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jpnettie
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 09:37
Well I guess this was bound to happen to us at some point.

We booked a lovely couple last Oct 2008 for their upcoming wedding in August 2009.

Our contract which they signed and never questioned required a 30% deposit with the balance due on the day of the wedding. They signed the contract and gave us our deposit. We had a lengthy engagement session with them in January producing several images they were thrilled with including an online gallery.

She contacted us the other day and doesn't want to pay the balance on the wedding day. She claims that it isn't fair to her to pay for the images when they aren't in her possession until 4 weeks after the wedding. She is now asking us about actual printing of the images and wanting them included in her package. Our contract clearly states that she is provided with a high res DVD and online gallery with all images for 6 months .

My partner and I have responded with the terms of the contract and she keeps coming back to complain it isn't fair to her. We are shocked by this behaviour as we have always gone above and beyond for our clients and did so for this couple.

We have given her the option of getting out of the contract with a partial refund of her deposit provided we can re-book the date which is in 3 weeks! Not too likely. ..

Has anyone else experienced this and how did you handle this? I am really not feeling very inspired to shoot her wedding if this goes forward!

Photon Phil
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 09:41
Go with the contract.

If she wishes to break the terms then you don't show.

If you really need the money, then bend. But be ready for continuing complaints and whining.

jpnettie
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 09:48
Thanks Phil we really don't need the money so badly. She chose us because she loved our work, and we had a great rapour with them. We shall see what she decides to do. It really blindsided us as she was so pleased with her images from the engagement session and recommended us to other brides.

Bula Matali
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 09:58
My impression is that they are strapped for cash and she is simply trying to delay the final payment. She has probably overspent somewhere else and is making U guys suffer. I don't think it's about U...it's her financial issues.

Peacefield
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 10:09
I've had a rash of this lately. My retainer is fairly modest, but I want the balance 2 weeks PRIOR to the wedding. I ask for prior for a couple of reasons: neither of us have to deal with something like payment during a very hectic day and I get to know the check clears before I show up.

I always have a final phone call with the couple one month before the wedding just to confirm timing and logistics. Three times this month, I've had couples question why they need to pay BEFORE the wedding. They never said the words, but the vibe was how do they know I won't just take the money and not show up or produce the goods. I've been able to point to a combination of industry standard and my reputation and everything has been fine.

Beyond payment terms, there's no excuse for her wanting to renegotiate the deal. If she's already spending a lot with you, maybe offer the prints at a discount, but I wouldn't throw them in for nothing.

DunnoWhen
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 10:14
With the terms of your contract, you've painted yourself into a bit of a corner.

What would you do if you turned up on the day and they gave you some sob story about not being able to pay you there and then. Would you leave immediately or would you do the wedding?. I suspect you would probably do the wedding but feel a bit put out.:)

I would recommend that, from here on in, you modify the terms of your contract to required final payment 14 days before the date of the wedding. This will stop the above situation arising.

I think she is strapped for cash so, for now, I would request full payment, in cash, before starting to shoot the wedding or let her cancel, in which case I would keep the deposit.

[edit] Is she elects to cancel, make sure it's in writing and delivered prior to the date of the wedding.

jpnettie
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 10:21
I agree with you Peacefield. I know many photographers ask for the balance a week before the wedding. We did point to our reputation and pro accreditions and I think that Bula was correct in that she has overextended herself.
It has made me realize that we will verbally go over all terms of the contract with our couples so they are clear on the terms. We do usually have a meeting 3-4 weeks prior to their wedding and go over all last minute details but this couple has not had the time to meet with us .
I know in this industry we all have to go above and beyond and the last thing you want is someone who is rightly or wrongly dissatisfied with your work or business ethics...

Tommy
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 10:24
Stick to your contract.

I've been asked before why I have to be paid in full before the couple sees the images. I point out that they're not paying me for the images at that point... they're paying me for my time. The response is usually "what if I don't like the images?"... then I point out my "Non-Guarantee" clause. Whether you like the output or not, I still can't work for free... I've never had any problems though... I always go through EVERY aspect of the contract with my couples in person at the time of signing. They must initial every page, and sign. This indicates their complete understanding of the agreement.

In any case though, I would stick to the contract. If they don't pay, you don't work. ;)

Big Mike
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 10:32
Did they pay for the venue and the catering upfront?...probably.
Did she pay for the dress upfront?...probably.
Did she pay for the flowers before getting them?...probably.
Why should the photography be any different?

jonwhite
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 10:38
Having your final payment date the day of the event is a big mistake, 2 weeks prior should be the minimum so then at least you can make sure the cheque or other payment clears and it also makes it easier to get people to pay because they sure as hell dont want to risk you not showing.

We have had a few B&G question why it is full payment up front so we have our argument well sorted on that one now and it goes something along these lines.

Our Insurance and professional association membership protects our clients so if there are any issues with either our service our products that we fail to sort out ourselves you have a quick way of getting these issues resolved.

Of course we would never let it come to that because our business is built on referrals so we will always do what we can to make our clients happy.

Spin it round the other way and if you guys fail to pay us we are faced with taking expensive and time consuming legal action that we don't want to get involved so with all that in mind we always take full payment before the event.

Now your in the situation your in I would try and find out what the core issue is and try to help in some way but without compromising or risking your business, but make sure you change your terms for future clients.

jpnettie
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 10:47
Thank you all so much for your advice. It is amazing that this is the first time this has happened to us. We pay for insurance for these reasons thank you for reminding me of that Jon! In the future we will require payment two weeks in advance. We have some contracts for next year going out this week so this advice has been very helpful.

RobKirkwood
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 11:27
Agree entirely with what Jon just said - and brides sometimes get flakey in the run up to a wedding, so maybe she's over-stressed and not thinking straight?

One other thing, call it a "retainer" not a "deposit" ...deposit creates the impression in people's minds that it might be refunded. Ann and I have a strictly non-refundable retainer which guarantees we're locking the date out exclusively for the couple.

Rob

Mrsjperry
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 18:04
What is your process when contacting a client, do you:

Make/receive first initial call

Set up meeting to go over contract and collect retainer fee/deposit

Following meeting do you set up another meeting 2-3 weeks prior to wedding to collect balance/full payment, and go over details and last minute updates or do you opt out of a 2nd meeting and expect full payment via mail/credit card and replace the meeting with a phone call instead.

How would you handle it if instead of having a 1-2 years or 6 months notification of planning to shoot a wedding you're given less than a month

jonwhite
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 18:36
What is your process when contacting a client, do you:

Make/receive first initial call

Set up meeting to go over contract and collect retainer fee/deposit

Following meeting to you set up another meeting 2-3 weeks prior to wedding to collect balance/full payment, and go over details and last minute updates or do you opt out of a 2nd meeting and expect full payment via mail/credit card and replace the meeting with a phone call instead.

How would you handle it if instead of having a 1-2 years or 6 months notification of planning to shoot a wedding you're given less than a month

Stick to the exact same process as outlined above but you may end up taking full payment when they book you rather than a retainer if its that close to the wedding, personally I have never been booked for anything less than 3 months in advance but if I did get a short notice one the process would be the same as would be the payment schedule.

AngelaDuncanPhotography
15th of July 2009 (Wed), 19:30
I had a similar situation to this for my first wedding of June this year, but the family admitted to financial issues. I require payment to be paid 10 days prior to the ceremony. In most cases, not only am I spending my time to be at the wedding, but I am also having to pay for transportation and lodging for myself, as was the case with this wedding - I travel 2.5 hours one way for this wedding.

When their payment approached nearly 6 days late, I spoke with them and they told me that they were working on a loan and should have the money soon. In my contract it sates clearly that no money=no photos (not in those words of course.) She then asked if she could pay it on the day of the wedding. I could have said no and not shot the wedding. I would have been legally in the right to not go to the wedding, but I was afraid of WOM referrals being bad and the bride twisting around the situation - her friends are going to believe her over you any day, whether what she says is true or not.

I sought the advice of some other photographer friends of mine and they suggested talking with them and trying to make a deal - such as I need X amount to be able to come out and shoot the wedding - that's the VERY minimum and then I need the rest before post processing on any of your images even starts.

I would approach it by saying something along the lines of "I understand your concerns..." and assure them of your morals and high standards and all that good jazz and then include "...but if finances are really the issue then perhaps our studio could be generous and allow you XYZ leway with your payment."

I know how important WOM is to photographers and I know that you are in a tough spot and really probably don't want to not shoot the wedding. End the end though, there are just people who want something for nothing and that could be one of those people.

Whatever you do will be what's right.

Good luck...

Jared Byer
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 07:21
If you value the client and in this one circumstance are willing to be flexiable, I would suggest you offer to accept 30-50% of the balance before the wedding and the last 20-40% before delivery.

Then I would follow the suggestions above to help make sure this isn't an issue in the future.

Perhaps for weddings booked a year or so in advance you might consider 10% a month over 10 months. You could do the E session after x number months with x being the minum non-refundable amount you would accept for the e session by itself.

jpnettie
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 11:22
An update...


We sent an email with the attached contract, she came back again and said she really didn't understand why we had these terms.

We asked the bride what the confusion/uncertainty was 3 weeks before the wedding. We expressed our concern that she hadn't read the contract at the time of signing and told her if she felt uncomfortable with the contract or us we would allow her to cancel the contract but we would have to keep the deposit because we would not get a booking at this late date.

After this she completely backed down and said everything was "all good" just some of her friends had photogs that didn't require final payment until images were delivered.

We have already changed out contract to state "non refundable retainer" and we require payment 2 weeks in advance.

Thanks everyone!

mandt
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 11:33
That's exactly it, she talked to her other friends, that told her the terms they had when they got a photographer. I'm glad it is resolved.

Big Mike
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 13:41
What are the odds that 'her friends' had someone's 'Uncle Bob' shoot their weddings?

Live and learn :)

figmented
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 17:36
Even at my local print shop I help run, we require 50% deposit before printing their stuff such as business cards, then before they get them in their hands they pay us the other 50%.

DennisW1
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 18:30
An update...


We sent an email with the attached contract, she came back again and said she really didn't understand why we had these terms.

We asked the bride what the confusion/uncertainty was 3 weeks before the wedding. We expressed our concern that she hadn't read the contract at the time of signing and told her if she felt uncomfortable with the contract or us we would allow her to cancel the contract but we would have to keep the deposit because we would not get a booking at this late date.

After this she completely backed down and said everything was "all good" just some of her friends had photogs that didn't require final payment until images were delivered.

We have already changed out contract to state "non refundable retainer" and we require payment 2 weeks in advance.

Thanks everyone!


Yeah, right.....after a year she suddenly doesn't "understand"? Sorry, but you don't owe her an explaination of why your contract terms are what they are, and if she doesn't read what she signs then it's suddenly not your fault.

Good for you that you took the initiative to discuss the situation with her and get an explaination of her concerns. I suppose in the future, aside from the wise move you made in re-writing your contract, you are also probably wise (if you don't already do this) in going over the contract line-for-line with the clients to make sure that they understand the terms and that they are okay with them, just to save you the grief of another situation like this down the road.

You would think that this wouldn't be necessary with adults, but people sign things all the time that they don't read carefully and then later wonder what the hell they had gotten themselves into.

Mark1
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 18:37
We have already changed out contract to state "non refundable retainer" ...


As it was explained to me a retainer does not have to be "non refundable". to be, non refundable. Being "retained" is a service. Basically she is paying you to keep that day open for her. As oposed to a deposit that is for services/product TO BE rendered. This is why lawers use retainers. They get paid to be there at a moments notice, wether you need them or not. If you dont...to bad, you paid them to be ready, and they were.

sstricklandphoto
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 19:18
Very informative- sounds similar to when I tried to book a bride, thankfully she did not sign a contract and give a deposit. I'm glad everything worked out for you!

bnlearle
16th of July 2009 (Thu), 21:48
I say "non-refundable retainer for the service of..." and I explain what I am doing for them (holding date, turning other clients away) I don't simply do for free. Is it overboard? Maybe. Is it clear as day? You bet :)

Bobby

kenshinvt
19th of July 2009 (Sun), 12:15
I say "non-refundable retainer for the service of..." and I explain what I am doing for them (holding date, turning other clients away) I don't simply do for free. Is it overboard? Maybe. Is it clear as day? You bet :)

Bobby

not overboard at all, and a very wise decision IMO.

May even be better if it was made clear that it was completely separate from any other services rendered. This is a minor point, but bear with me -

For example, a $2000 package is broken down into a clear $500 retainer fee and a $1500 services fee in the contract. Compare that with a $500 retainer/deposit that described as being "put towards the cost of" or "reducing the overall cost of" a $2000 package.

That way, if there was ever a lawsuit, the other side couldn't argue that while it was called a "retainer", it was effectively a mere deposit towards the total cost of services rendered (and thus, should be recoverable as damages). Just some thoughts on that - it could be one more factor in helping protect your deposit from being taken away if there was ever a contract lawsuit that resulted.

also to the OP - I just wanted to add that I think you are being more than understanding about this situation. Probably just some crazy pre-wedding 'bridezilla'ing' - no rational thought involved, and good of you to recognize that. Regardless of the contract, ultimately you win because you choose whether or not to hand over the images.

Southswede
20th of July 2009 (Mon), 18:19
I just got "stiffed" for payment on the wedding day. "I don't know where my wife is with the check" stated the father of the bride. Even though both of brides parents saw me throughout the day.

That's ok. I have not delivered the pictures. And will NOT do so until full payment is received.....

gravy graffix
20th of July 2009 (Mon), 19:08
^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^

EXACTLY why you get it before the date... i get mine at our final meeting to go over everything...

Southswede
20th of July 2009 (Mon), 19:19
Well I just received an e mail. I will get paid tomorrow.....

SoccerRef
21st of July 2009 (Tue), 15:58
My contract stipulates that I receive monies before the wedding as well.

I had a bride very recently who called and said the check was in the mail on the day it was due. I indicated that was fine and thanks for calling. (That meant I didn't have to call her...) Or so it should have meant I didn't have to call her...

Three days before the wedding, 7 days after payment was due, I still hadn't received it. I had called her 2 days prior to that, and she insisted she had sent it. She said she would check with the bank. She called me back the following day and said the check hadn't cleared and asked if it would be ok to bring a new check to the rehearsal the following day. I agreed. (I also admit, I went to HER bank to cash the check to insure it was good...it was.)

While we were shooting her preparation photos my wife sent me a text, "Your check arrived today!" I showed it to the bride who laughed and was glad to know that it hadn't been stolen.

Hangerhead
3rd of August 2009 (Mon), 08:44
Just a Q for original poster (I'm not a wedding photographer) I just like aking pictures and reading this site...
would it have been ok for you to have turned up for the shoot anyway, take all the pictures as agreed and then hold onto them (just creating some v.small down res'd samples) so the bride could see the overall quality of your work/watermarked and realise that you had done your job...and then wait for payment...or change the finaly payment to a per picture basis/individual release?

Like I say, just asking...I want to develop my skills/knowledge for some time yet but I have already shot my brother-in-laws engagement in Tehran as well as his wedding, and also some shots for my sister's wedding too in England.

captiva
3rd of August 2009 (Mon), 16:38
Good thread. My contracts state that a "retainer" of 300 is paid at the time of finalising the contract. The contract states that the retainer is paid to ensure the date chosen for the wedding is kept clear by myself. The full payment has to be paid no later than 2 calendar months before the wedding date. I have never had anyone argue the case for paying after the wedding and I spent money wisely getting a lawyer to make sure the contract is watertight and is always dated and signed by both bride and groom.
They get a copy as do I.

The only time Ive had a problem with the contract was when a client called me 8 months before her date and asked if she could have the retainer back due to winning a 3 photographer wedding shoot at the scottish wedding fair. I was polite, quoted her contract word for word, asked her to put it in writing to me and when I recieved it, told her that she had forfeited the retainer due to her cancelling the contract.

She accepted this and said maybe she should have taken time to read the contract.

As you can imagine I was well Peed off on the day she phoned. Human nature and a punch to the "Pride" is a strange thing.

Danny

jpnettie
3rd of August 2009 (Mon), 19:31
Just a Q for original poster (I'm not a wedding photographer) I just like aking pictures and reading this site...
would it have been ok for you to have turned up for the shoot anyway, take all the pictures as agreed and then hold onto them (just creating some v.small down res'd samples) so the bride could see the overall quality of your work/watermarked and realise that you had done your job...and then wait for payment...or change the finaly payment to a per picture basis/individual release?

Like I say, just asking...I want to develop my skills/knowledge for some time yet but I have already shot my brother-in-laws engagement in Tehran as well as his wedding, and also some shots for my sister's wedding too in England.

Yes, I suppose we could have just held onto the images until she finally paid. She was thrilled with her engagement shots so she knew our quality. We have already changed out terms and will not face this situation again. We just have to look at it as a learning experience. I doubt we will even get a referral on this wedding even though our images are solid. We are booking at a higher rate now and people don't want to know they are paying more than a friend did! We made a decision based on our experience and quality and what other photogs at the same level we were at were charging.

Buy the best quality equipment you can afford. Build your portfolio, take workshops, read forums and learn as much as you can.

Bobster
4th of August 2009 (Tue), 08:52
i dont do money on the day, i get 50% of the remaining amount a week before..

turbo212003
6th of August 2009 (Thu), 19:39
In the state of our economy, I can see this happening more and more.


My clients, pay 4 weeks before the wedding at a final meeting to clear up any details that might have changed. I haven't had a problem yet....