Signing a wedding photography contract or agreement is not common in India. I come across so many wedding photographers, shooting project after project, wedding after wedding without any formal contract with clients.
They are often caught in situations arising out of some magical “miscommunication” where they end up losing money. I said magical because they have no control of the situation where the client convinces him, how he as a photographer failed to understand the client’s expectation.
The final result is the client is unhappy and you as a wedding photographer lose money in spite of working so hard.
There is another factor, most photographers are afraid of talking about wedding contracts with their clients. The common reason quoted is that they are afraid of losing the wedding. They are fearful of how they will be perceived by their couples.
I am breaking this myth. You will be perceived as a professional who knows his craft as well as business.
Ask yourself why you are not okay with being professional.
IMPORTANT Clauses in a Wedding Photography Contract
I will suggest goto a professional legal expert as it is a one-time cost. The same contract except the client and event details will change for every assignment.
But even if you plan to use any free template of a wedding photography contract, I will suggest don’t copy/paste every clause. It is not advisable.
You need to modify and suit your own needs. You have to add clauses which work for you and sort your business problems which you face frequently.
Let me share a few important clauses or info you need to include irrespective of your business location.
Details of the bride and groom:
Make sure you include the postal address, valid email id and contact number of the bride and groom separately.
You need to put all the event details you need to cover. Each event info has to be included separately. The event detail should include start time and date, hours of coverage, name of the event and address.
As you will notice, I have mentioned about the start time and hours of coverage. You should put the info in the contract but don’t be rigid in following the timelines mentioned in the contract. We all are aware Indian weddings never go as per the initial timelines. The delays are inevitables.
The idea about hours of coverage and start time is to set the expectations. The expectation for both client and photographer on a tentative amount of work.
An event, say with 4 hours of coverage, can go on forever. It will keep your interest in safeguard.
A lot of clients at times are not mindful of sharing the tentative plans of each event. And some clients are keen on having the “best price” as they have “smaller” events. It is a common negotiation factor. This will ensure you are not been taken for a ride.
You may or may not charge extra for extra work but it will keep you covered. The extra charges are a business call and depend upon case to case. It depends upon how much extra work was added. Did the client intentionally hid extra events or the magnitude of the event?
In the last 9 years, I remember only once, we had charged extra because an evening wedding was an overnight wedding which the client intentionally didn’t disclose to us.
Also, I would like to mention here, that under no circumstances or stage, before, during or after the wedding, the client should feel threatened or pressured by you for what is written in the contract. No one likes to go through that feeling whether it is a client or photographer.
You should add a section in your contract under the subheading “deliverables”. You should mention all the expected deliverables. The number of images approximately.
You should mention the format of images as JPG so that there are no issues with RAW data delivery. Just to make it clear. As a wedding photographer never deliver RAW data.
Also mention about the kind of color correction, whether any image manipulation/photoshopping is included/excluded. It is a common practice for clients asking for removal or hair strand or extra smoothening or changing the skin tone.
These are all image manipulation jobs that require more work and professional photoshop retouching.
Similarly, mention the video deliverables with approximate video length and the number of changes included in the cost of the package.
The number of changes is also helpful for photo albums and coffee tables book. The changes in album design become a painful job in some cases where the client seems to be confused about the final design and layout.
The team size details or at least the number of team members is essential. This is becoming more relevant most of the wedding photographers charge extra for flight tickets and accommodation.
In case of any legal proceedings initiated by the client or the photographer. It is always easier to manage things in your city rather than traveling each and every time. This is a very rare scenario but it is always good to have.
The clear payment schedule, terms and conditions are vital for any business or business transaction. The wedding contract should have info about your refund policy, non-refundable amount and schedule of payments.
For example, I charge 60% of the quoted price as a non-refundable booking amount and the remaining amount around two weeks before the wedding.
Also if you have been a photographer who waits for the final 10% after delivery of photos and albums, it is time to change that as most photographers in 2020 charge upfront. They start delivery or in fact editing once all dues are cleared.
It is one of the most important clauses in your wedding photography agreement. In short, it says that your maximum liability for the entire assignment cannot be more than the quoted price.
This is a very rare scenario in the Indian wedding industry context. But it can save you from any harassment or complex legal hassles.
The other area of liability is a scenario if the photographer ends up losing data or partial data. The agreement should mention how the liability will be calculated.
If for any reason, say missing a flight or illness you miss the assignment in partial or full. All three scenarios should be mentioned along with the refund policy.
Model Release & Copyrights:
The model release clause should mention that you have the right to use images for your business promotional activities including online and offline modes. If required, the images can be used for publications where your work is being featured.
The client retains the lifetime right to use the images for their personal usage only. It automatically means the images cannot be used by the client for commercial or monetary gains. Similarly, state that the copyrights of the images remain with the photographer.
At the end of the contract, mention about the price-breakup like amount paid and amount pending. Travel and accommodation charges paid in full, partial or not paid yet.
The signatures of the bride and groom are the most important part. If they have not signed the contract, all the hard work you have done is futile. You have to make sure the couple sign on each page of the contract and you hand over one copy to the couple.
These are the most important clauses or must have clauses in your wedding photography contract. Also, I would like to add the easiest red flag in an assignment is a couple refusing or showing reluctance in signing a contract.
In my experience whenever a couple has not signed the photographer have ended up losing some money and the overall experience working with such couples has been less than enjoyable.
It is a red flag and you should avoid working with such clients. It will never be a pleasant experience for either of the parties.