Wednesday, January 10, 2018

Hiring a wedding photographer

Last year I had to hire a wedding photographer.  You know, to photograph my wedding.  (It has been a long time since I've written here.)  But anyway, I can say now that the contracts that wedding photographers want you to sign all pretty uniformly suck, and you should definitely read them carefully before signing and before agreeing to anything.  Here are the non-obvious things that I suggest that you look out for when reading the contract:
  • What happens if they don't deliver?  Wedding photographer contracts are designed to protect the photographer, not you.  Some of them actually say that they're not responsible in any way if they deliver no photos to you at all!  Make sure that you get it in writing that you are owed at the very least a refund of everything you have paid them if they fail to deliver a certain number of photos of the event, by a certain date.
  • Watermarking:  Make sure you get it in the contract that the final images you receive aren't watermarked in any way.  Otherwise you might get an embarrassing logo on every photo, and it's $500 more to get the photos without it.
  • Model release:  Basically all photographers will require that you sign a model release allowing them to use your photos to promote their business.  But a surprising majority of them want you to sign a model release allowing them to use your photos for any commercial purposes whatsoever.  So read the fine print—if you agreed to it, that would include selling your wedding photos as stock photos for use by businesses in advertisements!  It sounds crazy, but it turns out that most of the contracts I saw included that right, whether or not they ever intended to utilize it, and we had to drop one photographer because they were unwilling to budge on it.
  • Electronic distribution and print rights:  Make sure that you get the rights to distribute the photos electronically and make prints.  Some contracts only allow for one or the other.
  • Copyrights:  Very few professional photographers will offer to transfer copyright of the images to you—the copyright will still belong to them.  You'll just get the aforementioned print and distribution rights.  You generally won't receive the original RAW (digital negative) images, and you won't be allowed to make any modifications to the images before printing or uploading them (Instagram filters, for example), as doing so might cause harm to the photographer's reputation.  It's great if you can get the copyrights and/or RAW images, but don't expect them, at least not for extraordinary extra cost.

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