"What is the customary deposit to reserve a photographer for a date? When is the balance typically due?"
Most photographers require between 25-50% up front to reserve their services for your wedding date. Invariably, this sum will be nonrefundable. There are a finite number of working days for wedding professionals and we cannot afford for our clients to agree to hire us for their wedding day, reserve their wedding day for months, turning away other clients we then cannot accommodate, only to have the bride who booked us cancel her contract shortly before the wedding. Though we will not be performing our agreed upon duties in that case, it can cripple our business. The average photographer books 15-30 weddings per year, so each wedding day (and all the subsequent and preceding work that goes into each wedding) constitutes a significant percentage of our work year and yearly income. If your boss came up to you and said he was going to give you 10% of the year off, without pay, you wouldn't look at it as a holiday. It would be a suspension. In the same way, we have to protect ourselves from situations where, by no fault of our own, we would end up out of work.
Typically, the balance is due by the wedding day, or a week or more before the wedding. The full balance is usually due before the services are rendered to safeguard against the possibility that the bride will not pay promptly after the services are rendered, since, as I stated, the payment constitutes a considerable portion of our yearly income. A bride could be satisfied to be deadlocked with her photographer for any period of time after the wedding. Even if the photographer refused to turn over the photographs until paid, he (or she) is then on the bride's timetable and she would decide when business was concluded based on when she decided to pay. Luckily, I've never had a client who behaved this way and I hope my colleagues and I never do, but it's bad business to operate under the possibility of such a condition.
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::about the author::
Brendon is a photographer in the Birmingham area, available worldwide for nearly any project or event. Visit his main website (linked below) to see his portfolio, resume, bio or to get in contact. Add this blog to your RSS feed and "like" his Facebook Fan page to receive fresh photos and content.
Brendon Pinola Photography 2013
American Pictoralist | Storyteller