Westchester attorney advises brides how to make sure their wedding is picture perfect

Your wedding day is YOUR big day.  You’ve dreamed about this day since you could hold a Ken doll.  You’ve planned everything from the flowers you will carry to the dress you will wear and you are trusting one person to capture this all in pictures.  Really?  Well, then, this had better be a great contract.

A good wedding photographer is worth his or her weight in gold but let’s not tell them that or they will hike their rate card.  They can capture your spirit and make it come alive in photos and videos so that you can linger on the memories long after the bridal blush has disappeared.  However, we have all heard horror stories about photographers who take a big deposit and then don’t show up for the wedding; or worse yet, photographers who shoot the event only to close up shop before delivering the photos to you.

Since I believe the photographer is in your Top 3 that day, along with the wedding planner and caterer, let’s give them their due respect but let’s also make sure that you are protected in the event of any misfortune.  I do not believe that a photographer needs a huge deposit to book the date.  There are no advance outlays for them so the deposit for booking their time should be minimal.  At a certain dated benchmark, which should be clearly listed in the contract, they will require an additional payment.  Again, this is solely to make sure that they show up.  Instead, tell them that you will provide them a cashier’s check for another installment on the day of the event (this will allow them to pay any assistants or other photographers they will need, as well as pay them for their time).  The final payment should be due only when they have delivered to you everything that you are to receive under the contract.

Photo: Timeless Photography http://www.FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Make sure the contract specifies what you will receive from the exact minimum number of photographs they will shoot to how long they will shoot video if it is included in the package.  It should also list how many employees will be working with you on the day of the wedding and how many dinners you will be responsible to provide if that is part of their remuneration.  Further, if you want specific shots or people included in the package then provide a laundry list in the contract so that no shots are missed and no one is left pointing fingers at the end of the day.

Other items which should be enumerated in the contract include the time for services.  If your ceremony begins at 11am, you do not want your photographer arriving at 10:58am, missing you at your house or the groom en route.  Also, how long will the photographer be with you on your wedding day.  Will he/she take 50 shots and leave or do you want them present for the entire event?  Perhaps if you have the venue until midnight then maybe you will want the photographer there until at least 11pm.  You don’t want to miss Uncle Harry dancing with the punch bowl on his head!

Some finishing touches – despite flawless make-up and a stunning gown, you will likely need to have some photos re-touched.  You should inquire as to how much retouching will be included in your package and specify that in the contract, along with the number of proofs, prints, albums and/or enlargements.

Photographers are creating intellectual property when they generate a photo.  So, who will own the copyright to your wedding photos?  If you do, then you should be entitled to the raw digital files of any and all images which are shot at your wedding and the photographer should not be allowed to use them for advertising or any other purpose without your written consent.  That means that the photos were created as a “work for hire” under the Copyright Act and you own them as intellectual property.  However, the photographer may want to retain the copyright.  If that is the case he may use the photos as he see fit, although he has no right to misappropriate your image.  The Copyright Act protects the photographer’s right to the creation of the photo but privacy and publicity rights protect the interests of the people in the photos.  So, unless the photographer has a “model release” signed by each person in the photo, then he/she cannot make a profit from the sale of them.

Finally, plan for emergencies and then pray they don’t happen.  Draft language to provide for your obligations if you must cancel the wedding and the photographer’s responsibilities and/or liabilities in the event equipment malfunctions or he doesn’t meet any of the terms of the contract.  As a back up, always place those disposable cameras on each table and ask guests to take photos throughout the day.  Then they can deposit the cameras into a bin on their way out.  At least you will have back-up photos in case something “develops” with tragic consequences.  Sorry, but I couldn’t resist the pun!


2 thoughts on “Westchester attorney advises brides how to make sure their wedding is picture perfect

  1. Hi Lisa, interesting article. I think however, I should address a few things for the Photographic industry. At our studio, we require 50% of any contract for a deposit/ retainer. This deposit guarantees that we are reserving the date for this particular couple and will not be able to make another commitment for that day. If the couple decides not to get married after booking their photographer, we run the risk of A. not having enough time to get another job to shoot that day, B. we are out the remaining balance, and C. we lose the potential after-sales from the day.

    On the copyright issue, any photographer that gives out the rights to their images they have taken time and commitment to create is crazy. We as educated photographers spend a lot of money and time on our continuing education, equipment, archiving images, and studio locations.

    If a client wants to buy the rights to an image or group of final color corrected images, that is something that would have to be negotiated between the photographer and client on an individual basis. These are all things that the average consumer would never know and part of the reason behind our fees.

    Also, most professional photographers are just that, professional. As a professional, I make sure to bring backup equipment on every job, and back up all image on a portable hard drive on location any where I am shooting.

    As a photographer and studio owner, I have many of these things spelled out in our contracts for every client, and actually, when meeting with potential clients will address in our initial meeting so there are no surprises for anyone.

    • Hi James – thanks for the “other side.” Your work is truly beautiful and a bride would be lucky to work with you. However, you are also right in that brides do not know their rights or what they are really buying, which is why I wrote the article to educate them. The fact is that you are creating art, true, but it is a work for hire and the couples have the right to own those photos if they so choose.

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