It’s in every wedding photographer’s contract or if it’s not, it should be; a clause to the effect of: If the photographer cannot perform the duties as outlined in this contract due to fire, earthquake, natural disaster, strike, acts of God, or other occurrence beyond the control of the parties…
In case of an emergency, is your photography business protected? Do you have a contingency plan should you fall ill, if there’s a death in the family, or any of life’s unforeseen disasters prevents you from shooting a wedding? You may think that it won’t happen to you, but the problem with that thinking is that you never know. Therefore, to protect your business, you need to make sure you have a disaster plan in place should something terrible happen and you are unable to fulfill your end of the contract. This not only protects you and your business, but your clients as well.
If you haven’t set up a disaster plan for your wedding photography business, here are 5 things you need to have to make sure you are prepared for the worst:
1. Make A Emergency Photographer List
In the case that you are completely incapacitated, make sure that there is a printed list of photographers you, or your designated disaster buddy (see #2), can call and count on to be the primary shooter at a wedding or multiple weddings for you. Make sure this is a comprehensive list with at least 5-10 names of wedding photographers as well as their contact information. Find those that have a similar style as you and around the same price range. Ideally, these would be photographers in your area.
2. Get a Disaster Buddy
Just like in the first grade, you need to ask someone specifically to be your disaster buddy. This is your 3am panicked phone call, “ride or die” Olivia Pope who will “handle it” should there be an emergency and you are unavailable. This photographer should be a person you can trust 100% to take care of your business while you are unable to, who can shoot weddings in your stead and vice versa. Your disaster buddy will be your go-to person, and you will be theirs.
Make a plan for how you want things to be handled in case of emergency and put it in writing so that it can be easily found if it is ever needed. Discuss every detail, down to how much you will pay the replacement photographer and how clients will be notified. Make sure your significant other knows who your disaster buddy is so they know who to call in a worst case scenario.
3. Have A Printed Copy Of Contact Info and Details For Every Client
You should have a printed, easily accessible file for each one of your wedding clients. Each folder should have the details of the wedding, the wedding day schedule, contact information, invoices, etc. If your studio management program has this info stored, that’s great, but it is still recommended that you have a tangible, paper copy so in case anything were to happen, it can be easily transferred to the person responsible for taking over your wedding. They will likely be finishing out the editing, collecting the final payments etc., so the more information you can provide the better.
4. Make Sure All Your Important Business Papers Are Stored In One Safe Place
Now that you have all these tangible stray-documents to keep track of, make sure you store them in a safe location that’s easily accessible, and keep a digital copy as well as a hard copy – You can’t be too careful.
Tell your significant other and your disaster buddy where you’ve stored this info so if the time ever comes where they need it, they know exactly where to find it.
5. Surround Yourself With a Community of Photographers
Two years ago, wedding photographer Anthony Carbajal (and Ice Bucket Challenge star) was diagnosed with ALS and found himself having to cancel all of his booked weddings. The photography community rallied together under the leadership of Jeremy Chou, who challenged all the photographers in the area to donate one day of their time and talent to Anthony and his clients to shoot one of his weddings. Almost 200 photographers responded and Anthony was able to take care of his clients.
You don’t have to be an island; make sure you are participating and giving back to the photography community. Join a networking group, meet people, offer to help people; it makes the industry a better place.
You may never need to implement your disaster plan (and it is my hope that you won’t ever have to), but disasters, tragedies, and circumstances out of our control will happen. Make sure you and your business are protected if anything should ever happen.
Even if you are not a wedding photographer, you still need to make plans to protect your business. Death, divorce, disability…I’ve only scratched the surface with this article. If you want more information, be sure to check out this Oh Snap! Business Prevention Kit from The LawTog to get all of your business affairs in order so that you can rest easy.