So many photographers that I meet ask me about contracts, what should go in it or where do they get one for free? Yikes! Please don’t download a free contract that may be out of date for current law or not relevant to your location. UK laws are very different to the US so please also be wary about procuring a sample contract from over there and thinking you will be covered in Britain. It is also a sad fact that as a nation we are becoming increasingly litigious and this is spilling over into wedding photography. The publicity surrounding celebrities having legal spats with their wedding photographers and/or magazines may well be encouraging the everyday married couple to think that suing wedding suppliers if your ‘Perfect Day’ has a few hiccups is a good idea. Of course if a wedding photographer fails to turn up or deliver the images then yes legal action should be pursued. We have all seen horror stories about people photographing weddings and loosing the images or simply doing a terrible job (look on the Daily mail website if you haven’t) but as a dedicated professional, what are the clauses that should be in our contracts to protect us?
A wedding day carries an enormous amount of expectation for some people and the pressure for everything to be absolutely perfect can sometimes overwhelm the emotion of the occasion. Very occasionally a depression can kick in afterwards when all the planning and excitement is over and I’ve seen people start to pick holes in their wedding experience and decide to seek compensation. If you know you have let your client down in some way then I do believe in offering something to make amends. Whether this is some money back or products such as prints or an album really depends on you. However if you know that you have fulfilled your role to the very best of your abilities and you are facing an unreasonable situation then how can you protect yourself?
I think I had a baptism of fire as a wedding photographer as one of my first clients did make an attempt to sue me without good reason and in the end after several solicitors’ letters going back and forth she did back down but it cost me thousands of pounds and I was deeply upset by the whole experience. Ever since then, I have always worked under a contract that protects the client should I ever be unable to fulfill a booking for some reason and it protects me from hopefully ever going through that again.
Think this kind of thing is not very likely to happen to you? A good friend of mine recently had images he shot at a couple’s wedding splashed all over the tabloids as part of a scandalous story. The papers took the images without his permission from Facebook and had the photographer not had a clause in his contract saying that he had their permission to put their images on social media, he could have been liable to compensate the bride. We live in a fast moving world and although the news agencies know that they are infringing the copyright, they are more concerned with getting a story out there as soon as they can.
My advice is to seek the help of an intellectual property solicitor to draw up the contract for you. This could save you a lot of misery further down the line and try to update that contract at least once a year as the industry and your business evolves. We are very lucky to have Scott Gair joining us at Farm Week. As well as working as a solicitor specialising in intellectual property he is also a photographer. He will be covering contracts as part of his talk on Wedding Photographers and The Law and he will also send all attendees a free template contract. There are still spaces on this talk which is only £50 and all details are here. We will be all ears!