When hiring a wedding vendor you should always, always, ALWAYS sign a contract. But signing a piece of paper isn’t the whole story, you also need to know know what should be in a wedding photography contract if you want to protect yourself.
What is a contract?
A contract is a legally binding document between two parties that details an agreement regarding a job or service.
A contract is there to protect not only the buyer (in this case, the couple) but to protect the seller (wedding vendor) too. All reputable wedding vendors should have contracts; if at any point in time during your wedding planning you are told “there’s no need for a contract” I suggest you turn around and run away as quickly as possible! But if you do have a wedding photography contract presented to you, you need to know what should be in a wedding photography contract to figure out if it’s really protecting you or not.
How are contracts created?
Most wedding photographers don’t know what should be in a wedding photography contract so they have to work directly with a lawyer to have their contracts created. There are some resources online where you can purchase wedding photography contracts but I only recommend those when you’re in a pinch. Pre-made contracts may be too generic to offer full and clear protection for you and/or your client and they may also need revisions for verbiage based on what state or country you live in.
Photographers who are experienced and well-established as successful business owners will always ensure that they have a local lawyer review their contracts on a regular basis so that the document stays relevant and fair for both parties (this means give-and-take on both sides).
What should be in a wedding photography contract?
There’s no real rule about what should be in a wedding photography contract – the contents will vary business to business. With that being said, though, there are some core foundations that you need to have in your contract. These foundations should be present in all contracts and if they aren’t, it’s a sign that the photographer has either created the contract themselves by piecing together bits and pieces from the internet (I call these ‘Franken-contracts’) or they bought a generic contract online and have failed to customize it. Either way, if you think components of a contract are missing, do not sign the contract before addressing the issue to learn more.
What should be in a wedding contract? Here are some of the key foundations:
What happens if some of these sections are missing?
So what happens if there is no contract? It’s not a matter of not knowing what should be in a wedding photography contract – if there’s no damn contract at all, you have bigger problems! But what if some of these major foundational points are missing? Honestly – you need to reconsider whether or not you want to sign it. An incomplete contract, or worse – a “Franken-contract”, may not fully protect either the business or the clients. That’s a pretty big risk to take.
Can you ask for changes in your photography contract?
In general, contract terms are non-negotiable. Earlier in this article, we talked about how properly made contracts are always fair. There’s give-and-take on both sides.
From my experience as a wedding photographer for over 13 years, when clients ask for changes to contracts it’s because they want to amend something to be more in favor for them, rather than balanced. There’s a legal term for contracts that are not fair and well balanced: unconscionable contracts. And here’s the thing about unconscionable contracts – they’re typically not legally binding. This means that even if your photographer gives in and allows a change to some wording if they have second thoughts later on they can argue that the wording ultimately is unconscionable and therefore not binding.
Adding to that, any change to a contract means that the photographer’s lawyer has to review the proposed changes and create something custom. You can’t just take out sections or change sections without consulting with the proper experts. Adding or removing elements of a contract can create loopholes or grey areas where neither party is as fully protected anymore.
What does signing a wedding photography contract mean?
Signing a wedding photography contract means that you fully and wholeheartedly agree to the terms in that contract. You cannot sign a contract with a vendor and then decide later on that you no longer agree to the terms and want to re-negotiate. That’s not how contracts work. Unfortunately, the wedding industry saw a lot of this during COVID and it caused a significant amount of stress and undue hardship for all people involved.
The moral of the story? Don’t sign anything if you’re not okay with what’s in it.