This is serious business. When I first started I had a one page contract I cut and pasted from Google. Over the years as I got more experience it grew. It stands at about six pages at the moment. Each state has different laws and you really should have a lawyer who deals photographers locally look at it.
But where do you start? Google does help, ask a mentor to show you theirs. There are resources from the PPA and WPPI, you can purchase a templet from
Rachel Brenke a law photog. I purchased a template and added and changed a few paragraphs to it in the end.
It should cover every conceivable scenario you can think of: When and how many photos, model release, print release, acts of god, if you are ill, if you will be fed, turn around time, dealing with unreasonable requests, how long the files are held, retainer, cooperating with photos, protocol for if you can not make it, termination of contract for failure to pay, when and how much refunds are given, final payment deadlines, etc etc etc
I will say almost universally people say to use retainer instead of deposit in your legal contract.
I at the moment have a digital contract which can be signed through email. When I first started these were not legally valid but are now accepted. I also make it a point to say Lovebird 1 and Lovebird 2 when requesting information since I shoot a lot of same sex weddings.
Speaking of. I love same sex weddings. After I booked one a few years ago I had a fellow photographer ask me, “Well what did you say to them?” “Yes?” It took me a minute to realize that she was assuming I would turn them down since I was a Christian. I was a little shocked. Sometimes my rose colored glasses get in the way and I can’t believe people still feel that way in this century. I will say this unless you want to be sued you either book them and treat them as you would every other client or just say you are booked.
Make sure that anything important that needs to be stressed in the contract such as turn around time for images has to be initialed next to so they definitely see it and can’t say they didn’t know.
Cancelations happen. Specify in your contract what that means for the retainer and any money paid.
With the Contract I have them sign a Wedding Day Questionnaire with who what when where and why. I tell them it doesn’t need to be completely filled out because some clients panic. It is just a general idea of where and who I will be with that day.
I also see a lot of post about photogs being hounded by Mothers to get images and that are not happy with the images. Even if the parents pay. Have your couple be the ones that sign the contract so that you deal with them!
You need a solid contract! No matter how much you prepare stuff goes wrong!
Love your beautiful faces and stay legal.