Yes, the interviewee, IB Koleosho, is an attorney, but she isn’t your attorney, and this blog post does not create an attorney-client relationship. The information in this blog post is based on US laws. This post includes legal information and should not be seen as legal advice. You should consult with an attorney before you rely on this information.
We had a chat with US-based Nigerian attorney, IB Koleosho. IB has years of experience working in contract law. She gave us some insight into her work and practical tips for future brides and grooms when it comes to hiring a wedding photographer.
Can you tell us a little about yourself?
I am the daughter of Nigerian immigrants who enjoys learning from others, trying out new things, and working towards being a better person. In July 2015, I decided to make radical changes in my life. I lost over 130 lbs, overcame my fear of public speaking, and developed a powerful network that is driven professionally and personally.
Why did you become a lawyer? What is your focus?
My dad wanted me to be a lawyer or doctor, but I did not want to be a doctor because I don’t like looking at blood. I am glad that I figured out that I enjoy working on contracts. Being a lawyer is now my dream and not my dad’s.
I have years of experience working in a sales organization where I review, draft, and negotiate contracts. Although business contracts can be frustrating at times, I enjoy structuring agreements to meet the business team’s needs and working with the other side.
Those I work with describe me as a great business partner, which is what I strive to be. They note that I take the time to listen to my clients’ concerns and answer any questions they have. We work together to reduce the business risks associated with the contract. Working on contracts isn’t a solo activity; I work with the other side and not against them.
Let’s dive right into it! Should all engaged couples have written agreements with their vendors? What are the most important/affected areas?
Absolutely yes. An agreement is the foundation of the relationship with the vendor. The agreement should include what services the couple is receiving, what happens in case of an emergency, and what are the expectations for each party (vendor and couple). Lastly, you should include a delivery date in your contract.
What are your general tips for reviewing a photography service agreement?
First, the price quoted assumes agreeing to their contract without significant changes. Therefore, they should review the agreement carefully and discuss any concerns with their photographer.
Second, they should view the agreement presented to them as a conversation starter to understand what services they are paying for, what expectations the photographer has from them, and what they should expect from the photographer.
Third, they should make sure the agreement covers the key details that are important to them. Knots.com has a great list of these items here. They should pay attention to any clauses stating their obligations (what the photographer requires from them), the cancellation/refund policy, and clauses that cover the “what ifs” (e.g., what if the photographer can’t make the event).
Additionally, they must understand the cost stated in the contract. What is included in the initial service? Are there additional costs to have a license to the photographs or make copies for personal use? If so, does the photographer have to get approval from them beforehand? Ideally, the agreement should list these expenses.
Lastly, as I mentioned before, they should include a delivery date for their wedding photos.
Does a couple own their wedding photos? What happens if they have signed an agreement, but it does not discuss ownership?
No. The only way to transfer the copyright is in writing and signed by both parties. The fact that they hired the photographer for a wedding doesn’t change anything unless there’s an implied understanding that they will own the photos upon sending the final payment.
Copyright is a property right established under the Federal Copyright Act of 1976. According to the U.S. Copyright Office, the owner of the “work” is the photographer because ownership of the photographs is established the moment the photographer takes the photos.
Okay, so all a couple has to do is have the photographer transfer the copyrights to them in the contract?
Based on industry standards, photographers will probably only grant you a license to the photos and will not completely assign their copyrights. Even if they were to do so, it would be very pricey.
With photography services agreements, you may find that some photographers will give the client a licensed copy of the images for personal use as part of their services. Others won’t include the license as part of their initial services and clients will have to purchase a “Copyright image release”.
When selecting a photographer, it is important to understand if they will grant a license to the photos as part of the service or if the couple has to purchase the license separately.
Can the hired photographer send someone else to take the wedding photos without notifying the bride and groom?
Unfortunately, the photographer can use someone else (e.g., subcontractor, replacement, or substitute) to take the wedding photos if (1) the contract is silent about it or (2) the contract explicitly states that the photographer can find a replacement, substitute or subcontractor in the event the he or she is not available.
How can couples protect themselves in such a case?
First, they should have a conversation with the potential photographer. Second, they should remember that the contract presented by the photographer is a starting point. They can always discuss their concerns with the photographer and figure out a solution that works for both parties. If the agreement is silent, they should include a clause explaining the photographer’s rights if he or she is not available.
Do you have any other advice you’d like to share with brides and grooms?
Pick photographers with more flexible terms. The best leverage in any negotiation is the ability to walk away.
Where can our readers find you?
Follow me on LinkedIn.
Any final thoughts?
Given the reasons, I stated above, having a written contract with your photographer is important.
The interview with IB showed us just how many things brides and grooms should take into consideration when choosing their vendors, and more specifically, their photographers. Engaged couples should not skip the steps mentioned above.