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Couple Bashes Photographer With A Surprise Twist!

Best Wedding Photographers Saratoga Springs NY

By Jeffrey House Photography

 

Before we jump into today's article, I want you to take a minute or two to check out this very small news story and video clip.  

Couple Bashes Photographer With A Surprise Twist

In case you didn't check out the story and video, I will give you a quick summary of the story.  A couple hired a wedding photographer.  Following the wedding, the photographer requested a $125 payment be satisfied prior to the release of their wedding photos.  The couple refused and then they took to social media to express their anger.  They blasted the photographer all over social media alleging the photographer was "holding their photos hostage."  The couple stated they paid the photographer thousands of dollars and now the photographer is asking for another $125.  

Ultimately, the couple damaged the photographer's reputation so badly, she lost a tone of clients and had to eventually close her photography studio.  Of course, that's only one side of the story.   

According to the photographer, she wasn't holding the couple's photos hostage.  Per their wedding contract, they owed the $125 and she wasn't going to release the photos until they met their contractual obligations.  The photographer later filed a defamation of character law suit and won.  The couple was directed to pay the photographer $1.08 million in damages!

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3 alarming problems with wedding photography

In truth, this could be titled "3 Alarming Problems With The Wedding Industry," but as a wedding photographer in Saratoga Springs, NY we are going to focus specifically on wedding photography.

Before we get started, I must warn you.  The information I'm about to share is a little controversial, but it's real and it's honest.  Hopefully, we can improve the situation as a whole by gaining better perspectives.  

1.  Dishonest Wedding Photographers

With the availability of cell phone cameras, consumer grade DSLR cameras, and the wide array of social media platforms, everyone these days seems to believe they are a "photographer."  

This environment has allowed many amateur photographers to posture themselves as "professionals."  This is a huge reason we more and more stories in the news about wedding photographers scamming unsuspecting couples.  They don't show up on the wedding day or they photograph the wedding, but never deliver a single photo.  They essentially disappear with your money and steal your memories. 

Obviously, this is unacceptable.  Weddings are once-in-a-lifetime events with once-in-a-lifetime moments.  Once these moments are gone, they are gone forever.  Couples hopes, dreams, and memories are literally shattered in the blink of an eye.  While it's impossible to completely safeguard yourself from these lovely photographers, there are some red flags you need to be aware of:

  • They're a "Facebook" photographer.  They don't have a professional website, they market themselves as professionals using resources like the FREE Facebook business page.  A professional website costs $200-$300 per year on average.  If a photographer can't invest a couple hundred of dollars into their business, why should you?
  • They don't have "professional profiles" on multiple social media platforms or if they do, they aren't consistently adding new "posts" to them.  They are "vanity" profiles.  You want your photographer to be active and engaging.  After all, isn't that the job?
  • They don't use contracts.  NEVER - EVER - work with a photographer that doesn't use contracts.  You might as well save yourself some time and just ask them to rob you.  Make sure you understand their contract too.  If something doesn't seem right, speak to them before signing it. 
  • They are noticeably cheaper than everyone else.  It's easy to get seduced by a low price, but I assure you, there are a lot of corners being cut.  Do you want to gamble with your wedding on WHICH corners?
  • Everyone in their portfolio looks like a "model."  It's likely they have either hired models or paid to be part of a "stylized wedding session."   While these are great ways to practice and gain a little experience, they definitely don't make you a wedding photographer.  
  • They don't have a professional email domain - they use a free service like Google - "SallyPhotos@gmail.com."  Professional emails look something like this - "jhouse@JeffreyHousePhotography.com."  Yes, professional email domains generally cost $3-$5 per month, but it's about credibility. 
  • They don't have customer testimonials on their website
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2.  Couples With Questionable Intent

It's difficult to tell from the news story at the beginning of this article why the couple refused to pay the $125.  It appears they truly didn't believe they owed this extra fee in exchange for their wedding photos.  However, based on the outcome of the story, it's obvious the fee was clearly documented and part of the contract.  We know this, in part, because law judges review these contracts carefully to ensure it's clearly documented and it's not ambiguous.  If the contract didn't have these elements, the photographer would have lost the suit in a second.  

This begs the the following questions:

  1. Did the couple NOT read the contract before signing it?
  2. Did the couple NOT understand the contract, but signed it anyway?
  3. Were they attempting to get something for free?

I honestly don't understand why, but for some reason there are some couples out there that believe a photographer isn't entitled to make money because they're an artist.  This might be hard to believe, but there are a lot of photographers that have experienced this first-hand.  It's important to remember that wedding photographers are more than artists - they are small business owners too trying to make a living.  

I think one of the biggest reasons for this misconception is that a lot of people believe wedding photographers are getting rich.  We charge thousands of dollars for 8 hours of work.  In reality, each 8 hour wedding requires 50-60 hours of time when you consider client communications (in-person meetings, emails, phone calls, etc.), photographing the engagement session and wedding day, editing the engagement and wedding photos (this can take 30-40 hours alone!), saving/backing up your photos, delivery of your products, etc.  

Wedding photographers are NOT getting rich.  The average wedding photographer makes a NET salary of $30,000 per year!  Photographers have a lot of reasons for choosing this career, but money is not one of them.  

Let me share a story with you.  One of my very first weddings, I worked with a couple with questionable intent.  Unfortunately, I was inexperienced and was taken advantage of.  Their wedding contract was for 10 hours of coverage.  After a little manipulation, they wound up getting a total of 13 hours of coverage!  After taking everything into account, this couple got $700 of my time for FREE!   

Imagine for a moment.  How would you feel if you walked into work on Monday morning and your boss told you that you're going to work the full week, but you won't get paid for Monday or Tuesday?  This is what they expected of me.   

Clearly, this is not reasonable or acceptable, and yet, some couples are constantly trying nickel and dime photographers.   

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3.  Social Media

In many ways, social media is amazing.  However, it's also the root of many evils.  

Earlier, we mentioned how easy it is for "amateur" photographers to set up free social medial business accounts and then market themselves as professionals.  It's too easy for these scam artists to prey on unsuspecting couples.  They tempt you with cheap prices and then promise you the world to set the hook.

Not only are we seeing more and more photography scams on social media, but we are seeing a big increase in couples having to pay photographers large sums of money for defamation suits.  Take the couple in the new story for example.  Their rationale for blasting this photographer on social media was they were upset and they voiced their frustrations like anyone else would.  

Unfortunately, I disagree.

Engaging in an online smear campaign is not the answer or the appropriate response.  What steps can you take if you have a truly bad experience with a any business to avoid a defamation suit?

  1. Make sure you haven't overlooked or violated the terms of your contract. 
  2. Make every effort to resolve the issue directly with the business - Even the best companies can't please everyone 100% of the time, but how they resolve your issue speaks volumes about their character and business practices.
  3. If you are unable to resolve the issue with the business, consider addressing it legally or reporting the issue to the better business bureau.
  4. Write a credible testimonial on the businesses Facebook page, website, Yelp, Google, etc.  However, calmly and professionally communicate your experience as this will give your review greater impact.  Refrain from using your personal social media accounts to bad mouth a company as this is sure to expose you to a defamation of character suit.  We've all experienced poor customer service and it's very easy to want to lash out, but that's very dangerous in the world we live in today.  Even if your complaint is justified, you can still find yourself on the losing end of a legal issue.    

what do you think about this news story?  I'd love to hear your thoughts!

 

 
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