LEGALITIES and PAYMENT



•  LEGALITIES and PERMISSIONS…to protect and serve your interests.

Weddings, legally speaking are a binding agreement and are no different from any business relationship with another party.  It might be only for a day or possibly a weekend, not a long term agreement but an agreement nevertheless.  If money or goods transpires within the agreement it has important legal ramifications and you should consider all the points, giving it some careful thought, doing the what-if's, and only then  only be entered into.

The trap of entering into agreements without due consideration, or mistrust even if it's a family member can be the last thing you need. A contract is as much for your protection as the Brides.  On the subject of families, just remember you can choose your friends, not your relatives and this is a super emotional time, things get said and sometimes don't go away.  I will never do a family event again as long as I live.

You will want to keep the agreement pertinent to address all of the possible situations, glitches, surprises, brain farts, which may show or rear their ugly heads because given a chance they will show up.   These are called "What-Ifs”.  First mentioned by Father Murphy-Lawes in his first encyclical “Wha Da Fuk” and today is doing well in this arena.  You also want to keep things very clear and in simple language on the subjects at hand, this is not a time for "he said, she said". And it is not a time for needing three other lawyers to argue the valid points.


•  POINTS OF LIGHT

•  Get it in writing. "He said, she said" is great on realty court TV, thats usually why they are there.

•  Oral agreements are like the game you played in school called "whisper".  By the time the rumor got around the room, it had nothing to do what was said.  Thats why it doesn't stand up in court.

•  K.I.S.S.  Use language both of you can understand. "Keep it simple, stupid".   The contracts, especially for an emotional driven event such as a wedding, are written in plain English. As long as both parties know exactly what they're signing.

•  Keep the formatting simple and in brief paragraphs and you might consider as you go over each point an initial signifying they have understood what they are signing.

•  Be specific in what the client will be receiving for your services.  Any changes after the fact have to be in writing and both parties sign and receive copies.

•  Make sure all the payment details are up-front and clear. Specify how, when and the amount in the  payments are to be made.  


•  DEPOSIT TERMS and PAYMENT
There are many variations used in the Wedding business, the two most popular being:

The Three Part Common Wedding Payment Clause
One-third Upon agreement:   One-third Before The Event   One-third When the prints, books, CD’s or other is delivered. 

And the second most common is the Half and Half.
Half Deposit at time of Booking and the second half the balance when you show up at the wedding.

•  These are the two most popular formats.  You can also do a layaway if you are booked way in advance so if they decide to call it off or shoot each other, you have something to show for your time. Layaways after the wedding are not a smart move. Annulments and divorces are too popular and this is not a good idea.

•  Some go as far as to include a provision, that states you will only perform work after the checks clear the bank. Cancelled checks can ruin your entire day, as does non-sufficient funds. Contract disputes about money, are really hard to fight as you will have to spend to recover in small claims court. Be specific but don't be a jerk and make too big an issue.

•  Be sure to include a short period of time and a clear paragraph on cancellation or termination. Like marriage everything doesn't always work out. Some things end as soon as the weddings over. If  payments are missed, or the agreed format is not followed or changes to the venue occur, you need to be prepared. the biggest and most common cancellation or termination is the wedding gets called off.  This is clearly stated in the DEPOSIT and it is not refundable. You have time invested and they are liable if you so state it.

• I am not an attorney but I do know in my state and others laws differ on contracts. The law of the state you are in are absolute.  State's laws will govern in the event there's a dispute. Sometimes Brides and groom are from different states.  You might consider a clause that states which state laws will govern. If you forget to include this, more lawyers in other states cost a lot of money.


•  WHO OWNS WHAT

It’s their pictures and you want permission to use their pictures for your promotional use. You want this clear and in writing if it is important to you for advertising, marketing, trade shows, print competitions, and for promotional use in locations other than your gallery i.e.: the web. (Get it in writing) 

Those pictures are also your leverage if a problem arises or you are getting what we call bumped by a customer. Thats when they forget what they agreed to and start demanding more. I will explain this in detail further on.

If they say no (which is rare) then abide by it. The sword has two edges and one does not need to abuse this either by pictorializing their entire family for your benefit and violating their privacy. Written permission agreeing to use is important. The trend today is to give the negatives to the Bride after a short period, like after you are paid in total for services rendered. (More below on this subject)  Thus good digital copies of your work is a must, as is a good release to use them. 

•  MORE ON PAYMENTS - DON'T BE A MORON

I use and believe in the three part payment for the Wedding; A good contract is fair to both the photographer and the Bride who hired you. The one third deposit to retain the date, second third the day of the Wedding, third part on delivery of the Wedding proofs, CD-ROMs, discs, and/or enlargements. 

Sometimes (see the sample contract) I want it all up front, just a gut feeling tells me I either have a Bridezilla or sometimes bounced checks tell you that. Understanding what is and what isn’t included up front is the best way of doing business. 

The prime rule of individual business success for the Wedding Photographer is customer satisfaction. And that is achieved only one way, giving the consumer more that his or her expectations. Business sense, if you got paid enough to do the job, extra shots (one roll or fill up that spare card) might cost you another 15 dollars for prints and proofs or a CD . For the extra fifteen dollars I get all the shots that show up late, or become apparent at the affair. Maybe some special folks at the table, but, the surprises get captured. The Bride gets it all.

As trends, equipment (the digital revolution) change and laws of ownership change, the many Wedding Photographers I knew always added a little extra to the package to cover the cost of film and processing and now after sixty days or so release the pictures to the client. With digital, a hi-res and lo-res disc is often all that is delivered. 

Extra cost of the post processing time on the computer is fair to charge for. The on-line PROFESSIONAL wedding services (PBASE is not what I’m talking about) do a great job and the pro people I know using them love the convenience. 

Another argument is that most of the “cheaters” shoot down to Ritz, Wal-Mart, Costco and Sams, just to name a few, and make copies on the Kodak machine or scan them. Again with much of the industry going to digital, the abundance of digital at weddings and many households with scanners, and cell phones the whole issue becomes a moot point. 

In addition people at most of the kiosks turn the other way when copying anyway, so get it in writing and get it up front are the mottos. If you are a business act like one. (Get it in writing) 

•  KNOW THE RULES
For those in Florida and similar states...Sales Tax.  Keep all books and records. Especially if this is just a casual business. The sales tax people are bears, worse than the IRS.  The sales tax people visited us one year in the store and requested all film sales to PROS or those with sales tax exemption records.  If you keep the negatives or original files on disc and charged sales tax on your wedding fees, yet you claim tax exempt when you buy cameras and gear you are in trouble.  Some try to avoid tax when buying gear.  They got caught too. Had to be for resale.

During the film days Florida had incorporated a sales tax law that if film is part of an agreement and you are paid for that film as part of the cost, you better turn in the sales tax if it was included in your billing to the bride.  It’s cheaper to pay seven percent tax on the film cost and be done with it, than screw with the sales tax people. They are bears. Anything I buy locally for my business even if it is in bulk nuts and bolts, I cheerfully pay sales tax on.  I never worry about that because I did not and do not use the exemption. As far as sales tax people go I do not exist and I like it that way.  With the advent of the digital era, the business no longer using film, the bears of the sales tax business backed off… on film…gear is another story.