Wedding Photographers: How Protected Is Your Business?

Wedding Photographers: How Protected Is Your Business?

Providing a service to clients as a small business comes with risks. At some point during the course of photographing a wedding, every photographer will run into an unforeseen circumstance. Are you prepared to face the unexpected?

If you’re marketing yourself as a professional wedding photographer and actively providing a service to clients, then you owe it to yourself and your clients to make sure that your business is solidly protected. From proper contracts to licensing and permits, here is everything you need to consider when deciding how to protect yourself from unforeseen circumstances in the future. 

Your Contract

Your wedding photography contract is one of the single most powerful tools you have at your disposal when considering how to protect you and your business. Making sure that you have a thorough contract is imperative to the future success of your business. No two weddings are the same, and it can be nearly impossible to anticipate every issue that may arise in the future, but ensuring that your contract is thorough and legally binding can undoubtedly help negate any future legal woes.

I like to think of contracts as one of the best ways to set expectations with your clients and fellow vendors or contractors (like second shooters). The specific clauses you choose to use in your contract can help set you up for success in the very beginning of a professional relationship. Your contract should be thorough and cover all incidences that may happen, and thus you’re able to anticipate. 

This is an excellent place for me to point out that I am not a lawyer, nor is this legal advice. Use this as a guideline of suggestions to consider before having your contract reviewed by an actual lawyer. Contracts should always be evaluated by a lawyer to make sure that they are actually enforceable, whether you made your contract yourself or purchased a template (and of course, hiring a lawyer to draw up a contract for you is always your best bet). 

Because of the unique challenges that can arise with professional wedding photography, a few clauses to consider including in your contract that you may not have thought of would be indemnification (this pertains to equipment failure and what to expect if equipment failure happens), severability (having a severability clause helps to protect your contract as a whole if anyone single clause is found to be unenforceable), and an exclusivity clause (this helps to set the expectation that you are the only professional vendor allowed to take photos of the wedding and this helps when other vendors like the DJ or videographer decide to pull out a camera and start grabbing shots of the wedding for themselves). 

You’ll find that as you continue to progress in your profession as a wedding photographer, your contract will evolve and change. Make sure that you have a lawyer review your contract every few years to ensure that the contract remains enforceable. 

photographer meets with client to discuss contract

Outlining your contract with your client can help to set proper expectations in your business relationship, which will set you up for success in creating a better experience throughout the entire photo process. Image by rawpixel.com via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Insurance

Another necessity you need to have in place for protecting your business is insurance. Both business insurance and liability insurance are essential to making sure you’re protecting your business. Organizations like PPA are a great place to look for information on what type of insurance is right for your business.

You’ll find that as you establish yourself as a wedding photographer and shoot in more locations, lots of locations require you to have liability insurance. The last thing you want to happen is for you to book a client who’s wedding is at a venue that requires you to have liability insurance, and then, in turn, you run into conflict because you didn’t have proper protection. Not to mention, you don’t want a bride to trip on her dress during your photo shoot and you not have the liability insurance to cover her injuries.

The idea of getting insurance may be intimidating, but don’t let it overwhelm you. With a bit of research and time, you’ll be able to find and obtain a policy that works best for you and your business.

Permits and Licensing

Every state, county, and city will have different rules for the types of licensing and permitting you need to obtain to be considered a legit legal entity. It is definitely worth your while as a professional to do proper research into your local market and what is required of you to run your business. Without proper permitting and licensing you open yourself up for all sorts of legal battles that you won’t want to get into with your local authorities. It’s imperative as a professional photographer to follow the rules and do your due diligence in obtaining whatever paperwork you need to legally photograph weddings commercially.

These are just a few areas to consider when protecting yourself. As creatives, the legal and business side of running a wedding photography business can sound like an obligation but is so essential for being able to set yourself up as a successful professional wedding photographer. The task of legally protecting yourself and your business can be a big one, so consider partnering with professionals like lawyers and CPAs to help give you the specific advice required to cover all your bases. Setting yourself apart as a professional wedding photographer doesn’t only include taking amazing photos, it involves living up to the “professional” part of your title. A great place to start is by ensuring your business is set up correctly and that you’re protected. You hope that you never need to use any of the precautionary measures you put in place, but not having them if and when you need them, can be a mistake difficult to recover from.

Lead image by rawpixel.com via Pexels, used under Creative Commons.

Log in or register to post comments

8 Comments

Excellent article, this is exactly what i've been wondering right now. Can you PLEASE point me in the right direction regarding: "you may not have thought of would be indemnification (this pertains to equipment failure and what to expect if equipment failure happens), severability (having a severability clause helps to protect your contract as a whole if anyone single clause is found to be unenforceable)" - how can I add this into my contract without a lawyer? I have no idea what to search, please help!

Danette Chappell's picture

This is a great question! I recommend checking out TheLawtog's resources. She has some wonderful contract templates you can purchase that include an indemnification clause. Ultimately, however, I do still recommend having a local lawyer review your contract in the end, regardless of where you end up finding any clause for your contract, whether a purchased template, or something you've found off of Google. :)

Kirk Darling's picture

You left out "errors and omissions" insurance. That's coverage for when a bride sues you after you or your equipment screws up and you lose those irreplaceable and unreproducible wedding images.

The PPA Indemnification Trust fund is available for PPA members for this purpose, but I'm sure there is other such coverage offered by insurance companies.

Wait so how does one add "errors and omissions" insurance into the contract?

Kirk Darling's picture

Not sure what you're asking--which contract are you talking about? "Errors and Omissions" is a kind of coverage you'd get from an insurance company (although the PPA Indemnification Trust is actually a trust fund that acts like insurance, not an insurance policy), not part of your contract with the client.

Alterick Wilson's picture

Where is a great place to get wedding contracts?

Danette Chappell's picture

My go-to​ resource is TheLawtog. She's a lawyer and a photographer and makes resources for fellow photographers. In addition to the contract templates you can purchase from her, she has really informative blog posts about various legal topics that arise with photographers. :)

Don't forget the backups.