The ultimate wedding photography contract guide.March 25th, 2022
Hey wedding photographer! Okay, you already have a great online wedding photography portfolio and spectacular equipment, and you’re excited about an upcoming gig where you’ll be shooting photos at someone’s wedding.
Now, all you need to sort out is the wedding photography contract. This can be the most daunting part of the entire process, but there’s no need for you to panic! We’ll hook you up with some fabulous wedding photographer contract tips, and even have a bunch of sample wedding photography contract options for you to refer to, depending on where you’re based.
What is a wedding photography contract?
In simplest terms, it’s the agreement between the photographer and the client who hires them to take photos at an upcoming wedding. That latter person is most often the bride and groom, a member of the bridal party, or a family member who’s hiring vendors for the event.
This agreement covers absolutely everything that both parties are responsible for on the day of the event. It’s where the bridal party expresses the types of shots they want to be done, and you let them know how much it’ll cost.
The contract will stipulate how much everything costs, when and how payment is to be arranged, and things like potential cancellation, insurance, etc.
Unfortunately, how to write a wedding photography contract isn’t usually part of formal photography education. As a result, this leaves independent photographers responsible for educating themselves on the topic, wading through endless advice websites, and trying to figure out what’s what.
Since these contracts can be a bit tricky to navigate, using a wedding photography contract example as the foundation for your own is a really good idea. That’s why we’ve rounded up several different contract options for you: so you don’t need to waste precious hours doing research that may not offer you any solid answers.
Why is a wedding photographer contract for services so important?
These contracts outline absolutely everything associated with the event’s photography, with both parties signing off in agreement about it all. A good, basic wedding photography contract will benefit both the client and the photographer and will ensure fair treatment for everyone involved.
Clients can be worried about signing a contract, so it’s important to emphasize just how much it benefits them. During your meeting with them, explain that the wedding photo contract serves as a guideline for you to refer to so you can make sure you deliver everything they want. This is their opportunity to spell out exactly what kind of photos they’d like, along with any other specific directions they may have for you. It’s like a script that everyone can follow so the day runs as smoothly as possible. Any time there’s any question about the service you’re offering, you have a guideline at hand that you can pull out and use as a checklist.
In turn, a standard wedding photography contract also ensures fair treatment for the photography team, with provisions in case of damaged equipment, last-minute cancellation, etc.
This contract protects both parties. On the off chance that things don’t go as planned and you have to settle a financial dispute in court, you have that aforementioned solid reference guide to refer to. After all, if they’re claiming that there’s a wedding photographer breach of contract situation, it’s important for you to be able to tick off everything that you provided, as part of your defense.
In addition, it offers them very firm reassurance that they’re going to get a return on their investment. Wedding photography isn’t cheap, and clients who might be nervous about the amount of money they’re spending on a photo package will feel a lot more secure if they have all of their photo demands in writing.
What should a wedding photo contract cover?
Quite a lot, actually. That’s why so many photographers can get seriously overwhelmed when it comes to creating one of these contracts: there’s so much that needs to be incorporated.
Let’s take a look at the items that should be covered, and what they mean in the grand world of contract land.
Your expenses should be first and foremost on your wedding photography contract. Not only will this spell out wedding photography package pricing options, but also offers detailed breakdowns and explanations for each expense.
This is also where you stipulate your reservation and payment guidelines. Basically, you clearly state how much of a deposit you’ll need in order to book X amount of your time for that day, whether the remainder is paid in full the day of, in installments, etc. Mark out specific dates, who is responsible for payment, potential late fees, and rescheduling fees.
Things get a bit tricky if you’ve been hired to tag along to a destination wedding. In fact, some people recommend that you have a destination wedding photography contract that’s separate from your general wedding photography contract form.
As an example, if you’re flying to the Caribbean or something to do their photography, then include travel expenses and a disclaimer for additional expenses that may be incurred. Essentially, determine whether the couple will or will not be responsible for things like duty fees, a daily stipend for a rental car plus gas, and so on.
This one is fairly self-explanatory: it covers the client’s expectations about what you’ll be delivering to them during and after the wedding. Laying out everything that’s expected on both sides works wonders for avoiding any potential miscommunications the day of.
If you aren’t yet familiar with how to make a wedding photography contract, then be aware that the deliverables section is the one area that will likely require a lot of back-and-forth communication.
When you meet with your clients, make sure to be specific about the approximate number of photos that you will provide so they aren’t potentially disappointed when you deliver the final gallery. You also need to be clear about whether these images will be RAW or edited in Photoshop (or similar).
If they’re edited (which they almost exclusively are for weddings), are you the one responsible for editing all the pieces? Or just the ones they select? Will there be additional fees if you have to do a lot of body retouching and extensive background cleanup? Do you need to provide them with prints? Or just a USB/digital download?
Don’t leave any room for miscommunication, here. You might feel awkward about revising the wedding photo contract with them a few times, but it’s far better to clarify absolutely everything than to risk a misunderstanding.
One aspect of privacy in a wedding photography contract revolves around where the photographers are (and aren’t) allowed at various points of the celebration. For example, certain cultural and religious groups have very stringent rules about who can and can’t be seen by people of different genders while they’re getting prepared for the ceremony.
Similarly, cooperation refers to guests, vendors, and other people involved who may or may not be terribly helpful while you’re shooting. The celebrant/priest/rabbi/etc. might be picky about when and where they’re photographed. There might also be very strict rules about photographing within the venue, especially if it’s a religious temple.
This is why it’s so vital to have a solid, in-person meeting with the client ahead of time. Typically the clients will be responsible for providing those details to the photographer, however, these details should be included in the contract whenever possible.
You may also encounter guests who really don’t want to have their picture taken. The clients might try to wave that reticence off as being inconsequential, or insist that asking forgiveness is a lot easier than asking permission. Keep in mind that it’s your reputation on the line, not to mention that it’s important to respect people’s space and personal autonomy. That being said, you are entering into a contract with the couple, not the guests, so while respect is the name of the game, there is a general understanding that guests will be photographed at the wedding and this should not contravene your agreement with the clients.
However, you can make sure there’s a clause in your wedding photo contract that stipulates that you’re exempt from taking photos of people who don’t want to be photographed, or in areas that are forbidden for various reasons.
A wedding photography contract cancellation provision covers potential cancellation on both sides, not just the wedding party. Sure, someone might get cold feet or a hurricane might obliterate the wedding venue, requiring cancellation or rescheduling, but it’s also possible that you might fall ill or have a personal emergency to attend to.
This is why even the most simple wedding photography contract needs to incorporate a cancellation policy. Nearly all clients will readily agree to this, as it protects all of you on the off chance that something may go wrong.
You don’t need to have a separate wedding photography cancellation contract, but rather just a clause that covers mutual rescission of the contract. Check out some of the standard wedding photography contracts available online to see what kind of provision feels right to you.
For example, many photographers stipulate that a 30% payment retainer needs to be paid in advance to book the event’s date. This can also serve as a cancellation fee. On the slim chance that the client needs to cancel, then the photographer keeps that retainer payment as a cancellation fee.
If, however, you need to cancel the wedding photography contract due to illness, injury, or other major emergencies, then you can stipulate in the contract that you’ll return the retainer fee to the client, but have no added liability.
Don’t feel bad about working this fee into your wedding photography contract! Remember that this is your livelihood, and you need to ensure that you’re compensated fairly for your time and effort. Cancellation without a kill fee means loss of income for you, so make sure you’re protected.
Legal rights (copyright protection, etc.)
Once again, this governs protection for both parties. Generally, there are three aspects of copyright when it comes to a generic wedding photo contract:
- Forbidding image reproduction without the photographer’s permission
- Giving the client license to publish images for personal use
- Ensuring that the photographer provides the client with full access to their photos
This clarifies what the client is and is not allowed to do with the photos you’ve provided, and also ensures that you’ll provide them with all the images they’ve asked for.
Generally, the wedding photographer maintains sole rights to copy, sell, publish, and reproduce all the photos they’ve taken. This is ultimately up to you, though. If you feel like doing so, you can grant the client a license to reproduce and publish their photos, or even a copyright release so they can do whatever they like with their images.
Do your research about the copyright laws in your country, and work the permissions you feel comfortable with into your contract for wedding photography services.
Many couples and wedding party members enjoy sharing their wedding photos publicly, such as on social media. This is usually fine but can get ugly if your photos are used to promote someone else’s work. For example, if the person who designed the bridal bouquet uses your photos on their florist business website without your permission.
Additionally, although some photographers are okay with giving clients digital negatives or full-res images, they stipulate that the client does not have permission to edit those photos digitally because the images are part of their brand, and changing how those images look is a misrepresentation of their work.
There are few situations as nightmarish as having a client do an atrocious Photoshop job on an image you shot, and crediting you for it publicly, thus tarnishing your reputation forever. Protect yourself against that horror show.
Interference and exclusivity.
This can be merged with the “privacy and permissions” section of your wedding photography contract, or have a clause all its own.
At pretty much every wedding, there will inevitably be an uncle, aunt, or friend of the family who’s a keen amateur photographer. For some pro photographers, that’s all well and good as long as Uncle Shutterbug stays out of their way.
Other photographers stipulate that if wedding photos are posted publicly, they are not to be intermingled. Amateur photographs are just that: amateur. It would be detrimental to your business to have their work displayed alongside—and potentially mistaken for—yours. Interference can also refer to people like wedding coordinators, parents, or bossy members of the wedding party attempting to instruct or influence your photos. It basically gives you permission to ask them (politely) to back off and let you do your work.
They might also attempt to cut your photography time short, sending you home during the reception or shooing you away from various scenes because they think it’ll somehow save on expenses.
It’s best to avoid making the happy couple unhappy because they didn’t have as many photos as they thought you’d be providing, simply because a belligerent parent sent you on your way too soon. This is why it’s so important to clarify deliverables early in the wedding photo contract, as well as stipulating that you can only be “relieved of duty” by the person who hired you.
Insurance and Compensation
Most weddings manage to happen without any great calamities, but it’s better to err on the side of caution with a clause that covers potential harm to you and/or your equipment.
For example, if someone’s kid breaks one of your lenses, or you—and your camera—get knocked into a pond by a highly intoxicated groomsman, you’ll want to make sure that you’re covered for replacement costs.
Similarly, it’s important to have some kind of liability insurance in case you cause any kind of issue. Let’s say someone breaks an ankle after stumbling over one of your tripods, or you accidentally damage a valuable object at the venue. Look into General Liability insurance in your area to see what it covers, as you might have to incorporate Property Insurance with it as well.
There’s also the possibility of Errors and Omissions Insurance. This is in case some member of the wedding party decides that you’ve ruined absolutely everything about their special day by accidentally omitting photos of aunt Helga and her corgi. Or any other issue that might arise that leads them to feel that you didn’t deliver as promised.
Find out which type of insurance is best for you, how much it will cost, and then work that fee into your wedding photo contract.
Remember that you need to eat and rest too.
One of the most important wedding photographer contract tips to remember is that it’s necessary for you to remain fed and hydrated. Keep in mind that standard wedding day photography shenanigans can run from 8 to 12 hours of continuous coverage, not snapping a photo here and there in between coffee breaks. They’ll expect you to take oodles of photos ranging from behind-the-scenes prepping to dancing at the reception several hours later.
This is why it’s important to have at least one assistant, whether a second photographer or an apprentice, along with you on the day: so they can take over photo duties while you’re on a bathroom or meal break.
The best way to ensure that you’ll get fed is to stipulate the need for meals for yourself and your assistant(s) as part of your wedding photography contract meal clause. Normally, this would grant you the same meal as one of the wedding guests, unless you stipulate otherwise.
While you’re at it, also work into the wedding photo contract whether you’ll be able to sit and eat your meal with the other guests during the reception, or if you and the other vendors will eat separately. You and your assistants may have to eat in shifts in order to ensure the aforementioned continuous photo coverage during the reception dinner, however, it’s good practice to eat while the guests eat since no one wants pictures of themselves eating.
If you’ll be dining with the guests at the dinner or luncheon, try to ensure that you’ll be seated somewhere close to the head table. This will allow you and your team to snap candid shots throughout the reception, while also granting you a place to sit down and rest for a bit.
Also discuss with them whether you’ll be allowed to help yourselves from snack tables and the like over the course of the day, or if they’ll provide your team with a care package to tide you over as you work. This can be as simple as a lunch bag that includes bottled water, granola bars (or similar), and sandwiches.
Note: If you and/or your teammates have food allergies or other dietary restrictions, it’s important to put that into even the most simple wedding photography contract as well. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re woozy and half-starved during the event because the only foods they have on offer will make you violently ill.
Safe working environment clause.
This is a topic that isn’t often addressed in wedding photography contracts samples. In fact, it isn’t discussed very openly at all. The reality is that sexual harassment in the wedding industry is very real, more common than most realize, and it can happen to photographers of all genders.
It’s an incredibly difficult situation to contend with if it does happen. After all, you’ve been hired to take photos of someone’s happy, special day – the last thing you want to do is ruin it for them, right? This is where a safety clause in your professional wedding photography contract comes in.
Countless photographers (and other vendors) have had to deal with this kind of thing, and most just end up tolerating it and offering up weak smiles because they don’t want to ruffle any feathers. They just “take it”, and suffer through the experience so they don’t upset anyone by speaking out.
The thing is, inappropriate behavior that makes you feel uncomfortable and unsafe is never acceptable. It’s not okay if a drunken groomsman or bridesmaid gropes you, or if one of the guests follows you around making lewd comments all day.
Since you won’t usually find anything about this topic in a basic wedding photography contract template, check out the advice that attorney Paige Hulse offers in this article. Then, determine what you feel most comfortable with adding to your own wedding photography contract.
Wedding photography forms and contracts.
Now for the good stuff: if you’re looking for a simple wedding photography contract template to use as a foundation reference for your own, there are a lot out there to choose from.
Below, we’ve rounded up some of the best sample wedding photography contract template forms out there for you to check out. Some of them are free wedding photography contract download forms in Doc or PDF format, while others need to be purchased.
Scan through them and use your intuition to determine which is the best fit for your needs.
Free wedding photography contract templates.
Enviragallery offers 5 of the best free wedding photography contract template options out there. Look through them to see which one feels like a good fit for you, or Frankenstein your favorite bits and pieces from all of them.
If you live in the United States, consider becoming a member of the Professional Photographers of America. By doing so, you’ll have access to their free, downloadable wedding photography contract pdf, in addition to countless other forms and documents that can help you build your professional practice.
For a great wedding photography contract UK template, check out this one by photographer Alex Miller. This is a sample of their wedding photo contract rather than a wedding photographer contract template download, but you can copy, paste, and adapt it as you see fit.
Looking for a specific wedding photography contract Canada option? This one by Abby Photography is a good free wedding photography contract form that you can copy and adapt as needed. It includes a lot of Canadian copyright laws, as well as Canada Post cancellation notifications and rights when sending items (or contracts) by mail.
Paid wedding photography contract template forms.
The free options above are great, but some of the paid versions are even more comprehensive, especially those that have been written by lawyers.
Best Templates offers a fully editable, simple wedding photography contract template for $21. Just change the highlighted portions to whatever is a better fit for you and the client.
While the wedding photography contract agreement by The Law Tog is much more expensive, it’s also extremely comprehensive. They start at $229, and you can probably get that covered as part of your wedding photography and videography contract expenses.
If you need wedding photography contract template Australia forms, check out Net Lawman. Here, you can find a wedding photography contract template word document for just $39.
There are many options for how to go about drafting your wedding contract. Since contracts are legally binding documents between you, and your clients, if you take the road of drafting your own contract or using an online template we recommend always having a lawyer review your contract to make sure you’re protected, not missing or misrepresenting anything, and adhering to your regional laws.
If you’re looking for some great photography inspiration or tips on how to grow your business, check out these articles from our sister company Format: