I really debated on which topic to cover in this second part of my wedding photography series. Should it be tips on finding the best photographer for you? Or a post about legalities, budget and realism. I decided to go with
Legalities, Budget & Realism for Your Wedding
You are probably wondering what or why legalities have anything to do with wedding photography. I rarely thought about it either, until I became a wedding photographer many many moons ago. Then I had to have and sometimes prove the following:
- Business License
- Additional Equipment
- Copyright & Registration
First, let’s talk about “Business License“. While it really does not have anything to do with you, the client, it should concern you. Over the past few years I have heard so many people who have a “photography business”, but do not have a business license say “I don’t want to get into ‘all that’….” I am in the state of Alabama. In the state of Alabama, if you provide goods and services to the public for a fee or charge in any way, you are required by law to have a business license. My daughter’s oboe instructor is required to have a business license. (He also makes and sells oboe reeds.) One with a photography business is also required to have a business license. And it is not just one…. State, county and city. And in Jefferson County a self employed occupational license is also required. If you are rolling your eyes about right now, I want you to answer this question. If you have children, how many school supplies have you had to purchase for your child’s class room and school? How many pot holes have you run over or had to try and miss recently? Have you, a friend or a loved one needed the services of the police, fire or paramedics recently? Our schools, roads and the salaries of our civil servants are paid for by the collections of sales taxes and business license. Sales Taxes and Business Licenses are a good thing!
Insurance - This one is a biggie!!! Several years ago, there was an article being sent around that explained the hazards of hiring a wedding photographer without insurance. If I ever figure out how to post a pdf file, I will post it here. Apparently a couple found a cheap photographer to photograph their wedding. A guest tripped or fell over the photographer’s equipment. THE PHOTOGRAPHER HAD NO INSURANCE!!!! (Do you see where this is going?) The couple ended up liable to the tune of $150,000.
Your photographer needs general liability insurance, equipment insurance along with trust & indemnity insurance. Photographers have stands, lights, camera bags, tripods, cords, etc. and it sometimes things happen that are just beyond our control. I know one photographer who said while he was photographing a wedding in a church, his light stand fell over and broke a lamp. The lamp was $1000 to replace! His insurance covered it. Do you think if he was a few hundred dollar wedding photographer he could have covered that? When I first started out photographing weddings, all the venues I worked at (all churches, The Club, Vestavia Hills Country Club, etc) all required a certificate or declaration of insurance. Many venues no longer require the certificate or declaration of insurance from photographers, but instead are putting fine print in the contract for the bride and groom verify that any vendor that the bride & groom hires will have general liability insurance, etc, etc. What happens if the vendor that the bride and groom hire, whether photographer, caterer, florist, etc, does not have insurance and there is an accident or problem? The bride and groom are responsible!
Equipment insurance is for the photographer if anything is broken or stolen (it happens at weddings!) You do want your photographer to be able to go to his/her next photography job and have what they need to do that job. Trust & indemnity is an insurance that protects you as the client and photographer should film or camera cards be lost or destroyed before the delivery of your wedding photos.
The main point is, insurance is expensive. And it protects the client (bride & groom) and the photographer. Is it worth saving a few $$$ by hiring a ‘cheap’ or bargain photographer who cannot afford insurance? Only you can be the judge of that.
Equipment - I have seen master photographers shoot a complete wedding with one camera and lens. Master photographers! Highly skilled and the best at their craft! They, of course had a complete set of backup equipment in the trunk of their car. Your wedding photographer should have ample equipment. Primary and a backup. In film days I never went to a wedding with less than 4 cameras. I shot with 2, occasionally 3. (2 color 1 black & white). I never had equipment problems, but once and because I shoot with 2 cameras with color film, no one knew. I was covered. Your wedding photographer should at least be able to rent a back up camera for your wedding. My motto is “be prepared”. Murphy’s Law is always willing to step in.
Employees - I have never photographed a wedding without a second shooter and most of the time an assistant as well. Even small weddings held at the Hoover Lake House. (Beautiful venue!!!!!) Neither of which are minimum wage jobs. And very important to have at a wedding. This is something you also want to cover with your wedding photographer. Though, I have seen one master photographer photograph a large wedding all alone. (He was the same master photographer who used just the one camera and lens!) For weddings that require a photographer(s) all day, and multiple locations, often times a whole staff is required. I have seen photographers advertise “$199 full day coverage, includes 2 photographers, 8+ hours and a hi-res cd of all the photos edited.” I am here to tell you, not realistic! I have also gotten calls from engaged couples looking for someone with this type of package. Again, not realistic. By the time you factor in time, travel, out of pocket expenses and time editing you are talking about a small fraction of minimum wage per hour (Which is $7.25 per hour.), per person who is at your wedding for the purpose of capturing the memories of your wedding.
Copyright & registration – Some bridal clients mistake “including copyright” with “license to print.” Copyright ownership always stays with the creator (in the case of wedding photography, the photographer). The photographer registers the photos with the US Copyright office. That protects the photographer’s copyright and you. What I mean is, in this great day of world wide web, the photos may only be used by the photographer and whatever you and he/she agree on. As in, no one else may come randomly use these images.
Contracts – are a good thing and you want a photographer with a good solid wedding contract. It spells out everything so that there are no misunderstandings. Again, this is an item that protects both you and the photographer!
I had not intended for this post to be so long! I know that if you are looking for a wedding photographer, it was beneficial to you. If you are having difficulty finding a wedding photographer, please give me a call. I have several friends and colleagues who do beautiful work. And I would love to refer them to you.
I will cover Budget & Realism in my next post about weddings!