Why You Need a Wedding Photography Contract

Why You Need a Wedding Photography Contract

by Ronna L. DeLoe, Esq., January 2019

Planning your wedding requires you to book photographers in advance. It's important to get a wedding photography contract for your event, as it confirms that your photographers will be there on time, what the up-front costs are, and what you want the photographers to photograph.

Wedding photographer taking pictures of a bride and groom in a field

Basic Wedding Photography Contracts

While there's no uniform photography contract, many such contracts contain similar terms, which can include:

  • The date, time, and location of the ceremony and reception
  • The names of the bride, groom, and contact information
  • The photographers' contact information
  • Whether you're having one or two photographers, assistants, and their names, so you know who's actually doing the photography
  • The length of the event, with commencement times of each part of the event
  • What's being photographed, such as the bridal party's preparations, the ceremony, family photos after the ceremony, the cocktail hour, and the reception
  • How many photos you want the photographers to take
  • Amount of the deposit, usually referred to as the booking fee, and the date it's due
  • Total cost, and when the balance is due
  • Additional fees for overtime
  • Travel and motel fees if the wedding is more than 100 miles from the photographers' studio
  • A "meal clause" so you provide food for the photographers, who eat when the guests eat
  • Costs per album, depending on the number of photos
  • Ability to view proofs online
  • How soon proofs will be ready
  • The date the finished albums will be ready
  • Additional fees for single photos or reprints
  • Cancellation policy, and how much, if anything, you get back if the wedding is canceled

The contract also addresses the rights of the clients, guests, and photographers:

  • Guests cannot interfere with the photographers; photographers have priority at all times.
  • Guests may use their cameras or phones at the reception—but not at the ceremony—to ensure the best photos by the photographers.
  • Photographers own the copyrights, and nobody else may use the photos for commercial use without the photographers' permission.
  • Any use of the photographers' work online or on social media shall include the photographers' names and studio.
  • Clients and their families, friends, or any other person may not alter the photos.
  • The photographers may use photos of the wedding to advertise their services.
  • Photographers are not responsible for dim or unusually bright lighting, and the photographers will make every effort to make adjustments due to poor lighting.
  • Limitation of liability is limited to the cost of the contract; photographers are not responsible for consequential or other damages.

A wedding photography contract form is often more than just a simple contract. Because this contract is full of clauses and individual restrictions, it's wise to have an attorney review it before you sign it.

Wedding Photography Cancellation

While you hope nothing goes wrong, you must always be prepared that something unexpected will come up. This could include a decision to call off or postpone the wedding, unexpected active military duty, hospitalization, or another issue. A wedding photography contract, with a built-in cancellation clause, will protect both you and the photographers to some extent if you cancel the contract.

You'll get additional protection if you sign a wedding photography cancellation contract or letter, stating unequivocally that you're canceling the photographers' services. Cancellation contracts are separate contracts that some photographers use, which usually state:

  • The clients' names
  • The date of the cancellation contract
  • The date of the wedding photography contract (and attach a copy)
  • The wedding date
  • Your contact information
  • If any fees are refundable, or your acknowledgement that no part of the fee is refundable
  • That you're canceling the wedding photography contract
  • That the laws of the photographers' state govern

Sometimes photographers use their own letter, stating that you're canceling the wedding as of a certain date, which you're confirming by your signature and date on the letter. Keep a copy for yourself and send the original to the photographers. Whether it's a cancellation contract or letter, confirm that the photographers actually receive it.

Nonrefundable Booking Fee

Photographers can require any percentage of the total fee up front as a "booking fee," and they can ask for the balance to be paid four to six weeks before the wedding. If you cancel after a certain time, then you can expect the booking fee to be nonrefundable.

Photographers call a deposit a booking fee because courts sometimes hold that a deposit is refundable. With a booking fee, the photographers have booked a date for your wedding and are denying anyone else the right to use their services on that date. If you cancel, it will be difficult, if not impossible, for the photographers to rebook that date.

Cancellation clauses often state that if you cancel close to the wedding, you forfeit all fees. The photographers decide how many days in advance you must cancel before forfeiting the entire fee.

Make sure everything between you and your photographers is in writing. If your photographers don't have their own wedding photography contract or cancellation agreement, or if you simply want to help ensure that your rights are as well protected as your photographers' are, you can use an online service provider to prepare one for you.