Wedding Photography Contracts – What You Need To Know

Here come the wedding bells! Oh wait, and the wedding contracts?! Trust us, we know that planning your destination wedding comes with a lot of moving parts and one of the last things you want to deal with is confusing contracts and legal jargon. Don’t worry – we’ve got you covered on the essentials.

When it comes to photography + videography contracts for weddings, it is important to understand the terms and conditions of your agreements to ensure your legal bases are covered. Keep reading to get a basic understanding of your standard inclusions in a photographers’ contract – including wedding services contract, model release, print release, and copyright ownership.

toh gouttenoire wedding photographer

Wedding Services Contract

The wedding services contract is a legal agreement between the client + the photographer that sets conditions and obligations for the services performed. This contract should include all the basic details of your wedding event – such as the date and time, the location, the number of hours of coverage, and the price. Most often, photographers and videographers require signed confirmation and payment of the booking fee before the wedding weekend.

Model Release

A model release form is a legal document signed between photographers and their clients to agree on how the images will be used going forward. The client signs this document to give the photographer permission to use of their publicity rights (i.e. recognizable body + face) or not in the photographer’s marketing activities.

Print Release

This document outlines the client’s permissions for the reproduction of digital files. A print release is another standard inclusion in a photo contract that allows clients to print their photos for personal use. This means that the client can print the photos for their use, but they cannot sell them or use them for commercial purposes.

Copyright Ownership

Copyright ownership is another important aspect of a photo contract. The owner of the copyright is automatically the Photographer which is standard language in contracts, unless contract terms dictate otherwise, and is based on U.S. Federal law in which copyright is automatically given to the creator of a work.  This applies to books, music, paintings, etc… as well as photography.

As the client, you are given the right to use the images for printing and posting on social networks for example. Couples are not given the right to Edit or Alter the images. If you want to be able to edit your images, you can ask your photographer to modify the contract to include a photo copyright release. Some photographers do not offer copyright release but it’s important to know that is not a red flag. That is standard, as most photographers do not want their name attached to photos where they don’t have control of the end result that is viewed by the public. Photographers rely heavily on their brand being consistent in style and quality, and altered images floating around can impact their business in negative ways for example if photos are poorly edited, overexposed, cropped awkwardly, etc… If owning the copyright is important to you, some photographers will offer the option to purchase the copyright. This is an added fee and varies for each photographer.

Release of Raw Images

Raw image requests are another item to consider in a contract. The majority of photographers do not release raw images (commonly referred to as “raws”). The common analogy for this is that a Photographer releasing Raws is the same as a Chef serving a plate of raw meat and other uncooked / unmixed ingrediants in a restaurant. The editing is a huge part of the photographer’s service. You are selecting and hiring a photographer based on their creative eye after all. So it’s important to let them complete their creative process.

Releasing raws is also similar to the copyright information above in that a photographer’s work can be edited and shared in a range of ways that are not consistent with their style.

It’s important to note that raws are not the same as photos you take on your phone, for example, they aren’t just unedited, untouched images.  Raws = a file tip, RAW. This file type varies by camera, and depending on the equipment this file type can end with .RAF, .CR2, or .NEF. These files take in as much color, light variance, etc as possible in a scene. These are then edited and reformatted by photographers and typically delivered to couples in JPEG format. Most couples do not have the technical knowledge or computer programs to handle RAWS, many computers don’t even recognize the RAW file types.

We see requests for raw images a couple of times a year. Some photographers will provide raws for an additional fee, but others have a firm policy on not sharing raws. The times where sharing raws has made sense have been when couples have a photography or videography background and want the ability to process their images so they have purchased the raws, typically in addition to their hired photographer still providing their edits.

Stories Wedding photography Costa Rica

All in all – knowing what to expect when hiring your wedding photographer/videographer ensures the protection of both parties, the photographer, and those being photographed. That’s why understanding the terms and conditions of each contract is essential for clients to come to a mutual agreement with their photographers. A model release form, copyright ownership, print release, and wedding services contract are all standard inclusions in a photo contract.

More questions on photography contracts? Drop us a comment with your questions below!

Ashley Arnett

Ashley Arnett

Leave a Comment