What is in a wedding photography contract (and why you need one)

Although a wedding photography contract is a legally binding document that is written in a seemingly foreign language, it is a necessary part of what we do as Ottawa Wedding Photographers.

Everyone can take pictures, and post on Instagram, Facebook or Pinterest without much thought. So why does a professional photographer make you sign a contract? Is it self serving? Are they just looking out for themselves? The short answer – yes and no.

Photography contracts, whether they are model releases for portrait, boudoir, family or maternity photos as well as wedding photography contracts, certainly work to protect the photographer from litigation, but they have a much broader purpose; they also explain the process and set expectations between you and your photographer to avoid any surprises along the way.

A basic model release simply gives the photographer permission to use the pictures to promote their business. Every photographer has a style, a uniqueness, and showing pictures to potential clients shows them our work and sets their expectation of what they can expect for their own photo session. But a wedding contract is a little more complicated. It states specific items, like start and end times, locations, possibly specific photos that the client would like. This is not only to protect both parties, but it acts as a reference for the photographer, and it sets the expectations for the entire process. We review every contract during the week leading up to an event to make sure we are 100% ready to deliver exactly what the client has asked for.

The three questions we get asked the most about our contract are about the retainer, copy right and client usage.

The Retainer

When we book a wedding, we ask for a non-refundable retainer. This is not a deposit for the photos. This is a retainer to ensure that we will be available on the date requested. The retainer guarantees that we will hold the date exclusively for the client and once we’ve signed the contract we turn down all other commissions for that date. In short, if the wedding is canceled, we lose a days pay that we could have filled with someone else. The retainer offsets some of that loss.

Copy Right

There always seems to be some confusion as to who owns the pictures. Even though the pictures are of the client, the amount the client pays is for client usage (see below) not ownership. The simple reason for this is to ensure rights for publication. It would be unfair for a client to submit a picture for a contest or publication when they did not take the picture. Is Mona Lisa credited with her painting or da Vinci? It isn’t anymore complicated then that.

Client Usage

This is usually a big sticking point. Client usage of photos stipulates how a client can use their images. This is an inclusion, because how a photo is presented is a representation of a specific brand and/or style. As artists, we have a vision of how a photo should look even before we snap the picture. Altered pictures are not representative of our company, and it would be unfair to present it as such. As well, this section also includes usage tied into copyright.

We want you to have your pictures and to be happy with them. There is nothing in the contract that is negative, or restrictive. By setting expectations, the contract paves the way for a smooth process. Keep in mind, if there is something specific that is required, the contract can be tailored to specific needs. It is all about pleasing you, our clients.

Guylaine and Gord

February 19, 2021

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