Wednesday, April 20, 2011

{Why do photographers ask for a signed contract and deposit?}

Planning a wedding can be stressful. There are so many choices and decisions to be made. Many brides wonder what they should be looking for in a photographer outside of artistic and photographic capabilities. So in finding a professional photographer a bride may ask two things: Why do I need a contract? and Why do I need to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to book my date? These are common but important questions. Let's discuss them.

Why do I need a contract?
A wedding contract is very important and your photographer should offer one. If not, this is something to be concerned about as a booked wedding date with a paid deposit and signed contract is like a promise. It is a commitment between you and your photographer and is a very serious matter. A contract is of course a photographer's means of protecting their work. But it is also important in providing peace of mind to the client that their date is held solely for them, their requests have been documented as well as clearly laying out and confirming their understanding of the agreed services and products offered, the terms and conditions applicable, the requirements and rights of both parties and the consequences should either party cancel or not uphold the agreement. A contract is vital to underlining the professionalism of a photographer, as well as establishing trust with their client that they will uphold their word to provide a service for the client on the date established. I encourage brides to read thoroughly their contract so that they understand the terms to which they are signing to - as contracts are signed to protect both the client and the photographer. A client should never sign a contract that they don't fully understand or agree to - as signing your name to an agreement is a serious matter.

Why do I need to pay a non-refundable deposit in order to book my date?
Most photographers ask for a non-refundable deposit. Even before you officially book your date, time goes into e-mails and communication about your wedding date, including photographing an engagement session, etc. Your photographer has already begun planning for your date even before you have signed for it. The deposit covers not only the time already spent in communicating, but also your engagement session and any other services provided in preparation for your wedding. Most importantly - your deposit secures your date, thereby making it unavailable to other clients. Because most photographers that shoot weddings work strictly in photography as their full-time income - they count on the service they are committing to. If you cancel, you are breaking a promise and an agreement. Granted, some situations are unavoidable in which case your photographer should try their best to accommodate you provided that they have enough lead time and dates available. For this reason, clients should be aware that if they change or cancel the established contract date - they potentially risk losing the services of the photographer they chose and also the deposit that they paid towards services as the photographer has held the date and excluded all other potential clients. Upon client cancellation, some photographers may offer photographic services within 90 days towards lost deposit depending on their contract.

So in summary, making sure that you have a photographer who will provide you with a contract is a good thing. It means you are equally committing to your wedding date and the service provided. Be sure to read your contract thoroughly and ask questions if you don't understand something. If the contract still doesn't make sense, contact someone who can offer you some legal advice and can explain to you thoroughly what you don't understand. A photographer shouldn't ask you to sign the contract immediately. They should offer you the time you need to read it through. Rest assured that once you have booked your date, your photographer will hold that date for you as it is stated in the contract you agreed upon. Realize that signing a contract is a legal binding between your agreement and that there can potentially be ramifications upon cancellation, such as resulting in lost deposit and or loss of photographic services. If in the event a photographer can't accommodate your date change, ask them for referrals of photographers they recommend. If you hired them at one point to shoot one of the most important days of your life, even though they couldn't accommodate your change, they can certainly recommend other good options. 

Well-established, professional photographers should offer you a contract and a guarantee that your date is reserved, be it through your deposit or whatever means you have both agreed and signed upon. Small successful business owners then keep to their contract, thereby honoring their word and your mutual agreement.