What is a Retainer Fee?



Sometimes also referred to as a “Deposit” or “Booking Fee”, the correct term is actually retainer fee, and it refers to an agreed sum of money paid to secure the services of a professional for an agreed upon time-frame.

Retainer Fees are Standard in Wedding Photography

A retainer fee may be a new concept when you’ve just started looking into hiring a professional wedding photographer, but the practice is standard in the wedding photography industry.

Other Professions that use Retainers

You are probably already familiar with the retainer fee, as it often conjures up the image of a lawyer, the result of cultural training arising from movies or TV shows with lawyers as the major characters. Of course, with lawyers, even retainer fees can get really complicated with flavors like “security”, “advanced fee” and “evergreen” retainer fees. However, for the sake of argument, I would like to point out that a number of other professions retainer fees. Here’s a short list:

  • Doctors – certain doctors who practice “Boutique Medicine” use retainers — learn more here
  • Bankers – their retainers are upfront fees charged to clients, even if “the deal” eventually doesn’t go through
  • Freelancers – software engineers, web designers, copywriters, consultants and such all use retainers of some sort, allowing them to pay the bills while working on and waiting on assignments

What Does it Mean when someone is Retained?

Once you’ve retained a service professional (by paying the fee, and signing a contract), you are officially BOOKED, and that professional would take him or herself “off the market”, so to speak, meaning they would not make it known that they are seeking work in a particular time-frame.

With Dave Wong Photography, once the retainer and signed agreement is turned in, I would then be unavailable to anyone who inquires about your wedding date. So, any other potential client who may be interested in a package that is even BIGGER (or smaller) than the one you chose would be turned away, if their wedding date happens to be the same day as yours.

Why Non-Refundable?

Consider this: if the retainer fee was refundable, and for some reason the client decides “at the last minute” to request the money back — perhaps the wedding was canceled for some reason — then the professional photographer would have no income for the previously agreed upon date.

If this were to happen several times, you can be sure the professional photographer would soon no longer be in business.

To Summarize

By Paying the Retainer Fee:

  • you are paying for my promise to come shoot your wedding on the day of your wedding (plus any pre-wedding engagement session or post-wedding after-session).
  • I will turn down other potential assignments for your wedding date
  • you understand that if your wedding is canceled (or rescheduled), the retainer will not be refunded

Exception: The only time that a professional might refund the fee is if something unforeseen occurs and he or she cannot carry out the promise to work. In my case, if I were incapacitated, I would check with you if one of my peers can work in my place. If not, then I would be obligated to return all funds, including the retainer. (This is spelled out in the contract we sign when you book.)

The Dave Wong Photography Retainer

To commission a wedding photography package with me, I require a $1000 non-refundable retainer.

For pricing and contact information, click here.