Brides parents want to delay payments for work

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by dmcgphoto, Dec 14, 2008.

  1. Evening all, I'm curious about how the "family" would handle this one.
    My situation is that the brides parents are paying for her pictures, in my contract I state a non refundable deposit and the remainder of payment paid by wedding day.
    The brides parents wish to rework the contract to essentially break payment up into 3 parts, deposit, wedding day, and when the pictures are delivered.
    I do not do this, all kinds of reasons and experiences, but suffice it to say that I feel signing a contract, having insurance, being an LLC should provide as much reassurance to her folks that I am not merely going to take the money and run. Not to mention an arms lengths list of references...
    Here's where you folks come in; How would you explain this to the parents (who live far away so meeting with them is not a real possibility) I don't want to come off as a rude Yankee, or be condescending to people who are spending a large amount of money. I just don't want to have to be hunting down payments after my only serious means of leverage has been compromised.
    So gang, how would you handle this?
  2. Start by understanding that a lot of people are hurting right now.

    You could make this work by only by taking the first third as a non-refundable retainer, the second third at the wedding, and ntil the final third is paid only publishing the gallery of selects at a small size (no larger than 500 pixels on the long side) highly compressed JPEGS. Make sure they all have yourwatermark in the frames (Lightroom makes this dead simple to do) You might include in that gallery some full resolution frames that are cropped down to 500 pixel by 500 pixels of significant details.
    Keep all communications in writing to eliminate any "I said, they said" fueld conflicts.
  3. While I understand the concept of times being tight, this is not one of those circumstances, they are asking to delay payment until the images are done and received. Not saying they can't afford the services.
  4. Daniel -
    Do you already have a signed contract or is this a "potential" client?
    I'm with Ellis on this one - I don't think they're worried about you taking the money and running, but that certainly may be playing into it - but more likely they're worried about money right now (who isn't?) and want to try to spread things out a bit from the wedding.
    If you don't already have a contract with them, I'd say go for it. 1/3 now, 1/3 at day of or before and 1/3 after. Do as suggested - don't delivery (phyically) any photos until you get the money... I learned that one the hard way - groom paid all but $100.00 and said that I'd have the balance in week... It's now been 50 weeks. Remember that there's always someone who'll do it the way they want to.
    If you already have a signed agreement / contract with them, then you will need to write up a change order, assuming that you want to go through with the change. Both you and they will need to sign and agree to the new terms.
  5. All people are hurting. Including small business owners. Explain to your clients exactly what you pointed out to reputation and longevity in the profession. That in itself is their guarantee for their investment. That's what separates professionals from amateurs. And that's how professionals can require what they require. They chose you obviously because of your work and reputation. For them to all of a sudden want to change boats in mid stream is not fair to you.
    How about if YOU suddenly told them "gee, with this economy, I'm going to eliminate your main album and only give you an xxxx album". They wouldn't like it. So why should we have to suck it up when a client wants to change things on us. They made a free choice. Abide by the legally binding contract. No one put a gun to their head forcing them to book with you.
  6. Daniel,
    If you do decide to allow payment in thirds, DO NOT make the arrangements for the second payment to take place at the wedding. You could show up ready to go and they don't have the check waiting or they may pay you but the check bounce, etc. Be sure to collect no later than two weeks before the event so you can be certain of the funds clearing.
    Same with releasing the images. Arrange for the final payment to be at least one week before your scheduled delivery date. That way, you can work with them and still protect yourself. I got slammed a couple of times early in my wedding career and learned the hard way, but I learned fast and made the needed adjustments.
    Your reputation will help as leverage, but as others have said, these are tough times for everyone and working with a client in some cases might be great for that relationship and for good PR.
    Good luck.
  7. Your practice of a half and half payment arrangement is the same as mine, and it's a valid one. One thing I think many vendors (and clients too) fail to realize is that any business has to have cash flow to operate and flourish. I spoke with a friend who operates a popular wedding venue recently. Most folks book that venue for a total cost $5000 or so, depending on services and arrangements they select. The vendor takes a $500 non-refundable deposit (I told him it should be "retainer" not deposit) to hold the venue. He says about 6 or 7 couples a year cancel out for various reasons (they break up, they change their mind, they run out of money, whatever), and there he sits with $500 and no guarantee of booking the venue for that date again at the last minute. It's the same problem with us photographers. We can just as easily get caught out at the last minute with a broken up (or broke) couple, no other booking for that date, and without the rest of "the carrot" to finish the job.
    I told him that his problem was that his potential clients have no "skin in the game" this way, and he's losing thousands of dollars to these cancellations. And his venue is a TON more expensive to operate than my photography business. A lot more legwork to keep up too.
    What you have to keep in mind is that it may be a whole year or more before you actually get to shoot that wedding and get the other half of the "carrot". You've got expenses between now and then, and must have cash flow to survive. Explain to your clients (verbally in a get-acquainted warm fuzzy phone call) that many such businesses operate this way, and that you have your business to maintain. Your practices ensure that a) you are able to maintain your business even in difficult economic times, b) that you agree to turn away all other offers for your services in the meantime, even if they were to be more lucrative, c) that the fee guarantees to them the excellence of your product and your personal work on their special day, and d) protects you as a business person the same way it protects them as the client. Go over your references, vendor partners, testimonials, etc. if they doubt your veracity.
    If that doesn't wash with them, and you really want/need the job, you might offer to let them break up the payment into three payments (first two non-refundable), but all must be paid by the wedding day in full. If they fail to make the last payment, you should still shoot the event (even though your contract says you're exempt from having to do so), and withold their images until paid in full. Be nice, be professional, and be diplomatic. You don't want to run them off, you just want them to play ball and see you as a professional. Stick by your practices.
  8. All good thinking, I already do What George, Ellis, and David suggest as part of my normal work; within 2 weeks of the wedding there's a slideshow up for people to see about 10% of the pictures set to the music of their first dance and a few others.
    The clients want me, at this moment no contract is signed, the reason for that is one I wasn't aware of until after the fact, with the parents paying, they sent the contract to parents in TX, people who haven't met me or had me sit in their kitchen to answer questions (as I did with their daughter and future son in law) there away from any questions asked or answered, did they decide they wish to add this provision. Though my contract states clearly that payment must be made by wedding day.
    Their position is that they don't wish to pay for anything completely, no matter the cost, until pictures are in their hand. My position is that I will not accept payment on terms dictated outside of my control. My thinking is that well, let's face it, I don't want someone deciding that Uncle Bob's pictures are just as good as mine because in his everyone is smiling at the camera, and why should they pay full price for "fuzzy" I wait until the pictures are in their hands, or online to have to try and explain depth of field to the parents of the bride?
    What I really need is the most persuasive way to educate my clients parents (or because they are paying are THEY my clients?) that professional photographers sign contracts, provide references, and belong to professional organizations, not craigslist (not that there's anything wrong with that :))!
    So how would you tell them that they shouldn't worry, even though they are?
  9. Don't give the files, images, whatever you do, until all of the money is paid. I've had a few clients that took their time paying, I just didn't give them anything until the payments were made. One client came by to see the photo's and wanted to take them, but I had to say no. Within a month or 2 she got her prints. If you give your work away before they make their final payment, most likely you will be in court asking the judge to make them pay you.
  10. Been here before. My response was simply to offer a full refund and suggest that they find another photogrpher willing to do this. I ONLY have the bride and groom as my contract parties, regardless of how they provide the funds...
    Not happeining in my world, sorry.
  11. Can you find out the payment terms for the florist, caterer, wedding planner and reception hall facility? I'd make my terms congruent with theirs.
  12. Hi Daniel ...
    I've been doing weddings on a part-time basis for over 10 years now. In a one-line background: been shooting advanced amateur for over 40 years and when I retired I took some courses and started doing wedding photography - first two as second camera with a pro, then one in-the-family freebie for my nephew - using Pentax 645N and for the last year all digital with the usual photos on DVD and an enhanced version with composites and music.
    Regarding payments - I could never understand why most - if not all - pro photographers required that full payment be made BEFORE having any of the goods delivered. So against much advice to the contrary, I split the payment schedule into 4 payments: (1) the non-refundable deposit to reserve the wedding date (2) a second payment two weeks before the wedding (3) 3rd payment when I deliver a portion of the deliverables - usually a hundred or so 4x6 and 5 8x12's along with the photos on a DVD (4) last payment when I deliver the enhanced DVD with composites and music.
    And I've never had a single problem with this method. I usually have approximately 80% of the due payment by the time the wedding comes around and the first two cheques have had time to clear.
    By the way, the deliverables were somewhat different when I shot film but the concept with deliverables was similar.
  13. My contract says 50% with the signed contract and the balance 2 weeks before the wedding dare. I've been asked to change this a few tims, explained my reasons for not modifying the contract and have not lost a couple over this,,,,yet.
  14. Thanks all, I'm just going to try and explain it to the parents, as for other vendors, their work is different then ours. We all know of enough bad luck stories where photographers skipped town.
    I am just going to do my best to explain to the parents that it's just not done, and they have the option of working with another photographer should my contract not work out for them, thing is, nobody in this market works with deliverables first payment second.
    Bob, yours is the scenario I hope to avoid.
    thanks guys
  15. The problem with Raymond's method, as I explained earlier, is that if the couple breaks up or becomes broke due to any of a world of unforseen circumstances that can happen to anyone, he's stuck with only 1/4th of his money, he's turned away any other possible inquiries, and he potentially ends up with no other booking to fill that date. I'm glad he's never had a problem with that practice, but it's not the best method...from a business standpoint.
  16. Steve, explaining to a customer that you need the cashflow now to cover current expenses is not good business practice. How do you plan to cover the real expenses that occur when you shoot the wedding? In my book, you are running a shoestring operation that is doomed to fail in a faltering economy. Deposits/retainers should, in theory, sit in a trust account to be used when you start the project, not pay last years rent, etc.
    This is a primary reason a lot of small businesses go under, they are severely under-capitalized and use deposits, etc, to cover current expenses and when the time comes to deliver the goods and services contracted for they are out of money and out of business, with pissed off customers who will not book similar services from other providers when they have to prepay months in advance.
  17. I think you missed something Bob. First, I don't get into the actual discussion of how I spend my fees with the client. I was simply explaining the reasoning, which I think the OP fully understands, and I hope most here do as well.
    To any questioning client (and they're very few, 98% of my clients expect this arrangement), I simply maintain that to stay in business, and provide excellent service, these are my policies. Most photographers I know (except the newbies) do the same thing, and it's an accepted practice to take half and half. I'm paid half to book and the other half on or prior to the wedding day (this is typically where any fulfillment expenses are covered). What's left is what we in the business world refer to as "profit". Since the half retainer fee up front is non-refundable, there is no need for it to sit in a trust account; I can use it to operate my business, market, repair gear, etc. Since the last half covers studio fulfillment (typically proof book, disc, and print package, which is in the $100-200 range at most), and what's left is profit, and since the client gets what he's contracted for, there are no collection issues, no squabbles, and happy clients. There's nothing shoestring about it at all, it's what most of us do.
    We have to have cash flow to operate a business. Let's say a $500 or even $1000 lens craps out at a wedding. We can't afford to be without that lens for the next shoot, can we? We have to have enough capital available to not only cover our normal operating expenses, but the unexpected ones as well. We send the lens off to be repaired, buy a replacement lens to use in the meantime (assuming we can't rent one), and then when the repaired lens comes back, we Ebay it to recoup most of our money.
    If I kept a retainer fee sitting in a trust account, and could not touch it until the wedding (who would police that, anyway?), that creates a situation of spiking cash flow (peaks and valleys) as opposed to smooth cash flow. I'll take smooth.
    I'm not "under-capitalized" with this practice at all. I'm not sure where you get that idea from. Rather, as new bookings come in and existing ones are fulfilled, one can make a very good living with the right business model.
  18. What the parents are requesting was actually the typical payment policy for most studios 10-20 years ago.....their request may be primarily due to what's familiar and comfortable for them as a matter of their experience. I'd probably be OK with it.
    I also agree with David W.: no matter who actually provides the payment, the B and/ or G are the ones who sign the contract and are identified as the clients.
  19. I tend to always work on a 3 part fee-schedule anyway - in fact, exactly as your client has asked for. But with the proviso that nothing is handed over without final payment, and usually the final payment is at the viewing.
    First payment is booking fee, which is always non-refundable, since the service is to make the booking. Second payment is 50% of the fee; wholly, partially or non-refundable in case of cancellation on a sliding scale commensurate with notice; final payment is balance of account on delivery of product.
  20. Daniel:
    I'd simply restate my policy. My fee structure is based on payment up front. If I'm going to have to hire somebody to chase accounts receivable, I would need to increase my fees. Since that doesn't contribute to the quality of the product I create for my clients, I choose not to use that approach.
    It doesn't really matter what other vendors do (most of whom are paid up front, too.) The only policy that matters is yours. I'm assuming you have a sound business reason for all your polices. If you can change any of them without adversely affecting your business, I'd question why you have the policy in the first place.
  21. Hi Steve C. ...
    You wrote "... he's stuck with 1/4th of hismoney ..." ... well, not exactly.
    I have 80% of my due payment TWO WEEKS BEFORE the wedding and the checks have had time to clear.
  22. To put a little finer point on my final payment policy, my contract is written with specific language that accounts for funds being paid in full (checks have been cashed, or funds are paid in cash) by wedding day. So I'm paid in full (cash in hand) on wedding day. A "two weeks before" policy is standard for many shooters, and is a good idea, but most shooters I know require 100% of funds in hand, not just 80%. I guess we all have our different methods, and if it's working for you, I've got no problem with it.
  23. I personally would not accept any agreement, where they pay you for pictures when you deliver them.
    b/c then you'll hear the old standby "well you'll get the money if I like them", I fully understand that lots of people are broke these days ..... and I am too, but I also know a bad business idea when I hear one.
  24. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    What the parents are requesting was actually the typical payment policy for most studios 10-20 years ago.....

    That was so here, too, and now the studio has modified it to be 50% / 35% / 15%.
    The 50% on booking; 35% four to two weeks out; 15% on supply of goods.
  25. My own method is 20% to book and balance on the day of the wedding. There have been rare occassions when they forgot the check. Then there are times where I know the couple has to leave the party and go to the room to get the check and I'll (using my judgement) tell them to just mail it to me. I have found that making these exceptions brings an awful lot of good will. You really have to have a feel, though, when those exeptions are made - for the couple. But, I've always gotten paid. 100% of the time. I guess it is because those photos are being held hostage ;-)
    There have only been 2-3 times that I allowed the couple to pay a third portion of the balance when the proofs were ready. These were cases when I really liked the couple and really wanted to shoot their wedding but knew things were tight.
    I say you have to use your judgement and also decide if you might loose the wedding if you stuck to your policy. How hungry are you? It is very rare that a couple will get divorced or not want the photos after the wedding. I find the photos that you are holding until the check clears is a great motivator for payment. I'd first try and stick to my guns and if there is further objections, I might go ahead. But that's me and probably because I've never been burned.
  26. If I may, as someone who has to deal with folks who have been victims of people who take the money and run, I'd like to add this - it is nothing personal.
    I can create a LLC or corporation with a phone call in less than a day for a couple of hundred dollars. That still won't prevent me from taking the money and running.
    A contract doesn't guaranty anything. It's just a written agreement to use in court for grounds to sue - that's assuming you can actually find and serve the guy. And even then, it is no guarantee. Ask a member of your state's BAR for more information.
    Insurance? What kind? General Liability means nothing if you don't deliver. That is for hurting someone on the job or if someone gets hurt in your studio. Do you have Errors and Omissions insurance and the proof? That's what I would want to see. And even then, the insurance company may refuse to pay anything.
    References. Those can be faked too - up to a point. And a bad reputation will not be known by an out of towner. And even then, many folks are so afraid of being sued, they won't give an honest reference; therefore, I take references with a grain of salt. I've been burned by them before myself.
    Even then, when times get tough, some folks trade in their good name and start ripping folks off. Meaning, after years of doing business legitimately, times get rough for whatever reason, and to make a quick buck, these people start ripping off their customers. This usually happens with alcoholics, drug or gambling addicts.
    One of the biggest scams in home improvement and other businesses is that contractor demands 50% up front for materials. Then they disappear without doing a thing.
    Having benchmarks for payment is something that is done quite frequently in business. Software projects are done like this all the time. The same for building contracts.
    It is, of course, up to you - it is your business. I just wanted to give the other side to show that they may not be wanting to rip anyone off either.
  27. Money up front before delivery of services. I am a lawyer, and this is the rule in my business too. If you deliver the full service before full payment is made, at best you become a bank, extending credit to the client, and at worst you go out of business due to clients not paying you after you did the work.
    But you could certainly split it up into three payments. Just insist that the third payment be in your bank account-a money order or certified check, or their personal check has cleared their bank-- before you deliver the final goods.
    This business of not paying you until you give them the pictures is not a good way to do for you to do business if you want to be paid in full. They are putting all the risk on you.
    If they insist on getting the photos before they make the final payment, then they are up to no good in my opinion. They are looking for a reason to not make that final payment.
    When these folks were young, say in 1969, I think people were more honest in their dealings with small businesses and professionals than they seem to be now. Unfortunately. You would not believe the size of the accounts receivable in many small law firms, due to clients who won't pay after the work is performed!
  28. I am a retired attorney with extensive experience in contract work. Allow me to give another perspective.
    What the clients ( B&G, parents, whatever) are worried about is any possible failure on your part to perform. Their holdback is there to motivate you to complete your contract obligations. I am sure that you are a reputable, conciencious person, but there are those out there who aren't. Sometimes those who aren't need a little motivation.
    What if you die or become otherwise incapacitated? What if you just don't get around to editing and delivery? So there are the clients who have paid the full price, standing around with nothing.
    IMHO, their request is not unreasonable. The worst that will happen to them if they use your scheme is that they are left with nothing. The worst that will happen to you if you use their scheme is that you are out 1/3 of the fee.
    I suggest that you review what I have said, and then work out something fair to both parties.
  29. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "One of the biggest scams in home improvement and other businesses is that contractor demands 50% up front for materials. Then they disappear without doing a thing."

    Yes, I understand that . . . I bought a swimming pool as a gift for my wife's 50th birthday. That was a considerable investment; the contract was split into payments: 15% / 30% / 30% / 20% and then 5% upon satisfaction.

    Now, IMO, withholding only 5% payment as leverage for satisfaction, is not much leverage at all. So I took the time and put in the shoe leather to check the references out and visited three previous clients and asked them questions, and looked at six other finished jobs . . . I think in some cases the clients (Bride and Groom) are just a bit lazy and part with their money too easily.

    Just mentioned to provide balance, when one uses the terms "victims".

  30. Bob - Just a slight difference though which is why I've made (rarely) the occassional exception. Where the "work is performed" the product is still in my hands. It is a product they really want badly and the risk is much less then in your business. Having said that, my policy is to be paid the balance the day of. But, I've personally never had a problem. As I said, we do hold their prized posssession as the carrot for final payment.
  31. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    What I mean by both my previous comments is . . .

    it seems to me the "Parents" would be just like me if I were buying Wedding Photos . . . they have most likely checked you and your work out and are comfortable with the product you will provide but they only want that extra security of paying the last bit on delivery.

    If I were you I would make a firm counter offer with a smaller amount at the end, such as my previous example. In fact that 50 / 35 / 15 split has been commented upon by clients as the deal clincher - the fact that they are withholding 15% makes the client feel in more secure with us than with our competition who want full payment, in advance.

    You might be in an area where bad debts are severe, but whatever the size of the package or price you charge, 15% is not that much for the clients to find for delivery . . . make it 10% if that fits better with your cash flow and gross profit.

    Whatever you decide, I advise NOT to enter into bartering. If you decide to vary your contract and way of doing business for this particular client, make an "exception" to understand the Parent's wishes and engage their special requirement and subdue any fears they might have.

    Make a FIRM, one off counter proposal - if I read the Parents correctly, a firm counter proposal will be respected - a wishy-washy barter will expose you to manipulation, if their design is veiled and I am reading them the wrong way.

  32. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "This business of not paying you until you give them the pictures is not a good way to do for you to do business if you want to be paid in full. They are putting all the risk on you."

    Bob, I disagree 100%. IMO it is the best business model for most Wedding Photography Businesses I have come across and I have refined it to suit three different studios, catering for (subtly) different clients, over several years.

    You were / are in a different business to me. All businesses are different: we must compare Apples to Apples.

    Ditto what Mary wrote - I still hold the images that's the leverage. A Lawyer, Surgeon Dentist, has done the job, nothing is withheld.

    Plus the smaller % payment at the end, at the point of gratification is the very most important bit - easy for them to pay . . .

    and then there is the psychology of the Client’s experience of what they paid, at the time of gratification.

    There is quite a lot more to it also, but they are the three main points – plus the leverage with competition which I previously mentioned.

    BTW . . . leverage with competition is actually VERY important in a deflated economy – that is point five . . . like I said there are many facets to this type of business model.

  33. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Opps, sorry. Please delete one.
  34. WW, in light of your take on this subject, what would be the negative aspect of my method, of getting the last half on or prior to the event date? I like being paid in full when I go in to do the work. I know I'm not going to have collection issues. The caterer, florist, violinist, officiant, venue operator, buggy driver, etc. have all been paid in full by that point (presumably, if all is to come off as planned on event day). Why shouldn't the photographer? What if they've miscalculated, had a medical issue, went to Vegas and gambled away the rest of their money, or any of a thousand other unforseen circumstances, and have no money left? Then, you have a collection issue. Then, you're sitting there for who knows how long waiting for them to come up with the cash so you can hand over the package.
    That would stink like yesterday's (possessive correct) diapers. :p
  35. WW. after working for and owning a wedding/portrait studio for the past 19 years, and after having drawers full of unpaid contracts by brides who picked up their proofs but never selected and ordered their FINAL albums, we decided a long time ago to be paid fully prior to the event.
    It has worked out tremendously, we rarely have any issues with clients balking at our policy, and for those who did balk, I referred them to my competition who MIGHT be more liberal with their payment policies.
    It is a known FACT that AFTER the wedding, all of the cash is gone. Couples are starting their new lives and paying the photographer AFTER the fact is not a priority. There are other commitments that are more important. Buying a house, having children, advancing in their careers.
    The discretionary income disappears.
  36. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    George first:

    "WW. after working for and owning a wedding/portrait studio for the past 19 years, and after having drawers full of unpaid contracts by brides who picked up their proofs but never selected and ordered their FINAL albums, we decided a long time ago to be paid fully prior to the event."

    George, it appears you have misinterpreted my meaning. In the scenario you describe, applying how I would do things, the final payment would be at collection of PROOFS - they are the GOODS.

    “It is a known FACT that AFTER the wedding, all of the cash is gone.”

    I have found otherwise.

    Also remember even for a $5,000 initial deal, 15% to get the previews (in the scenario you painted) is only $750 (I was never suggesting 50 / 50).

    Also, though I stopped using proofs about 10 years ago, the studio’s preview viewing can be available (usually) BEFORE the honeymoon.

  37. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Steve C:
    From previous conversations I recall that your clients have already “purchased” all that you shoot (I guess there is room for artist editing of any fluffs).
    So assuming that is a DVD of High resolution images and perhaps X number of selected images in Album etc - and irrespective whether you are / are not slanted toward any additional Print Sales . . .
    WW, in light of your take on this subject, what would be the negative aspect of my method, of getting the last half on or prior to the event date? . . . being paid in full . . . no collection issues. . . caterer, florist, violinist etc paid in full . . . Why shouldn't the photographer? . . . Then, you're sitting there for who knows how long waiting for them to come up with the cash so you can hand over the package. That would stink like yesterday's (possessive correct) diapers. :p

    Firstly, there is nothing WRONG, with your method . . . but just humour me.
    What I am saying is this . . . Let me clone myself to be Steve C’s twin brother (possessive correct).
    We are both equal in every respect of competency, skill, good looks and we each own a Porsche and we offer exactly the same products and service.
    All I am saying is my sales pitch has the edge, over yours if the payments are split 50 /30 / 15 (or 50 /35 /10 – which I have also used).
  38. I had a bride and groom I shot in Sept. They came and book the wedding, put a $200 deposit down. I made it clear that I get paid in full the day of the wedding. When I got to the wedding. I was told that my check was on the way. To make a long story short they just picked up their images last week. I never showed a image to them until I was paid in full. Business is business. Get your money up front.
  39. WW: I take no issue with your last response, save one're better looking than I am. Plus, American chicks dig guys with an accent.
    I just wanted to know your philosophy about the whole matter. I had a notion it was mostly about a marketing edge, which there may be with some clients. Still, a check in the hand is worth two in the bush to me!
  40. I'd want any payment due before the wedding to be in my hands days or weeks before. What do you do if you show up and the check doesn't?
    You either walk or take a chance. Neither is good for your attitude during the festivities, and it will show in your pictures.
    Are the other vendors waiting? It's not uncommon for people to overspend, and anyone who didn't get paid ahead of time may have a problem.
  41. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "I just wanted to know your philosophy about the whole matter."
    Steve, yes, I assumed that.
    The Devil (and subtlety) is in the detail and the execution. I think that a few might have glanced over my answer and mistakenly thought I was suggesting hanging out for months, for 50% of the money.
    I understand your requirements for efficiency and precision of payment in full before, the event.
    I think the main points I wanted to make, (to the question asked), is that firstly the Parents seem, on the face of it, to be asking for nothing unreasonable – and I wished to describe a counter proposal for Photographers to offer which is safe and efficient – and this just happens to be an approach, with which I am intimately familiar.
    I was not really attempting to sell my idea, as a what everyone should do – but you knew that.
    Merry Christmas
  42. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    All I am saying is my sales pitch has the edge, over yours if the payments are split 50 /30 / 15 (or 50 /35 /10 – which I have also used).
    should obviously be:
    All I am saying is my sales pitch has the edge, over yours if the payments are split 50 /35 / 15 (or 50 /40 /10 – which I have also used).
  43. Just to weigh in a bit. I require half the package non refundable as a retainer, and then the other half due 60 days before the wedding. They can cancel up to 120 before the wedding and forfeit their retainer, but avoid paying their balance. After 120 before the wedding, no cancellations are accepted, and unless I choose to let them out of it for extenuating circumstances, i.e. someone dies in an accident or Hurricane Katrina #2 blows through town. They can cancel after 120 days before the wedding, but they will still have to pay the balance in full.
    I've never had a bride cancel, or ask for a refund. Likewise, I never EVER turn over, or even order from the lab prints, albums, or other products without payment in full. If they choose not to trust me, that's fine, and they can find another photographer. Maybe for the large studios, splitting payments and ordering products before they are paid for is fine, but I'm a boutique operation, and I am not going to be the one left holding the bag.
  44. Another aspect of this is that they may have amateur photographer friends who could try and copy your set ups, I have experienced this before. I personally require all payments to be finalised the week of the wedding and have never had an issue. However I think in this case they are being cautious, after all there are many unscrupulous people from all walks of life out there, including some photographers.
  45. Just to throw in my 2c, I think a reasonable negotiation would be to do the thirds payment plan, with payment due upon contract signing, two weeks prior to the wedding, and the remainder due (with check fully cleared) prior to full print delivery. If the parents complain that they don't want to pay for anything in full before they have the prints, then you might politely point out to them that not even Wal-Mart will let them take an item out of the store without paying for it in full. You can explain that you will be happy to provide a sample set of watermarked thumbnails for their perusal prior to final payment so they can see what they are getting, but under no circumstances will you be releasing print-quality files or delivering actual prints until payment is received. Any reasonable person should be able to understand and deal with these terms. If they get stubborn about it, jeez, I wouldn't want to deal with them to begin with - that would just be a big red flag that they would be causing you all manner of headaches and problems throughout the shoot and beyond. Who needs that?
  46. The way you are doing business is a reasonable way to ensure that you get paid and you should stick to your guns on this. The issue that you have to mitigate with the parents is your personal reputation and reliability. If I were to have this debate with a client, the first thing I would do is give them 3 references with phone numbers to call of prior clients who received the goods. If that does not reassure the parents that you are reliable, then I would suspect there is another issue they are dealing with. If solid references don't help, then you have good reason to suspect they are looking for a way out. Remember, your contract also requires you to do your job. Emphasize that. If you don't do your job, the same contract that protects you will protect them. A good contract provides all the mutual assurance necessary. Buyer's remorse is an unfortunate reality in the wedding business. Sometimes it has nothing to do with the professionalism or performance of the vendor and sometimes it does.
    You should be especially careful since they are not local. Its just good business.
    There are things that can be done up front to build confidence to avoid these situations (though they may still occur) I blog my weddings and encourage clients to comment on my blog articles. I also use social networking sites to keep in contact with former clients. Both of these venues offer prospective clients a view into the daily communications between myself and my clients. People can browse through months and years of my personal history with my clients if they choose to do so. If after seeing all of this, they still question my reliability, then that is a serious red flag.
    People often talk about getting "qualified" clients. Usually they mean clients with enough money. For me a qualified client is someone who will do do business with me in a way that I can be comfortable as well. I have found that personal referrals make the difference.
  47. Their request sounds reasonable to me. I would not enter into any contract that didn't keep the vendor on the line until the job was completed and the terms of the contract were completely satisfied. Photographer, roofer, programmer, whatever.
    They're buying two things from you: your services as a photographer, and the final photos you provide. They pretty much have to take it on faith that you're going to show up and take pictures; by the time the wedding day arrives it's too late to worry about it if you don't. But the quality and selection of photos you are selling them is still an unknown until they see at least a few digital proofs.
    So, playing devil's advocate, why should they pay you in full for something they haven't yet seen, and may conceivably never see? Suppose you're actually operating in the red and you decide tomorrow to declare bankruptcy and hold their photos hostage? It's happened before. Sure, they've seen a portfolio and shaken your hand, but this world is filled with businesspeople who are not as competent or honorable as yourself.
    If you really don't want their business then you should send them somewhere else. But I expect you'll see more of this in the future, if only because the people who are not in financial distress right now are likely to be those who are habitually very cautious about how they spend their money and very particular about what sort of contracts they're willing to sign. Your most likely clients have no compelling reason to care about your personal preferences, and they know it's a buyer's market. Make of that what you will.
  48. To clarify my thinking, my approach of letting them pay in full on or before the wedding day stems from those trust issues we're discussing; me trusting them to pay ahead if desired or bring the money that day, and them trusting me to show up. It's a crazy world we live in, and I'm sure there are pros who might blow their schedule and fail to show up, or may just be irresponsible on that date. I'm giving them the benefit of the doubt that they will pay in full, and they're giving me the benefit of the doubt that I'll be there. It does comprise a two-way street, both of us having much to lose as a cost of failure of the other party.
    I'm not saying my practice is best, of course, and the other practices stated here are certainly valid on their own terms. If it's workin' for you, I'm fine with it. I do encourage everyone to get at least half your money up front, or at least something more significant than $200. The client must have more "skin in the game" to my way of thinking, if I'm going to turn away other potentially more profitable engagements for that day.
  49. I still don't understand how all of the OTHER vendors all get paid up front yet wedding photographers aren't supposed to ? Obviously our talent means's all about the product.
  50. Its probably been said, but to me, the signed contract is what counts here. If the bride's parents signed a contract to pay 100% by the wedding, then that's how it is... If they didn't like that approach, then they shouldn't have signed on...
    At best, I'd offer them the chance to cancel the contract entirely and get another photographer if they don't like the present arrangements, but that's it.
    People have a right to write up whatever their expectations are in contract form. If people don't agree, fine. Go elsewhere. But don't sign on, then demand major changes...
  51. George, I think some (here and elsewhere) who get the last portion when they hand over the package have the philosophy that you get your last "carrot" when you provide the goods. And that's probably what these folks the OP was referring to had in mind. Other vendors get paid on or before wedding day because that's the day they provide the goods. For photographers, it's just the day we shoot, but the work isn't done yet.
    However, knowing how fast money goes these days, I prefer payment in full on wedding day. Less potential for hassles that way.
  52. Bryan, in your philosophy, NOTHING is secure. Will the cake come out good, will the DJ do a good job, will my dress fit, will my flowers be what they are supposed to be, will the food be warm, will the sun shine that day, will the limo run out of gas, will my rented tux fit, will my makeup run, and on and on and on.
    Nothing is definite in life. We ALL live our daily lives on faith. Your extreme example would have a client NOT pay for anything until AFTER the wedding. The only vendors who would take on a client like that would be the lame and hard up.
    A photographers reputation, business license, longevity in business, referrals from other professionals are the ONLY thing that a client has to go on.
    If YOU allow a client to dictate how YOU run your business, then shame on you. That's no way for a business to operate.
    For those of us who have been in business for any amount of time know the difference. It's usually the newbs who don't.
  53. And it's up to US to make our work and product and service so desirable that we don't have to play these games. Reputation means everything. For those who don't have it, then they might have to play those games.
    I don't.
  54. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    It's not a game - and certainly this topic is not worth elevating the blood-pressure . . .
    It is just offering a suggestion as to how one might deal effectively with a potential client who might spend quite a lot of money, and be very happy so to do.
    I think it is very wise not to let a client dictate how one should run one's business . . .
    But, moreover, I think a wise business person is both flexible and also a good judge of personalities.
    Then, a skilled business person should be talented enough to market and sell, to those different personality types and also be flexible enough to bend, in accordance with market and economic fluctuations . . .
    I have never thought my businesses, were a game: but certainly multifaceted enough to challenge the brain to be skilled in many disciplines and to always be alert enough to acknowledge and respond quickly and efficiently to opportunities, before my competition.
    As far as reputation goes, I have found that clients value being a "People Person" (whatever that means to each of them individually) more than most other issue. Others in business might find differently - we all run our businesses how we each see fit.
  55. Incredible, 53 responses and I think all of 3 of them actually addressed Daniel's question.
    Daniel, you might also try explaining that photography in the digital age is quite different and it is simply too easy to "hijack" a photographers work these days (scanners, screen captures, etc). Photographers these days have an enormous challenge in protecting their work and there are any number of unforeseen circumstances that could end up with you chasing them for payment without leverage. Your payment model is set up to protect you just like any other business with the same model. Additionally, many man hours go into editing and so forth and you simply have no reason to chance not being paid for whatever reason when you can likely book another couple for that date who won't object to your payment model.
  56. The caterer, florist, violinist, officiant, venue operator, buggy driver, etc. have all been paid in full by that point (presumably, if all is to come off as planned on event day). Why shouldn't the photographer?
    Steve, I don't think it's a comparable example. The caterer, florist, violinist, venue operator all deliver on the day. The photographer does not. He or she attends on the day, for sure, but aside from their time, there is no concept of a usable or tangible product. That comes much, much later. And in some unhappy circumstances it does not come at all.
  57. Neil, my last response, 5 up, covered my thinking on this point, as did this: "What if they've miscalculated, had a medical issue, went to Vegas and gambled away the rest of their money, or any of a thousand other unforseen circumstances, and have no money left? Then, you have a collection issue. Then, you're sitting there for who knows how long waiting for them to come up with the cash so you can hand over the package."
  58. There are cases where the Photographer never delivered any wedding images except for a few crummy proofs .
    The chap "skipped town" too; and scores of couples were finding the chap in another state doing the same gambit; to another "crop" of couples to be harvested; shucked; then the chap moves on and starts another company.
    Thus some folks actually want to hold back paying all; so they actually get a real final product; and not be taken.
  59. I would not mind doing the deposit and a certain amount on the wedding day BUT for me to be paid after the pictures are delivered..NO WAY..If they are having a tough time paying you now, what collateral do you have after you delivery the pictures.
  60. Kelly, in ANY business there are always bad business owners. That's why it's so important for our industry that WE all are licensed, pay taxes and have a legitimate business.
    Those businesses that work out of their "garage" with no business license, don't pay taxes, have no established reputation and offer low ball pricing with no definite location in case of problems are the one's clients should be avoiding.
    But greed many times overshadows common sense. They look at the low price and overlook everything else.
    If all a client has to contact a potential wedding photographer is a phone number, no physical location or office, then that's the first red flag.
    Let the buyer beware.
    For those of US who do have legitimate wedding photography businesses and have worked very hard to establish our business should not have to play those games associated with scofflaw wedding photographers.
    I personally would not shell out thousands of dollars to someone over a cup of coffee in some restaurant.
    Our profession suffers from wanna be "professionals" who fail to run their business in a professional manner, yet call themselves "professional".
    Being a professional entails many facets, and one important one is integrity.
  61. And that's the great thing about being a business owner, we are all free to choose how WE operate our business.
  62. George; the wedding photographer who cheated dozens of folks presented himself well; he just swindled dozens of couples; most who paid mst all and got nill images; it was the topic of threads on long ago. Scam artists are in alot of industries.
  63. Kelly, how long was that scammer in business ? Years, months ? All scammers usually present themselves well, that's how they perform their scam. But if a client does any checking, red flags usually turn up. Are there past clients referrals, vendor referrals, city license, Chamber recommendations.
    If a client walks in dumb blind and happy and just lays down their money without doing any type of checking on a sole proprietor type of business then they do take a chance.
    Regardless, after being in business for a while, one learns the ins and outs of running a business and who to trust and who not to trust. If a client wants to create their own terms then I will gladly refer them to a competitor. If they refuse to recognize the reputation of my studio and still want to create their own terms, then I view that as incompatible. Experience dictates in that instance.
    I am always flexible with clients, but on some issues i won't budge. I've been burned too many times in the past when trying to be the "good guy".
  64. When people request that a payment be delayed until "the pictures are delivered", that, my friend, is a big red flag. Odds are, you will become a Bill Collector instead of a Photographer.

    So I tell them that I'm sure they're good for it, BUT sadly, that the last person that I trusted, I had to chase for a year to get paid. And if it's already a signed contract, it's not even a discussion anymore because the negotiating is over.

    Now, they may argue why it is that they're the ones that should not trust you, or whatever, but the fact is, we're running businesses here. Not to say we're not human, but to say that our policies exist for a reason. This is what we do for a living. We don't mess around with clients. We seek to deliver the goods. We have reputations to uphold and we want referrals. We, however, are dealing basically with strangers and putting ourselves out in these situations multiple times per year and we can't guarantee that these people will live up to their agreements. You run your business on your terms, not the customers' terms. All we're doing is keeping everyone disciplined and keeping things organized, so we don't find ourselves now having to run around in circles trying to get paid. Call me next week. Oh, something came up! I don't have the money right now. Car's in the shop. Call me next week. Then next week comes and they don't answer. They hang up when you call. You send them a letter. Three months later, they call to ask if you have the pictures. Why, yes, you say. They say they'll be in next week to pick them up. Then they don't come in. You call them, leave messages. They don't call back. Then they come in around their first anniversary to pick up the albums but it turns out they forgot to bring the full amount. Can we take the albums and leave the 11x14 for tomorrow? We'll come back tomorrow with the rest of the money and pick up the 11x14 then. We promise! It's just that Granny is in town tonight and leaving tomorrow and we really want to show her the albums! And if you say yes... you'll always have the 11x14 to remember them by. Any of this sound familiar to anyone, lol?

    We're dealing with the public. You know, those nice folks that trampled over a young man in Walmarts until he was dead because they wanted to save $70 on a tv set? The folks who authorities have pass through metal detectors because we don't know who we're dealing with? Folks who may have stiffed other businesses, written bad checks, committed fraud. Folks who get a thrill out of seeing how long they can go without paying. That's the public. You just never know what they're capable of! So, you just have to protect yourself. That's why we have locks on doors.

    If they don't like your terms, don't try to keep them as customers. People who try to get you to keep them on as customers - BUT on their terms - are likely setting you up to be abused. Plus down the road, they'll demand more terms. The ones that understand it and don't give you a problem about it, they know they have to pay you sooner or later and they know you're looking to earn it.
  65. Here's a perfect example of this post that I'm currently going through.
    I photographed a wedding last month where the MOB gave me a sob story of having Lupus, was having a hard time getting all the money together for her daughtery's wedding, if WE could WORK with her where she could pay half and then pay the rest when she picked up her proofs. I NEVER do that, but felt sorry for her and agreed to it.
    So after the wedding she calls and complains that "I missed some shots and was not as friendly as I was during the engagement shoot with her daughter. Some guests thought I was standoffish, and that " I ruined her daughters wedding". WTF ???
    So she still owes me $1500.00, has not picked up her proofs. I have personally spoken with her notifying her.
    She mentioned "small claims court" during the conversation.
    So the bottom line is this. I can see what she did, where she was coming from and what's she's trying to do. She is trying to get the rest of her wedding package for FREE.
    I did some checking and she also owes money to the wedding site as she gave them the same song and dance story about having lupos and money hardships.
    If a client doesn't have the money to afford certain levels of vendors they should look elsewhere.
    So allowing clients to dictate YOUR business practices is not GOOD BUSINESS.
  66. In the 1960's many wedding photographers had 1/3, 1/3, 1/3 payment schemes; downpayment; wedding day; and when prints were actually delivered.
    One had 2/3's of the bill paid on the wedding day; when one use 4x5 for a few formal shots; 120 for most all other stuff; or 220 when it later came out about 1965; or even 620 in a 2x3" Medalist.
    Some folks used a Rapid Omega with 120 too; alot of folks used a Mamyia C series TLR ; I had C3 with 120 and 220 backs.
    One had bulb flash and also strobes; 510 volt battery packs.
    If folks only paid 2/3's; they didnt get any proofs a week or two later to get enlargements from.
    Many times we just had the labs make two 5x5" prints and one 10x10" print or 8x10" print as a "canned" combo package when we felt the images would be saleable as reprints. Or one got one or two 4x5" and 8x10's . Lab had paper mask onee could cut out and place on the TLR's focus screen for cropping; defining the area H or Vertical of the 4x5 ratio. A premium lab service had one mailing in swatch of the dress to close the loop around the wedding dresses color.
    One kept the negatives in a refrigerator to reduce color shifts.
    the "concept" of the final payment when actual physical goods are delivered is really ancient with wedding photography; its probably just a "new concept" to newcomers; or maybe just more popular today since trust is loss with the current financial mess of today.
  67. The brides mom might have paid with the typical 1960's payment scheme of 1/3 , 1/3, 1/3 and the todays bride might just try getting you use an older ancient payment scheme used by wedding outfits eons/decades ago. Since money is tight today they really have nothing to risk by asking.
    Terms that a business dictate very with business conditions. Today to buy a new delivery truck for 16k a Big 3 dealer wanted 14 percent interest with a 8K downpayment in pure cash. This would be an absurd interest rate in 1965; but is what Detroit is doing; ie like " So allowing clients to dictate YOUR business practices is not GOOD BUSINESS." Thus the UAW and Detroit can dream on and dictate their business practices and we customers just do not buy. In my case Detroit last month would not rather have my 8K cash on a 2008 truck and a 10 percent terms; and leave the truck in inventory; since I am unreasonable and Detroit has a bright future.:)
    The concept of a final payment when items are actually delivered are what us kids did in the 1950's selling Planters Peanuts door to door; or Christmas cards.
    Its what canned school photographers did in the 1950's. Its what wedding places I worked for in the 1960's did. It gave the incentive to actually deliver a product; and protected the customer.
    There was *NO* insurancel if one was an duffus and lost the films; used one lab; or used the wrong asa or sync setting one got no proofs; one didnt get the last 1/3 payment; plus one would have to reshoot and eat alot of profit and eat crow.
  68. One just dictate any terms you want to a customer and see if they will accept them.
    Its nothing new that folks want to make a final payment when an actual the actual product is delivered; its as old as man; ie trading spears, meat; grain, apples. Its done more where there is an issue of trust involved.
    One could ask for a 100 percent payment 2 months before the wedding and have less headaches due to less collection issues; and more headaches over less work; ie less customers.
    One could ask for a 100 percent payment 2 months AFTER the wedding photos are delivered and have MORE headaches due to MORE collection issues; and less headaches over more work; ie more customers.
    Thus the "terms" ones uses on a product have NO exact rules to follow; ie one "weighs" the headaches and tries to maximize ones profits.
  69. If you just dont like the customers counter terms move on and be polite about it.
    If its known couple you will feel will pay then it might "seem" to be less risk than ones that are unknowns; if you explore new terms.
    Collecting money is no fun.
    The "odd thing" about this thread is a typical 1960's payment scheme is being counter offered; in a time when few folks trust each other and financial flakeyness is all around.
    If one is not charging enough for ones services one is going to have business issues with survival no matter what terms one uses. You can always meet anothers low price and blindy assume he is sane/rational; or not being floated by Daddys money; a state business incubator with low/no rent; or not considering the cost of equipment replacement. Most new business fail even in a good economy; folks assume the other chap is ripping off folks; thus they siphon off sales by offering lower prices. If your business becomes a comodity; you are only as smart as your dumbest competitor. He/she might be using that government inkjet printer while working as a security guard at 2am to print wedding images.:)
    It might just be that some customers want to pay the last 1/3 when the get the images; ie the product; so you are not madoff; ie making off with the 2/3's already paid; with nothing actually delivered yet.:) The better busienss bureau has been littered with cases of wedding photographers not delivering a product; its worse today since everyone is an expert.
    BBB: Photographers never make wedding albums consumers paid for
  70. Some of the brides and grooms and their parents probably can read or see.
    A subset of them might read the newspaper or watch TV and seen another couples woes and legal battles of being ripped off with a wedding photographer not delivering the product they paid for.

    Thus the "few bad apples" of con artists in the wedding industry MAY make a couple want to use a 1960's wedding payment formula; or a stoneage one for trading grain for spears at the same time.

    Some folks actually learn to be more cautious after being ripped off; and this "lesson" might be learned before they are to be married.

    So some customers probably just want the photographer to have a vested interest in actually delivering prints; tied to a final payment.
    Payment "schemes" like this are thousands of years old.
    One gets actual full pots full of salt; rather than none or ones covered with salt on top and full of sand. Its common for building projects; one ties payments to actual deliveries; milestones.
    Its seems this is really not a "delay" ; but being paid when actual goods are in hand. A delay would be being paid after; later.
  71. A few bad apples get noticed; thus its not rocket science that some folks are not so "trusting" with a vendor; and want to "tie" deliver of the final product(s) to actual payments.
    Wedding scam artists have hit all over the USA; its an old old subject. When one person/business has 145 mad couples; its probably abit more than a total fluke.
    The few cases out of many hundreds I linked above are not meant to say anybody on this thread does this sort of scummy thing.
    The "Purpose" was to mention there are some scams going on; and that Bridal sites warn folks NOT to prepay in full; to AVOID issues of non delivery.
    In a Australian bridal site it mentions the issue of rogue photographers who do not deliver; and even mentions not using a large deposit of 1/3; jeepers that 1/3 seems "risky" from shooters viewpoint.
  72. Those same wedding sites that warn not to pay in full ALSO advocate asking for "discounts" and "shopping" wedding photographers for the best deal. YET, these same sites want US, the professional wedding photographer, to ADVERTISE with THEM and THEY will promote us ???? Really ?
    Gee, that's just like biting the hand that feeds you. One of the most flagrant site is the Knot. They openly advise brides to wheel and deal for those discounts. Don't pay in full.
    That is so disrespectful of the very photographers who do advertise with them. Take our money then stab us in the back.
  73. I read a fair number of the posts, but not all.
    I am going to present some thoughts from the point of view of a customer. However, regardless of my opnion you should run the business the way you want.
    Let me ask some questions. When you have the plumbers work on your pipes do you pay them their fee up front or upon delivery of the service? When you take your car to the mechanic do you pay them up front or upon delivery of the service? When you buy a house do you pay the owner up front or upon taking ownership of the house? When you buy a car do you pay up front or upon taking ownership of the car? When you buy an item at the store do you pay when you walk in the door, or when you walk out of the door with the product in-hand?
    I understand why you want to be paid in full prior to delivery of the final product or service. Who wouldn't? However, if you were in the shoes of the client would you think it was a good idea to pay in full before the product was delivered, or even before they had a chance to view the final product?
    Like I said, you should run your business the way you want. If you can get all your money before delivering the goods or services then more power to you. However, from a customer's point of view it seems not unreasonable to make at least part of the payment at the time of delivery and approval of the product or service, particularly when the product or service is a non-commodity item whose quality is unknowable prior to delivery. To put it another way, from the point of view of the customer, why would the customer agree to take on all the risk in the transaction?
  74. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    " So allowing clients to dictate YOUR business practices is not GOOD BUSINESS. " (George: Dec 20, 2008; 11:14 a.m.)
    That is why I suggest always having the non negotiable counter offer available - which is all I have been saying all through thread - it would apply in your situation too, George, not using 50 / 50, but 50 / 35 / 15 or something similar . . .
    The counter offer stills shows the feeling which it seems you were suckered into providing: but if the client is in genuine need, and a reasonable person, any offer of assistance will usually be accepted – if they baulk, it is usually because it is a plot and the counter offer does not give them the leverage they initially wanted.
    On another note, George, if I might offer a business suggestion to you, consider it a Christmas Present:
    As you mentioned before you have a drawer full of bad debts and this story you have shared shows you seem to be suckered into “feelings” – you could distance yourself form the money side of things by having either those procedures set out in an official looking written form - or deflect all those arrangement to a second person like your wife / partners or even the imaginary partner, such as the busyness’s “Accountant” who instructed you to follow these procedures for official purposes – that way you are NOT in control of these decisions and therfore cannot give lattidue on emotive grounds.
    This procedure works well.
    Merry Christmas
  75. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Ah! ............. Sorry for the obvious typos in the above . . . Sunday Morning. . . 4 hrs sleep, nil caffeine - not a good look, William! ["Busyness's" is the worst - yuk!]
  76. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    ". . . from the point of view of the customer . . ." (Alan Rockwood)

    You are preaching to the converted down here, in my businesses, Alan. :)
  77. William, I said I "Had", "Had", past tense, from many years ago,and THEN I changed my policy,and NOW I have "NO" unpaid accounts. So my policy has worked perfectly. I have turned away clients who DEMANDED that THEY pay only when they picked up their final product. I declined those clients.
    I'm human and do have compassion. But this was a good learning lesson for me. After retiring from law enforcement I have heard every story in the book and have been hardened when it comes to dealing with people. It takes a lot to get to my softer side. This mom did it. And now she's trying to play her other cards. No biggie,for what she paid, I'm covered for my time and proofs. If that's all she wants to pay me for, then so be it. But she won't get anything more.
  78. Alan, the examples you laid out don't compare with wedding photography in the least.. We could "what if" all night long about thousands of other services and products.
    Custom shutters, pre paid, Custom carpeting, pre paid. Usually when a product or service is in high demand and can require pre payment, clients have no choice. If they want it, they will pay for it. If not, they can go get an inferior product or service elsewhere.
    That's why establishing one's business and reputation are so important in working with the public. The better one's reputation is for being a well established, honest and ethical business, the more they can set forth business practices that other businesses can't.
    ONCE again, If a client declines to abide by those policies, they can go look elsewhere. A CONTRACT protects both parties.
    There are many pre paid professions and products where you only receive the product or item if you pre pay for it. Narrow examples only direct a reader's attention away from the real issue, wedding photography. Period. Not cars, not grocery stores or plumbers.
    I have yet to sign a contract when purchasing milk or cheese at the grocery store. Purchase some shoes or a shirt, no contract.
    A legally binding contract is a clients guarantee that they will receive the products and service that they paid for. If they don't then they have that contract to use for legal issues.
    It goes both ways.
  79. George, you said "A CONTRACT protects both parties."
    You are joking, right? No doubt pre-payment in full protects the one offering the service, but can you please explain to me how a contract requiring pre-payment in full provides any protection whatsoever to the one paying for the service?
    As for legal action, do you have any idea how much it costs to hire a lawyer and file a court motion? I am personally involved in a legal action right now, and I can tell you that it has already cost me thousands of dollars. It will likely cost me tens of thousands before the process is finished, and it may take years for the process to play out. Do you really think a dis-satisfied client is likely to go through a costly and lengthy legal process over the loss of a few thousand dollars? As a practial matter the legal system provides very little protection in this sort of situation.
  80. Moderator, seriously...any consideration at all for the original poster? He was very specific in his request....he was asking for an approach to explaining his position.....he wasn't asking for a tired old debate on payment preferences. He even clarified it in his third post. If someone were to actually give him the input he asked for, I doubt he'd see it in this hijacked mess. 15 posts in a row from Kelly Flanigan. I mourn for this forum.
  81. You have your business model, the customer knows how you work with payment. They either agree and hire you or don't and find another photographer. Ask yourself these questions: Why did you come up with your business model? Does it work for you? Should you change your business model, will it be good for your lively hood or cause you grief? Are you at least giving your client some means to insure they can trust you will deliver and still give you some assurance you are not going to take a 100% loss? Neither you nor your client wants to waist time in small claims court. Is there a reasonable medium ground for both sides? This is all stuff you need to think about. If you decide to change your business model what are the pros and cons and will this new model work for you.
    If a builder contractor comes to do work on your home, 1/3 up front covers the cost of materials and insures the customer is serious about wanting the work to be done, 1/3 at the start of work covers time worked, the customer is seeing the contractor on the job and knows they are doing the work. Finally, 1/3 when the job is finished (the contractors profit and more incentive to do a good job), the customer sees what they are paying for and is satisfied and the contractor has cash in hand is a reasonable business model. Both parties have assurances. Contractors don't want to get stiffed for payment and customers don't want to get taken by a con man. Both parties will take some risk going into a work for hire relationship. This is a very common business model for contractors hired to do a job, but you need to decide how you do business.
  82. Here is part of the original question:

    Evening all, I'm curious about how the "family" would handle this one.
    My situation is that the brides parents are paying for her pictures, in my contract I state a non refundable deposit and the remainder of payment paid by wedding day.
    The brides parents wish to rework the contract to essentially break payment up into 3 parts, deposit, wedding day, and when the pictures are delivered.

    The brides parents are asking for a very typical 1960's payment scheme; like the folks I worked for in Indiana in 1960. ie 3 PARTS. Its been mentioned several times that a final payment when the final product is delivered is nothing new.
    The second clarification by Daniel says :

    While I understand the concept of times being tight, this is not one of those circumstances, they are asking to delay payment until the images are done and received. Not saying they can't afford the services.

    Again the client want to make a final payment when the actual images are delivered.
    This is ancient stuff; a concept older than any person alive. It was the way it was done prior decades in wedding photography; BEFORE the common wedding photography scams were common.
    WW has mentioned a counter scheme of 50 / 35 / 15
    Daniel can just get new clients that will accept a full payment with no deliverables at all
    or try WW's wisdom were maybe the final 15 pecent is paid with the actual photos delivered.

    The "situation" is really whether one is PARALYZED by a rigid business model that is NEW to wedding photography.
    One wants a full payment before any images prints are delivered; during a recession; when the web and news and riddled with folks stories of being ripped off by wedding photographers; and bridal sites warn not to pay in full; when business "trust" is very poor.

    The .."tired old debate on payment preferences" that Patrick is complaining about is actually the main question;
    the Poster Daniel wants to know how to handle a clients who wants a clients request for a different payment preference;

    ie final payment with delivery of actual images; ie a typical 1960's scheme before there was a widespread issue with scamming.
    Daniel will have to answer the question himself whether to "walk/drop" a client that wants to tie a final payment to delivered goods.

    Some wise folks like WW have mentioned a compromise payment scheme;
    If talking about an alternate payment schemes is taboo or hajacking a thread then the answer is real simple; one walks or takes the clients terms and never considers a midpoint solution.
  83. The thread's title is wrong; it should be:
    "Brides parents want actual prints with final payment"
  84. Its not clear if the final images are to be delivered to the local couple or parents far away that are paying for the images. Long ago we just used COD and the post office to get the final 1/3 if the prints/albums were mailed away.
  85. I photographed weddings on a weekend and summer basis from 1956 (I was 17) until 2004 (with only two years off). I always asked for half at booking and half two weeks before the wedding. A couple of times I phoned, reminding them of the last payment having not been received and agreed to accept it on the wedding day. Once in all those years I accepted the final payment to be on the wedding day on the original contract and the bride groom phoned me the day before the wedding to say it was cancelled. It was one of the biggest summer Saturdays for wedding in the Seattle area and I had received offers from as far as Portland from people looking for a wedding photographer. I had already booked an assistant photographer for the day and had to pay him. Times have been good and times have been poor during all those years. I think you should stick to your original contract and payment schedule to protect the cash flow of your business. If people want to budget their money offer to let them charge the entire thing to a credit card at booking and then make payments as they wish. I always provided a list of previous brides that they could contact and the forms to do it. If a previous bride received one, my promise to her, in exchange for her telling about her experience with my photo services was a free print from her wedding or the application of same amount to a family portrait, etc. It was a workable system.
  86. sometimes the B&G are satisfied with the fotos taken by Uncle Ned and you will wait and wait for a check that will never arrive. the venue, the food, the flowers, the limo are all paid upfront. they're gone two weeks on a honeymoon and then come back from Hawaii or Fiji broke. once they're hitched, the guy doesn't need to impress the bride anymore and your left holding the empty bag..
  87. Instead of an "empty bag" you have 2/3'rds to 5/6' ths of the B&G's cash if they "elect" to not recieve actual prints after the wedding; ie not pay the final payment to be paid with deliverables; ie actual prints. Thus if you fart around and loose the images; or take forever to provide a final product you do not get the final 1/3 to 1/6 th; and they have to suffer with Uncle Ned's images. A 2/3's to 5/6's payment is more like an almost full bag instead of an empty one; UNLESS one has real lowball rates. In the limo; food and flowers case an actual physical product was deliverer and paid for. In the case where the shooter got a 2/3'rds to 5/6ths payment and nothing else; one is out the day lost with shooting; the film; the processing; the prints. The B&G has shelled out 2/3's to 5/6ths and has nothing at all in pro images.
  88. I am posting from the point of view of a client.
    Yes a contract is legally binding, but guess what: it is not always the case that both sides honor a contract, whether intentionally or non-intentionally.
    Yes, a contract is in theory enforceable in a court of law, but guess what: going to court can be extremely expensive. (Have you ever tried it?) It's probably not financially justified for the amounts of money involved in most wedding shoots. Besides, going to court is not synonymous with winning in court. It's a bit of a gamble.
    What about small claims court? In Kentucky the limit is $1500, the lowest in the nation. How many wedding-shoot contracts fall under the $1500 limit? Just over the border in Tennessee the limit is $25,000, the highest in the nation. I'm guessing that most wedding-shoot contracts fall somewhere in between, and so do the limits for small claims courts in various states. In a lot of cases small claims court would be out of the the question because of the dollar limits.
    Like I said before, if a photographer can get paid in full before delivering the product, so much the better for him. This puts 100% of the financial risk on the client, a pretty sweet deal for the photographer. However, from the client's point of view this this is not good. It would be in the client's interest to pay the whole bill upon delivery, putting 100% of the financial risk on the photographer. The average man on the street would probably say a fair arrangement is "part now, part on delivery," just like several other posters have suggested.
  89. Daniel,
    What about taking this approach? Tell the client "Payment in full before the shoot represents a discounted price. Most of my clients have pre-payed. If you would like to split the payment the total cost will be this amount... The payment schedule will be as follows... and the final payment of... is due upon delivery of the photos."
    Make sure your split-payment option is enough higher than the pre-payed price to make it worth your while, but not so high that it scares off the client. I'm guessing that 10-15% might be a good price differential. Remember, your current pre-payed price is your discounted price. Your full price is the higher split payment price.
    This arrangement gives the client two options, 1) a lower cost but riskier (for them) option and 2) a higher cost but safer (for them) option. There is no need for you to explain "riskier" and "safer" to them. They already understand that, and it's not good psychology for you to explain it.
    What would the client get out of this? 1) Choice and 2) Higher comfort level.
    What would you get out of this? 1) Greater likelyhood of closing the sale. 2) A happier client. 3) More money if they accept the split payment option. What could be better than that?
  90. Let us say you dropped the ball and Uncle Ned's fotos were far better than yours or your cameras crashed (Murphy's Law) and you got an empty portfolio for the B&G. How forgiving would they be? Would they allow repayment in installments? Would they blow off a pricey re-enactment? Or, would the B&G and their parents put the legally binding contractural agreement in your face and haul you into Superior Court for damages?
    Your being asked to bend and modify your signed agreement. Would they do the same for you in case of an unforseen clamity?
    I dont know about Tennessee but in California attorney's are taught to brace for the worst from a client! We need to take a lesson from such training.
    Lastly, signed contractural agreements are subject to revision so long as both are parties are in agreement to modification. As Mary said, you have to go with your gut sometimes. Being intransigent isnt always the best position to take.
  91. While not typically a wedding photographer, I still own and operate a photography business and I do marketing and promotions for another. I feel that the bottom line to this question is that you have policies in place for a reason. It's how you choose to operate your business and I think all of these responses have validity...everyone here does things differently for the reasons they've outlined.
    Your clients chose you because of your work, your reputation, your affordability, a friend's recommendation or because the caterer gave them your name. Regardless, they made the choice to use you as their photographer. This means that they are choosing to use your the way that you operate do the work.
    If your policy is 50/50, then you should not make exceptions to that. My reasoning is thus:
    a.) I understand that they want to keep some sort of control over you in terms of getting their final prints...but when push comes to shove, their lack of trust in your business practices is NOT YOUR PROBLEM. Seriously. I'll say it's not your problem. They can do the research and legwork to find out how you do business. Provide them with references and former clients if need be. If they find you untrustworthy, so be it. Send them down the road...don't trip over yourself trying to prove anything.
    b.) Have confidence in who you are as a photographer and a business owner. Don't approach dealing with clients from the perspective that "I must keep these people's business at ALL costs." Having a strong and resolute approach is far better in the long-term growth rather than settling/compromising for a short-term gain.
    If you do compromise your practices, these are things I feel that could (and have happened to me, personally) happen:
    c.) Stay the course. Once you make exceptions, the word gets out that you will do so...potentially you will always be making exceptions because that's what people have come to expect (word of mouth clients, anyway.) Also too, for yourself...once you make exceptions, you open yourself to doing so again. Best to stick solidly to the business practices that you have established. You put them in place for a reason, remember?
    d.) Keeping your business efficient and organized and running smoothly is important. Once you start making exceptions, they become difficult to keep track of...especially if you're a busy photographer. It's a huge hassle to even have one "exception to the rule" that you have to bend over backwards for and approach differently than your other clients. In terms of time, do you want to have to go out of your way? How cost effective is that?
    e.) Although not always the case, opening the door to negotiations is asking for trouble. Who's to say that the parents will stop with payment issues? Sounds to me like they could be the kind of folks that you're not going to make happy no matter what you do. If it isn't how you take payment, it will be your turn around time. If it isn't that, then it will be your lighting, your background, your angle, the hours you worked...whatever. I would hedge my bet that they'll be on the phone several times a week checking on your progress. Best to not start with negotiations now. Stay firm and fair.
    Don't go for the "times are hard" approach either. Ick. Don't even get me started on that one.
    Sorry you have to deal with this. There's always one out there, isn't there?
    Being solid and uncompromising in your practices really does help you and your clients do business in an organized, efficient manner without the hassle of dickering over prices and payments. It's no fun to taint a wedding (or any other job) with worry over whether or not you're going to get paid - and really clouds your mind with a lot of negativity and is going to make every dealing with these folks a pain in the butt every step of the way. Sometimes, that's not worth any amount of money.
    My apologies for being so verbose. I know that I come across as an idealist in a lot of ways, but experience is a great teacher. When we (photographers) set up our businesses, we pick the best and most efficient routes to doing what we do for good reasons. It irritates me when someone wants me to change those when they came to me for the way I do business in the first place.

    Good luck!
  92. Something to keep in mind: A business model that is forever fixed will be more likely to fail in the long run than one that can be adjusted.
  93. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Hi George,

    I was not arguing the toss over "had" or "have": my use of “have” was not intentional . . . nor to convey any sinister meaning.

    BTW, if you want to pick nits: Both "have" and "had" means the debts were COLLECTED PRIOR to now, although “had” just means you subsequently discarded them. :)

    And picking more nits: it seems your new policy (after the drawer full of bad debts) worked perfectly, right up until the this recent case, last month . . . :)

    So, in light of those two facts, I just was (sincerely) tossing you an hint, (and for the forum too, and IMO it is related to the tone of the thread), which I picked up several years ago, (and I paid money for that advice) . . .
    It works for me. Hey, I am compassionate too, and I have been taken . . . even with stringent protocols in place, we all learn some new things as we go . . . that, to me is what one of the great values about this forum . . . and at least I think that is one of its purposes.
    I was just sharing . . . it was free of charge, Buddy, not an argument.

    I think you might be reading my comment(s) the wrong way.

    Merry Christmas

  94. Maybe its about if a written Contact is broken that its easy to collect?
  95. Alan, the examples you laid out don't compare with wedding photography in the least.. We could "what if" all night long about thousands of other services and products.
    Custom shutters, pre paid, Custom carpeting, pre paid. Usually when a product or service is in high demand and can require pre payment, clients have no choice. If they want it, they will pay for it. If not, they can go get an inferior product or service elsewhere.

    I agree and here is why...
    The examples in the referenced post are not proper analogies to the wedding photographer.
    Plumbers and the like obtain a lein by operation of law on the property where their work is performed. Photographers do not obtain liens.
    Auto Mechanics obtain liens as well and/or are often able to recover double or extra damages if a repaired car is improperly removed from theeir custody without proper payment. Thery also have a ability to hold the vehicle. Wedding photogaphers have none of these rights.

    Payments for real property transactions are, contrary to the comment made, typically paid up front. At a closing where payoff statements or other proof of lein being releases are reviewed. Real estate transactions involve the passing of title using deeds and similar instruments which are executed and recorded on land records in order to perfect a purcahser's interests. Wedding photographers have none of that.

    Motor vehicles are titled property which require state sanctioned transfer documents in part to avoid disputes of the transactions and to clarify ownership. Wedding photographers do not obtain certificated title to anything.

    Brick and morter stores, contrary to the comment made, require payment before a customer is entitled to keep and own a product and leave with it. Wedding photographers, if they are not gluttons for punishment, do not let customers have physical or non physical ownership (or even access) of their work until full payment is made.

    If analogies are used to show that up front payments are unsuitable to customers of wedding photographers, the examples need to be relevent to the wedding photography business. None of the examples given are applicable because they all concern situations where the seller and/or buyer are provided with means to secure their interests in the transaction that are not availble to wedding photographers.

    The custom services examples DO apply because custom made services and products are generally have no resale value. Wedding photographers services and products are custom made for the wedding at issue. The work and product cannot be sold to others. Its already done and it is only of interest to the original customer. That analogy fits then.
  96. "Thery also have a ability to hold the vehicle. Wedding photogaphers have none of these rights."
    Well, actually they can hold the images but the rest stands.
  97. John,
    Actually, the photographer would be in a better position than plumbers because the photographer will have already received most of the payment and he still holds the prints until the final payment is made... no payment, no delivery of prints. I think that is pretty strong security.
    In the case of a plumber, he has to do all the work up front before he sees a dime, at least in the case of routine repair work. (Subcontract work may be a bit different.) The plumber has some leverage (e.g. a mechanics lean on the house) but at least in the state where I live he has no ability to enforce collection on the lean until the house is sold, which may be years later, or even never. As I mentioned, the photographer doesn't need a lien because he is in possession of the actual goods until final payment is made.
    In the case of brick an morter stores, the customer does not normally have to pre-pay for the item, either in part or in whole. Instead, the customer takes possession of the item at the time of payment. At least that is the way it works at every retail store I have ever shopped at. Having lived in nine states and had the same retail experience in all nine I suspect my experience is pretty much universal.
    In the case of real estate transactions, again possession of the property is transferred from the old owner to the new owner at the time of payment, i.e. the "closing." (The bank may, however, hold a mortgage against the new owner, but that does not affect the seller of the property.) I have bought five houses in four states and that is the way it has always worked in my transactions. My mother owned a real estate business for many years, and that is how her closings always worked. Your experience may be different. The one bit of leverage the seller has is that there is normally an earnest money payment made by the buyer at the time the offer is accepted by the seller. This is generally a very small percentage of the sale price of the house. The last house I sold (two years ago) involved an earnest money payment of about $1000. I actually collected on it from one seller who decided to back out on the deal.
    For sake of brevity I will not go through all the other examples you posted.
    However, in the business model I and others suggested the photographer would get the lion's share of his money up front, weeks or months in advance, and gets to hold onto the valuable product (the prints) until the final payment is made. To the extent that my analogies did not match the photographers situation the situation generally in favors of the photographer because, as I already mentioned several times, he would collect most of his money before performance, whereas many (probably most) businesses do not get to collect much if any money until after performance or simultaneously with performance. (In the case of a photographer, "performance" is not the shoot. It is delivery of the prints.)
    One final note: It's true that the final prints have little or no resale value to anyone but the wedding party. However, this is more than balanced by the fact that in the majority cases the customer does not have a second source for photos of their once in a lifetime event. In this case the photographer holds more cards than the client, so the overall situation favors the photographer.
  98. Alan, you write very well, spoken like a true politician. It makes no sense in the real world
  99. Steve C. said:
    "Since the half retainer fee up front is non-refundable, there is no need for it to sit in a trust account; I can use it to operate my business, market, repair gear, etc."
    Not refundable even if you do not show up and do the wedding because you are in the hospital, or were forced out of business due to endless possible causes? Good luck defending that in small claims court. This is why the poster suggested an escrow type of account is actually the best business practice for both sides, but most photogs do not do it because it costs some money and, yes they would like to spend the money now. If the couples were smart they would pay for and arrange escrow accounts if the dollars are over $1000 as long as the language for getting the money out is crystal clear with no stipulations as to quality, etc. However, most people are trusting and are not aware of the numerous unforseen things that actually do happen in life and in business.
  100. Steve C. also said this: "
    We have to have cash flow to operate a business. Let's say a $500 or even $1000 lens craps out at a wedding. We can't afford to be without that lens for the next shoot, can we? We have to have enough capital available to not only cover our normal operating expenses, but the unexpected ones as well. We send the lens off to be repaired, buy a replacement lens to use in the meantime (assuming we can't rent one), and then when the repaired lens comes back, we Ebay it to recoup most of our money."
    Not trying to pick on Steve, he is probably a great guy that I would like to meet but it makes such a great point as to a poor business model. You pay for your expenses and all the unforseen ones from your initial capitalization and the profits from all the other weddings. That is why they invented the notion of depreciation and amortization and working capital. You should not need to pay for any gear from money you have not earned yet. I realize that real life in the small business world is tough but if more small business owners would understand this notion more would stay in business in hard times.
    OK I am done with my two cents. Happy holidays.
  101. George:
    One more time, here is the business plan: the photographer gets paid most of the money up front. The photographer holds the prints until he gets the last payment. Why do you find that concept so hard to understand?
  102. Alan; that is what a Studio did I worked for in Indiana in the 1960's; its an ancient concept of purposely NOT paying all; thus the seller has a vested interest in the final delivery.

    Maybe its hard to understand because it is a many thousand year old business practice.

    Maybe it is hard to understand for some photographers because they cannot fathom the customer having fears with being ripped off; ie full payment and an empty wagon.

    Sueing and enforceing a contract to get goods are not free from a customers standpoint; it is if you live in a make believe world

    Heck I already here got many nasty emails about the links I posted above about some wedding photographers being frauds.

    IF George can get all his customers to prepay in full with no goods delivered more power to him.

    ***If he encounters a doubting Thomas soul who has been ripped off before; the real issue is does George or the Poster accept a 67 to 90 percent payment and shoot the wedding; or tell them to pack sand?

    ***Its really a business decision; the customer can bail and find another photographer who will maybe get 90 percent up front; and 10 percent on delivery of product.
    Since the economy is great its easy to dump these nasty customers who want to tie delivery of product with a final payment.

    Its a basic business theme; one gets LESS sales with the "harder terms"; but one has less/no collection issues and associated costs. With a NUTS super liberal model of no money down ; one gets gobs of sales and a MASSIVE headache in the collection area!
    A book 100 years ago on business covers this tradeoff.

    "TERMS" and payment schemes are all a part of a business; whether one is selling film; eggs; a wedding package; a car, building a house; doing retouching; even printing wedding images.

    In the wedding case here discussed one is asking for a full payment by a customer before any product is delivered; the risk is all on the customers side; with zero leverage.
  103. Quite frankly, it is hilarious that you all are still arguing about this.
    Run your business however you like, it will either work for you or it won't. These aren't matters or great moral debate or national importance. It's just a business plan.
  104. In the same token the B&G could 100 percent prepay to have the lawn cut and detailed the day before the wedding at the house if its a home wedding; and totally trust Mr Super Pro Lawn Grooming Service; since he too is a pro; and has a slick Yellow Page Advert and has been around since grass was invented .

    OR the B&G might do a split payment scheme; so they actually HAVE TO deliver a real product to get fully paid.

    Since many lawn services get paid after all is done; a service that demands a 100 percent payment with no product might be "passed up" and another selected while walking thru the yellowpages.

    *****Thus its not really what only what ones terms are; but ones competitors too; and it varies by industry; region and product.

    One also should NOT assume your competitor really knows what he/sh is doing either; they may have a HUGE collection issue; or no work too due to harse terms.

    None of this is really rocket science; here I am still waiting on a payment from a chap from some lemonaid sold; at a stand back in the 1950's' "I will be back to pay you soon!" :)
    *** Whatever business you run the terms of payment should be understood

    The goal is to maximize profits and minimize headaches and collection costs.
    One cannot logically dictate to another how to run anothers business; you just have to find what works; and what does not.

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