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How to deal with an unprofessional photographer?

By Kazuya - 15 April 2013 15

Dear Rioters,

I need an advice on how to deal with an unprofessional photographer. Here is the story –

Last year we got married and hired a professional photographer for two hours. We received our photographs 4 months after our wedding. The pictures were great but we started noticing that some pictures were missing that he took. For example, group pictures of us and all the guests to name one.

We communicated it to the photographer on the same day we received the pictures but his response is as below –

“I do not have any more photos to offer you. After a wedding edit is complete I delete images from my hard drive. I am not contractually required to keep them.”

We further tried to communicate to him to meet and look at options but he replied with follows –

“ Any further correspondence from you will be filed with intent to provide evidence to the authorities if required. I feel threatened by your insistence that we meet when I have told you I have nothing else to offer you.”

He does not take our phone calls and we only communicated to him with emails. When we first met this photographer he represented himself as a member of AIPP too but he is in fact not a member (we checked using the AIPP web search).

So Rioters, what are my options to purse this matter or am I doomed and have to leave with the consequences?

What’s Your opinion?


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15 Responses to
How to deal with an unprofessional photographer?
Mordd 11:01 pm 15 Apr 13

Honestly after reading all the comments, all I have to say is “caveat emptor”, and I personally side with the photographer. The quoted response from the photographer suggests that you aren’t telling the full story of what you said to him about this matter and quite likely deserved the response you got.

thatsnotme 6:35 pm 15 Apr 13

poetix said :

You call your wife Wifey? If Mr Poetix did this, even in jest, even on a forum like this, he would not have a good time of it at all.

Of course, he wouldn’t.

Wifezilla?

poetix 5:47 pm 15 Apr 13

You call your wife Wifey? If Mr Poetix did this, even in jest, even on a forum like this, he would not have a good time of it at all.

Of course, he wouldn’t.

shoebmahmud 5:31 pm 15 Apr 13

Corrections to my post: Wifey told me I have incorrect details in my post (she is the one who hired the photographer). Some were great photos, not all (according to Wifey). Reference to AIPP is yet to be confirmed as also suggested in one of the above comments. Invoice details the photos that were suppose to be provided. The list of photos required was handed, not emailed. But thank you for all the comments and suggestions, we will take them on board when we consider our next steps forward. Lastly, wifey wants zorro29 to know she wasnt a bridezilla. emotional, maybe…

troll-sniffer 4:51 pm 15 Apr 13

Sounds like something went wrong with the group photos in question. Any of a number of possibilities exist:

Corrupted storage card. Quite possible and nothing the photographer could do about that, some cameras even show a good review image although the full res version is corrupted.

Wrong setting on the camera. Can happen to anyone but should be picked up quickly especially if the photographer is checking every few frames for quality.

Equipment failure. Possible even with today’s cameras. However once again if a ‘pro’ photographer isn’t checking each group of photos then he’s not a ‘pro’.

Something wrong with the pics that he preferred to delete, such as inappropriate branch out of ear as suggested above. If that happened to a job I was doing I would pull out all stops to Photoshop out the error rather than delete the photos, but then again I am pretty conscientious compared to most in the trade.

Silly mistake at home. If the files were deleted by mistake a ‘pro’ would have had a backup kept until the photos were delivered and accepted, and a real ‘pro’ knows that deleted photos, unless overwritten by subsequent photos on the same media, can be recovered quite easily. So if this ‘pro’ got into a situation of having deleted the photos unintentionally and then declaring they were lost he needs to go back to photo management 1.1 and start again.

On a side note… today’s weddings tend to have every man woman and child taking photos of every conceivable angle. Chances are that amongst your guests’ collections will be a number of photos of the groups you want, albeit from slightly different angles. Often they are candid and in some ways more appealing than the run of the mill standard posed shots. I went to a wedding last week where there are so many photos already showing on Facebook etc and many excellent shots to boot, that when the hired photographer’s efforts appear in a couple more weeks, most shots will seem old hat and just a repetition of what’s already been out there. Obviously the special dreamy romantic photos of the couple will be new and admired but the rest of the coverage might just as well have been left to a committee!

shoebmahmud 4:40 pm 15 Apr 13

Hi Rioters, thank you very much for all your opinions.

thatsnotme 4:37 pm 15 Apr 13

shoebmahmud said :

Hi Grail…yes, I understand all that but don’t you think the photographer should have at least attempted to talk to us to discuss it instead of threatening us to report to authorities when we wanted to talk to him about the photos. I thought customer service was the key to their success.
Also,I don’t remember of agreeing to or seeing any terms and condition of his service.

I find this surprising – without a contract, any of the photographer’s claims to not be ‘contractually obligated’ to retain photos don’t really mean much!

Are you sure you didn’t sign a contract before agreeing to use him? When I’m signing up a client, we sit down together, I explain what the contract means, what all the terms and conditions mean, etc etc so there’s no confusion going forward. They’re not locked in with me until I have a signed contract, and their deposit. Any photographer who doesn’t operate with a contract is playing with fire – and if you’ve paid for a photographer without a contract in place, I’m afraid you’ve been playing with fire too.

Incidentally, the situation you’re describing here is covered in my contract, and it covers me. As a wedding photographer, you’d be crazy to promise to deliver every photo the client desired – sometimes things happen, and you can’t deliver a certain photo. On the other hand, I make every effort to take everything they want, and I have the skills, equipment and knowledge to deliver, even if the situation is difficult. I do everything I can to minimise the chances of that one photo with your friend you decide to take on the spur of the moment being taken properly, without you blinking, etc etc.

Out of interest, do you mind sharing what you paid for two hours of work? Guessing the deliverable was just the photos on a disc?

Jivrashia 3:35 pm 15 Apr 13

I guess it all comes down to what you have signed and thus what you’ve agreed to.

If there is a clause that says that the photographer holds the intellectual property to all photos taken, then you don’t have much grounds to argue your case.

If you feel strongly about it, and you’ve already got your own legal advice, then you can take it to the ACT Civil and Administrative tribunal: http://www.acat.act.gov.au/

The fee to have a hearing is $47 for claims under $2,000 or, in your case, no money is in dispute.

Again you should get some legal advice (does not necessary have to be a lawyer) to prepare for the hearing.

zorro29 3:32 pm 15 Apr 13

shoebmahmud said :

zorro29 said :

quote]

Hi Zorro29…In our wedding there were well almost 32 guests who can confirm the photographer took well more than couple of group pictures. We didn’t receive any of them 🙁
Before the wedding we emailed the photographer a list of people whom we specifically would like to have photos with. Most of them were also not given to us.
We have guests who can confirm they took pictures with us but we didn’t receive any of them.
We know that he took the pictures and we are trying to get them.

yeah it’s a tricky one…but if you have an agreed email trail of people you wanted photos with and this was not agreed to, to hell with him. others can advise on how to pursue…i don’t know much about prof photographer bodies (just on ACAT)

shoebmahmud 3:22 pm 15 Apr 13

Grail said :

This attitude is why the first advice given to budding photographers about wedding photography is: “DON’T”. Wedding photography combines all the hassles of portrait, indoor, outdoor, landscape and architectural photography, adds the restrictions that most scenes can not be posed or held or replayed to be shot again, and your client will be ultra demanding.

It is important to understand that a photographer’s reputation is based on the photos that people see. Thus if some photos were not of the quality that the photographer wants associated with their name, they will destroy those photos, never to be seen again. The problem might be something as awful as a fuzzy, out of focus image. It might be as subtle as poor flash fill putting too much shine on people’s faces, or not realising that certain components of the environment were detrimental to the framing of a picture (such as a tree branch sticking out of the bride’s ear).

You have what you paid for: great photos of the wedding.

Check the contract for any recourse you might have, but ultimately it is the photographer’s decision about which photographs end up on the cutting room floor.

Hi Grail…yes, I understand all that but don’t you think the photographer should have at least attempted to talk to us to discuss it instead of threatening us to report to authorities when we wanted to talk to him about the photos. I thought customer service was the key to their success.
Also,I don’t remember of agreeing to or seeing any terms and condition of his service.

Mysteryman 3:12 pm 15 Apr 13

So.. you got your photos and they are, by your own admission, great. You also got some group photos, but you want more group photos? Unless it was written in the contract that you would get to choose which photos he provides, then you really don’t have any chance of getting them.

People seem to think that digital photography means you get to take home EVERYTHING that was shot. It doesn’t. A photographer will provide the photos they think are best, as it’s their reputation on the line. If that doesn’t suit you as a client, then you should have expressly stated so and signed a contract accordingly.

Regarding the correspondence… well, we only have one side of the story so we really can’t comment on that.

thatsnotme 3:11 pm 15 Apr 13

Wow, professional in name but not in behaviour?

I’m a part-time professional wedding photographer, so here are some thoughts your post prompted.

Firstly, did you have a contract with the photographer? It should cover what he has promised to deliver you. It will form the basis of any further action you wish to take against the photographer.

How have you decided that photos were missing? If he’s retained the original file names on the photos handed over to you, you’d see gaps in the sequence, but if they’ve all been renamed then you’d be relying on your memory. Not suggesting this is the case here, but I had clients recently who were certain I’d taken a particular photograph, but it didn’t form any part of my coverage. I do regularly delete photos I’ve taken – nobody wants a photo of themselves blinking or pulling a stupid face, and if I’ve taken 4 shots of the same group with virtually no difference I’ll choose the best one and get rid of the duplicates – but I move them to another folder. I was able to look back at my file names, confirm that there were no holes, and that the photo they remembered simply didn’t exist. So mistakes can happen.

I’d also call the AIPP and speak to them about his claims to be a member, rather than just looking at their directory online. There are several different membership types to the organisation, but only a couple that allow the photographer to claim membership, and only the top membership level allows the AIPP logo to be displayed on the photographer’s website. They would be none too happy if a non-member was using their name to market themselves.

The bottom line is this though I think. The photos you remember almost certainly no longer exist – it’s probably not worth hoping you can get them back. It’s possible that the photographer did a crappy job shooting those photos, so even if you could get them back they’d be no good. Even if the photographer hadn’t deleted them originally, it doesn’t sound like he’d hesitate to do so after you got in touch given the attitude you got.

Your other avenue would be monetary compensation through small claims court. Whether that’s worth pursuing will depend on the contract you had, and probably to some extent the proportion of the job you’re unhappy with. I’m not sure how far you’ll get hauling the photographer into court, if the basis of the complaint is that 95% of what you were given was great, but you’re unhappy with the 5% you didn’t get – especially if the missing shots weren’t of key moments in the day.

Is it really worth stressing yourself pursuing this any further given you’d almost certainly never see the photos anyway, or letting it go and enjoying the photos you do have, with the knowledge that you’d never recommend this guy to anyone ever again?

shoebmahmud 3:05 pm 15 Apr 13

zorro29 said :

holy moly…

be honest…was someone being bridezilla? even so, photographers who sign up (and pay premium) for weddings, should expect a little guff from their clients

it’s hard to prove if there were pictures missing (and he’s probably right that he doesn’t have to give you the unedited or unsuitable pics as they’re usually not part of the package)

the part about the authorities seems a bit too far (unless you have been threatening in your comms) – but, even if you took this to ACAT or something, what would you say? “we remember more pics and want them” or would you seek compensation? unless you had a contract specifying that certain photos had to be among the pics taken and provided, i dont think you have a leg to stand on sadly (as much as i sympathise with your anguish here)

just not sure what you’re trying to accomplish…if he doesn’t have the pics, what do you want to happen???

Hi Zorro29…In our wedding there were well almost 32 guests who can confirm the photographer took well more than couple of group pictures. We didn’t receive any of them 🙁
Before the wedding we emailed the photographer a list of people whom we specifically would like to have photos with. Most of them were also not given to us.
We have guests who can confirm they took pictures with us but we didn’t receive any of them.
We know that he took the pictures and we are trying to get them.

Grail 2:50 pm 15 Apr 13

This attitude is why the first advice given to budding photographers about wedding photography is: “DON’T”. Wedding photography combines all the hassles of portrait, indoor, outdoor, landscape and architectural photography, adds the restrictions that most scenes can not be posed or held or replayed to be shot again, and your client will be ultra demanding.

It is important to understand that a photographer’s reputation is based on the photos that people see. Thus if some photos were not of the quality that the photographer wants associated with their name, they will destroy those photos, never to be seen again. The problem might be something as awful as a fuzzy, out of focus image. It might be as subtle as poor flash fill putting too much shine on people’s faces, or not realising that certain components of the environment were detrimental to the framing of a picture (such as a tree branch sticking out of the bride’s ear).

You have what you paid for: great photos of the wedding.

Check the contract for any recourse you might have, but ultimately it is the photographer’s decision about which photographs end up on the cutting room floor.

zorro29 2:37 pm 15 Apr 13

holy moly…

be honest…was someone being bridezilla? even so, photographers who sign up (and pay premium) for weddings, should expect a little guff from their clients

it’s hard to prove if there were pictures missing (and he’s probably right that he doesn’t have to give you the unedited or unsuitable pics as they’re usually not part of the package)

the part about the authorities seems a bit too far (unless you have been threatening in your comms) – but, even if you took this to ACAT or something, what would you say? “we remember more pics and want them” or would you seek compensation? unless you had a contract specifying that certain photos had to be among the pics taken and provided, i dont think you have a leg to stand on sadly (as much as i sympathise with your anguish here)

just not sure what you’re trying to accomplish…if he doesn’t have the pics, what do you want to happen???

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