescission. Check out some of the standard wedding photography contracts available online to see what kind of provision feels right to you.

For example, many photographers stipulate that a 30% payment retainer must be paid in advance to book the event’s date. This can also serve as a cancellation fee. On the slim chance that the client needs to cancel, then the photographer keeps that retainer payment as a cancellation fee.

If, however, you need to cancel the wedding photography contract due to illness, injury, or other major emergencies, then you can stipulate in the contract that you’ll return the retainer fee to the client but have no added liability.

Don’t feel bad about working this fee for your wedding photography contract! Remember that this is your livelihood, and you need to ensure that you’re compensated fairly for your time and effort. Cancellation without a kill fee means loss of income for you, so make sure you’re protected.

Legal Rights (Copyright Protection, etc.)

How do I make a wedding photography contract?

Once again, this governs protection for both parties. Generally, there are three aspects of copyright when it comes to a generic wedding photo contract:

Forbidding image reproduction without the photographer’s permission Giving the client license to publish images for personal use Ensuring that the photographer provides the client with full access to their photos

This clarifies what the client is and is not allowed to do with the photos you’ve provided and ensures that you’ll give them all the images they’ve asked for.

Generally, the wedding photographer maintains sole rights to copy, sell, publish, and reproduce all the photos they’ve taken. This is ultimately up to you, though. If you feel like doing so, you can grant the client a license to reproduce and publish their photos or even a copyright release so they can do whatever they like with their images.

Do your research about the copyright laws in your country, and work the permissions you feel comfortable with into your contract for wedding photography services.

Many wedding party members enjoy sharing their wedding photos publicly, such as on social media. This is usually fine but can get ugly if your images promote someone else’s work. For example, if the person who designed the bridal bouquet uses your photos on their florist business website without your permission.

Additionally, although some photographers are okay with giving clients digital negatives or full-res images, they stipulate that they do not have permission to edit those photos digitally.

There are few situations as nightmarish as having a client do an atrocious Photoshop job on an image you shot and crediting you for it publicly, thus tarnishing your reputation forever. Protect yourself against that horror show. We have an exclusive range of wedding photography Mornington Peninsula services. Check them out here.

Interference and Exclusivity

This can be merged with the “privacy and permissions” section of your wedding photography contract or have a clause all its own.

There will inevitably be an uncle, aunt, or friend of the family who’s a keen amateur photographer at pretty much every wedding. For some pro photographers, that’s all well and good as long as Uncle Shutterbug stays out of their way.

Other photographers stipulate that if wedding photos are posted publicly, they are not to be intermingled. Amateur photographs are just that: amateur. It would be detrimental to your business to have their work displayed alongside—and potentially mistaken for—yours.

Interference can also refer to people like wedding coordinators, parents, or bossy members of the wedding party attempting to instruct or influence your photos. It gives you permission to ask them (politely) to back off and let you do your work.

They might also attempt to cut your photography time short, sending you home during the reception or shooing you away from various scenes because they think it’ll somehow save on expenses.

It’s best to avoid making the happy couple unhappy because they didn’t have as many photos as they thought you’d be providing, simply because a belligerent parent sent you on your way too soon. This is why it’s so important to clarify deliverables early in the wedding photo contract, as well as stipulating that you can only be “relieved of duty” by the person who hired you.

Insurance and Compensation

Most weddings manage to happen without any great calamities, but it’s better to err on the side of caution with a clause that covers potential harm to you and your equipment.

For example, if someone’s kid breaks one of your lenses, or you—and your camera—get knocked into a pond by a highly intoxicated groomsman, you’ll want to make sure that you’re covered for replacement costs.

Similarly, it’s essential to have liability insurance if you cause any issue. Let’s say someone breaks an ankle after stumbling over one of your tripods, or you accidentally damage a valuable object at the venue. Look into General Liability insurance in your area to see what it covers, as you might have to incorporate Property Insurance with it as well.

There’s also the possibility of Errors and Omissions Insurance. This is in case some member of the wedding party decides that you’ve ruined absolutely everything about their special day by accidentally omitting photos of aunt Helga and her corgi. Or any other issue that might arise leads them to feel that you didn’t deliver as promised.

Find out which type of insurance is best for you, how much it will cost, and then work that fee into your wedding photo contract. If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

Why you NEED a wedding photography contract

Unfortunately, verbal agreements don’t hold up in court. Of course, no one (on either side) would want this outcome, but it’s a possibility every photographer should safeguard against. Having a piece of paper that dictates terms you and your client both agree to can be the difference between you continuing work as a wedding photographer and having to switch niches (or even careers).

A wedding photography contract is a great way to protect yourself and your clients, as well as ensure everyone knows exactly what to expect out of your working relationship.

Having a contract also shows your clients you’re a professional, and you understand the importance of ensuring things run as smoothly as possible. A warranty gives everyone involved better peace of mind.