What is a retainer fee for photographers?

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    Many people enjoy taking pictures as a pastime, but how do amateur photographers differ from those who make a living from their craft? Money. It would be extremely difficult to successfully run a business if it did not bring in any kind of revenue or income. The topic of retainers and payments for wedding photographers is going to be covered in today's post.

    This is the driving force behind what elevates wedding photography from the status of a casual hobby to that of a legitimate business. To begin, I'll explain why virtually all wedding photographers require the payment of retainers in order to reserve their time, why retainers are never refundable, and why it is appropriate for this to be the case.

    After that, I will go over the various approaches to payment schedules, including information on when the balance is due and how to handle overtime hours. I will also go over the options available. If you need advice on your wedding photography, check out our photography packages and services at Wild Romantic Photography.

    A wedding photographer has been contacted by a couple, and the couple has subsequently met with her. They are ecstatic about her work, pleased with the reviews of her photography, and ready to hire her as the photographer for their wedding. What are the following steps to take? There are two requirements: the first one is that they must sign a document (the contract) that outlines the services they've selected as well as the prices for those services, and the second requirement is that they must pay for those services.

    What Is a Retainer Fee?

    A non-refundable deposit known as a retainer fee is required to hold your spot in an event such as a session or wedding. The amount of money required for this retainer can change depending on whether or not it is for a wedding or a portrait session. Depending on the photographer that you hire, certain portrait sessions require a deposit that can range anywhere from $25 to more than $100. One could say the same thing about weddings. Deposits for wedding photography services are typically required to be either $500 or 50% of the total cost of the photography services for the wedding.

    There are comments and questions regarding this topic that are making their way around the internet, and some customers are unsure as to what the purpose of it all is. The correct term for this payment is a "retainer fee," although it is also sometimes called a "deposit" or a "booking fee." It is a term that refers to an agreed-upon sum of money that is paid in order to secure the services of a professional for an agreed-upon period of time.

    The distinction between these two terms has legal ramifications, and it means that a retainer fee cannot be refunded. The reimbursability of deposits and booking fees can be contested, but the additional expenses incurred for going to court and hiring an attorney to do so are likely to outweigh any potential savings. Do not put yourself in that position.

    In the vast majority of cases where unanticipated events take place, retainer fees are refunded, or they ought to be refunded for the sake of humanity and kindness. Therefore, D.O., you should strive to be someone who is compassionate and kind.

    The retainer fee encompasses a few entities:

    • When a vendor books you for a date and time, that means they cannot book another client for that date and time. If you cancel or no show, we have lost business that could have been filled. No matter the amount, I discovered early that if someone pays a retainer fee, they will hold their appointment. 
    • The retainer fee is also paying for the time of your photographer. Regardless of if you pay for your session or images, we have still come to our job and would like to be paid for that time.

    When Should I Pay the Retainer Fee?

    What is a retainer fee for photographers?

    Great question! as quickly as is humanly possible! The very last thing you want is for your photographer to have another appointment scheduled on the day that you want to have your session or event photographed.

    Although the majority of it exists in the form of the possibility that an event will be postponed, it is essential to recognise the risk of not being paid for work that has been completed. If you schedule the payment of the balance in a way that makes sense, you can effectively reduce the amount of uncertainty that you are exposed to.

    Before the day of the wedding, it is best to collect the remaining balance, regardless of whether it is one month, two weeks, or seven days away. It is not a good idea to collect payments on the day of the wedding because it could lead to awkward situations, aggravate guests, and cause everyone to leave later than planned as they scramble to find the check or cash envelope.

    In all but one situation—the one in which the Client requested overtime on the day of the event—it is strongly discouraged to collect payment after the event has already taken place. In any circumstance in which the remaining balance or payment for overtime is due after the wedding has taken place, it is imperative that payment be obtained before the delivery of the photographs.

    Although the likelihood of clients defaulting on payments is lower than the likelihood of clients cancelling before the date, the overall financial risk is greater in the former scenario due to the fact that you will incur opportunity costs and uncompensated labour in the former scenario.

    It is essential to bear in mind that customers are also exposed to risks, such as the possibility of a photographer failing to show up for work. It is an inverse relationship, but a payment schedule that reduces the amount of financial risk that a wedding photographer is exposed to will increase the amount of risk that the client is exposed to.

    Bear this in mind when formulating the guidelines for your organisation. The best strategy is one that strikes a careful balance between competing interests. Despite this, you should still be prepared to lose a client or two due to disagreements over the timing of your payments.

    A perfect solution does not exist. (Note that in order to be fair, the risk is always most significant to the owner of the business; unlike their customers, wedding photographers do not have the luxury of personal recommendations, reviews, and portfolios by which to judge the dependability of potential clients.) Customers who pay with credit cards have the added benefit of being able to dispute any charges made to their cards.

    Check out our range of wedding photography for your wedding day.

    How Can I Pay for the Retainer Fee?

    When it comes to retainer fees, different photographers will accept a variety of payment methods from their clients. Others choose to pay with cash or a check rather than using services such as PayPal, Square, Stripe, or Venmo. However, if you pay with a credit card, there is a possibility that you will be required to pay an additional convenience fee of three percent. The amount of this fee will vary depending on the photographer that you choose to hire.

    When photographers receive payments through platforms such as PayPal or Square, a three percent fee is deducted from the total amount so that the aforementioned platforms can also be compensated for their services.

    Let me give you an example! Take for example that you have a retainer fee of one hundred dollars. The photographer would end up with $97 rather than $100 after an automatic fee of three percent, or three dollars, was deducted from the sale price of one hundred dollars to cover the cost of using online services such as Square. Because of this, there is always the possibility that a photographer will charge a convenience fee (such as an additional 3 percent) to cover the costs associated with the transaction.

    So, Why Do You Have a Retainer Fee?

    Awesome question! As was just stated, when you pay your retainer fee, you are securing your spot on the photographer's calendar in order to ensure that they will be present to photograph your session or event when it takes place. In the beginning of my career as a photographer, I dealt with a lot of clients who didn't show up. When I drove the one to two hours to a distant location to meet with my clients, they were frequently absent. Not only did I squander time that I could have used to accomplish something useful, such as editing, but I also burned through a significant amount of gas for which I was never reimbursed.

    Payments and Retainers Go Hand-In-Hand

    The majority of contracts for wedding photographers include clearly defined payment schedules for the photography. These details describe the number of pieces into which the total bill will be divided as well as the date by which payment is due for each individual portion.

    If our wedding photographer is running a responsible business, she will require that her clients give her a wedding photography retainer not long after the couple signs the work agreement. This payment will go towards the cost of the wedding photographer's services. The initial retainer fee serves as the first payment in the vast majority of scenarios.

    Retainer Fees are Standard in Wedding Photography

    When you've just started looking into hiring a professional wedding photographer, the concept of a retainer fee may be foreign to you, but the practise is standard in the wedding photography industry.

    Other Professions that use Retainers

    You are probably already familiar with the retainer fee because it frequently conjures up an image of a lawyer. This is the result of cultural training that has arisen as a direct result of movies or television shows in which lawyers play a central role in the plot.

    Even retainer fees can be confusing when dealing with lawyers because there are a variety of options available, including "security," "advanced fee," and "evergreen" retainer fees. Nevertheless, just for the sake of discussion, I'd like to bring up a few other types of professions that charge retainer fees. An abbreviated list is as follows:

    • Doctors – sure doctors who practice “Boutique Medicine” use retainers — learn more here.
    • Bankers – their retainers are upfront fees charged to clients, even if “the deal” eventually doesn’t go through.
    • Freelancers – software engineers, web designers, copywriters, consultants, and all use retainers, allow them to pay the bills while working on and waiting on assignments.

    Wild Romantic Photography has the best range of services of wedding photography Yarra Valley. Check them out here.

    Wedding photography retainers and why they’re non-refundable

    What is a retainer fee for photographers?

    At this point, it is essential to define what a wedding photography retainer is and explain why the majority of wedding photographers consider them to be non-refundable payments. A retainer is a fee that is paid upon signing the wedding photography agreement in order to retain the services of the wedding photographer for a particular date or period.

    The term "deposit" is sometimes used incorrectly to refer to a retainer, but the correct term is "retainer." The wedding photographer agrees, in exchange for the retainer payment, that they will not seek other work during the specified time period; in essence, they reserve the specified period exclusively for the clients at hand, regardless of whether a higher paying opportunity presents itself.

    The retainer fee for wedding photography is meant to reduce the amount of money lost due to missed business opportunities in the event that the wedding is postponed or cancelled. To put it in the simplest terms possible, an opportunity cost can be defined as "what a person sacrifices by selecting one option over another."

    Numerous different motivations can lead to marriages being financially supported. None of these things alters the fact that the wedding photographer has committed her time, which is her most valuable asset, to a single couple at the expense of any and all other possible sources of income.

    A wedding photographer's opportunity cost is the price of marriage if she decides not to require a retainer, declines other potential clients, and then learns that her contracted clients have cancelled their big day. In this scenario, she has lost the potential to earn additional income. This is an illustration of a bad practise in the business world. They are charging an up-front retaining fee (and stating that it is non-refundable and explaining why), which reduces her opportunity cost by an amount equal to the wedding photography retainer.

    What Does it Mean when someone is Retained?

    You are considered BOOKED once you have officially retained a service professional (which typically involves paying the fee and signing a contract). This individual would then "take themselves off the market," so to speak, which means that they would refrain from making it known to potential employers that they are looking for work within a specific window of time.

    After I have received the retainer payment and the signed agreement, I will no longer be able to speak with anyone else about your wedding date who contacts me. If the date of their wedding falls on the same day as yours, then any other prospective customer who might be interested in a package that is even BIGGER (or smaller) than the one you selected will be denied service. 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.

    Why Non-Refundable?

    Consider the following scenario: if the retainer fee was refundable, and the client made the decision "at the last minute" to request the money back for some reason, perhaps the wedding was cancelled for some reason, then the professional photographer would have no income for the date that was previously agreed upon. If something like this were to take place more than once, you can be certain that the professional photographer would soon be out of business.

    If you have ever used the services of a professional photographer, it is highly likely that the photographer has provided you with a session agreement or contract and requested that you pay a retainer. There is a lot of variation in retainer rates from one company to the next, but I ask for a retainer of $100 for regular sessions and $750 for weddings. The clause "retainer payment is non-refundable" appears in almost all contracts.

    It does seem a little unfair, doesn't it? As a customer, I am able to understand why. However, there is a very good reason behind the fact that photographers, along with many other businesses that are schedule-based, are charging retainers in order to reserve your appointment.

    The fee will be applied to your total, but I will keep it in the event that you decide to cancel. Because here's the deal: when you book your session, the photographer will set aside that particular date and time exclusively for you to use. This indicates that they are most likely declining business from other customers at the same time, as well as taking time away from their own families in order to photograph yours. The fact that this is a requirement of the job notwithstanding, a significant number of shoots take place on the weekends; consequently, despite the fact that being a photographer might seem glamorous, it entails spending a lot of time away from home.

    For weddings, most couples book me 12-18 months in advance.

    It is easy to understand why a photographer who depends on wedding photography for their income would view the cancellation of a wedding as unfavourable news if the job were to be cancelled. Your photographer is required to account for and make up for any financial losses their company sustained as a result of your decision to call off your wedding, regardless of the reason for the annulment. Keep in mind that they have stopped advertising this date as being available, which means that they have most likely rejected other couples who were interested in going on this date.

    There are two seasons for wedding photographers: wedding season (also known as the busy season), and booking season (the slow season). It is extremely unlikely that they will be able to rebook that date, and any other couples who were told they could not attend have likely already made arrangements with another party (you know, since we said we were unavailable).

    Photographers spend a lot of time before the actual wedding investing in your date. 

    Among the many things that keep us busy are email communication, in-person meetings, assistance with timelines, engagement sessions, client gifts, and coordinating with your wedding planner. On the day of the wedding, you won't find us standing around with a camera and no idea what's going to happen. We have made an investment in your experience, and those costs have already been incurred even in the event that a couple decides at the last minute to cancel their event.

    Couples who have signed retainers are less likely to back out of their wedding plans simply because they discovered a cheaper option or decided to hire a friend who is just starting their own business and is willing to do it for $200 less. Oh, you can put your faith in me, I've seen it.

    Wedding Photography Retainer Payment Schedules Differ Among Photographers

    Although the bare minimum number of payments is one (which, if she's astute, will be the full amount paid up front), the maximum number of payments is not specified. The majority of wedding photographers that I'm familiar with implement two, three, or even more regularly spaced out payments in the lead up to the wedding day. These are probably spaced anywhere from three to six months apart depending on what makes the most sense for each company.

    Each additional payment is added to the retainer that was already collected and is also handled in the same manner; namely, it is not refundable. The logic behind such a strategy is that the opportunity cost is going to increase as the date of the wedding gets closer. It is much more unlikely for a wedding photographer to rebook a wedding that has been cancelled one month before the date than it is six months before the date.

    It is typical for a wedding photographer to base their choice of how to split and schedule their payments on their prior experience in the business world. This requires striking a delicate balance between minimising their exposure to risk and maximising the convenience they provide to their customers.

    Looking for a Mornington Peninsula wedding photographer? Look no further! Wild Romantic Photography has you covered.

    A personal exchange about wedding photography retainer payment scheduling

    This article will come to a close with a screenshot of an email conversation I had with a prospective client about wedding photography retainers one year ago. The situation is that after procrastinating for two months and with less than two weeks left until their wedding day, they finally made up their minds to hire me, but they were surprised to learn that I require payment in full before signing the contract. I'm sorry to break the news, but I wasn't chosen.

    Client Prospective: "[I] Just Wanted to Discuss the Payment Structure Some More. Even if I paid the full amount before the event, I wouldn't feel completely at ease doing so. The same goes for receiving the photos. Could you please elaborate on the rationale behind your payment structure?

    P.K. said, "The reasoning behind this is that the day of the wedding is the worst time to collect any payment." In most cases, due to the fact that everyone involved is too flustered, nervous, etc., certain things are forgotten. When I first started working and before I established this rule, I found myself in a number of situations in which I either needed to write checks on the spot or had to write them after they had been left behind. Because of all of this, I ended up having to stay later than I had originally intended because the people who were writing the cheques didn't want to interrupt their enjoyment to worry about how they were going to pay me.

    "I am aware that the overwhelming majority of my customers are trustworthy individuals who wouldn't act in such a thoughtless manner. On the other hand, due to a small number of negative experiences, I now conduct my business in a manner that strictly involves reducing the amount of risk that I am exposed to. In a similar vein, if the couple requests overtime hours on the day of the wedding, the photographer will not release any photos until all of the unpaid bills have been settled. I am pleased to report that my system functions faultlessly: since it was first put into place, I have not once experienced a late payment or any payment at all.

    Because I have paid all of the fees [in advance of the wedding day], I do not have to worry about the humiliation and uncertainty of having to ask for money on the wedding day, or even worse, after the images have been published. Both you and your family are free to take part in the festivities without being bothered by any awkward situations, and I am free to continue with my work.If you’d like to work with professional photographers for your wedding, book with us at Wild Romantic Photography.

    “With that said, this is one of the few points on which I am not flexible.”

    To Summarise

    By Paying the Retainer Fee:

    • You are paying for my promise to come to shoot your wedding on the day of your wedding (plus any pre-wedding engagement session or post-wedding after-session).
    • I will turn down other potential assignments for your wedding date.
    • you understand that if your wedding is cancelled (or rescheduled), the retainer will not be refunded

    Exception: The only time a professional might refund the fee is if something unforeseen occurs and he or she cannot carry out the promise to work.

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