What is a retainer?

What is a retainer? Why am I being asked to pay one?

Because it benefits both you AND your photographer!

A retainer is typically a non-refundable payment made as part of a session's booking confirmation (in addition to a signed contract, stating the terms of your agreement.) Your photographer asks for this in exchange for them reserving their services for your specific date—meaning they're 100% yours! You have the peace of mind that they can't book anyone else.

But that also means the same on their end! If you reschedule or cancel your original session date, they lose out on business. I typically take into account my editing times while scheduling sessions, especially weddings or elopements, so a last-minute reschedule or cancellation can really mess with the way I run my business.

Why i require a retainer fee

Story time!

I once had a wedding date on hold for almost a year ... until they requested to reschedule. This was long before I'd invested in lawyer-drafted contracts, let alone considered any kind of money down at all. I didn't have anything in place to hold them to, and the time had passed for more wedding bookings to roll in for that season.

Long story short; I couldn't find a replacement booking for the original date, and ended up not being available for the couple's new wedding date either. It was a mess.

Now I require a non-refundable retainer on all of my bookings, large or small, which is 50% of the total price; It becomes a mutual investment.

Final advice

Takeaways for photographers:

  • make sure your contract includes a retainer, and it clearly states the terms of scheduling/rescheduling
  • have a lawyer either draft or review your contracts
  • I got my contracts from TheLawTog — a great legal resource for every kind of photographer

Takeaways for clients:

  • make sure you read your contract thoroughly before signing
  • your photographer should clearly state the terms of your agreement and be transparent
  • ask as many questions as you can — it's always better to be sure before any money is exchanged