Why You Must Have a Contract


Ahh, yes, the contract. The little piece of paper with lots and lots of words on it. You dread receiving one, you dread reading one, you dread creating one for your business. Why do we dislike a piece of paper with tiny words typed all over it? It takes work. Word to read it, word to understand it and word to create it. Now I’m not saying work is a bad thing but for most photographers this is the stuff we don’t want to deal with. We rather have a camera in hand during a sunset to catch the glorious colors of the sun bouncing off of big puffy clouds with mountain peaks rising in the distance. Ahh, yes, the life of a photographer.

Errrrrrrr! (the sound of car screeching to a halt) Stop the presses. Let’s get back on track. If you are here reading this then you want to better yourself and your photography business. Key word = business. The hard part about being self-employed is you have to wear many different hats. We will get into that more in another post. I am here to share with you my past mistakes and what I did to resolve them. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes. Where other photographers just want to show you the awesome gear they are using to make an image I’m going to share the behind the scenes aspect of running your business.

Back to contracts. Every wedding I photographed had a contract. If you are shooting events you have to have one. Here’s why. The contract has all their information on it. The contract lays out what you will deliver to the client and when. The contract protects you and your business if anything that you didn’t plan for were to happen. This includes bad weather, the bride and groom canceling (yes this happens), the venue closing down before the wedding, the couple not having enough money to pay the balance in full and more. Just as the bride and groom will have many questions for you these are not questions you would ask them but instead protect yourself against them happening in your contract.

The next reason for the contract is to secure the client. You secure the client by requiring a deposit or retainer. It’s important you use the word retainer in your contract. You can decide the percentage of the retainer but it’s typically around 40% of the total package. So for a $2500 wedding package I would require $1000 down. You may be thinking, but that’s a lot for a deposit. No, no it’s not. If they are serious about you and your services than they will pay it. Many photographers I know ask for 50% down. It’s up to you but please don’t ask for less than 40% down. Remember, you are booking that date out for them and no one else.

The retainer is non-refundable. Why do you want a non-refundable retainer? Because someone will cancel last minute and when they do you will not be able to rebook the date you reserved for them a year in advance. Now you have lost out on a job and money to pay your bills. For those of you shooting weddings this means you just lost between $1500-$3000! Umm, no thank you.

If you are ready to get serious about your photography business then sign up below for my free newsletter below. Stay tuned for a downloadable contract you can use for your business.