Thursday, March 04, 2010

Wedding Photographer Nightmare

I am going to attempt to summarize what has to have been my most frustrating week in years in a short blog post. I don't think this is going to be short. Sorry. I'm also not naming names, so I can't be sued for defamation. This is the my side of the story to the best of my memory.

First, a little background on me: I have a camera and routinely take pictures. Therefore, I believe I'm allowed to call myself a "photographer." I've been commissioned and paid, so I am pretty sure that makes me a sort of "professional," though photography is not my profession. I enjoy it, but I'm not trying to make my living by it.

Second, a little background on the story: The Man and I are incredibly lucky that his brother offered to pay for our wedding photography as his wedding gift to us. One of his best friends is a professional photographer who regularly shoots weddings. We were thrilled to have someone we knew helping us on our big day, someone we trusted and felt comfortable being around. Our engagement photo shoot was fantastic, and the pictures look amazing. Of all of the tiny details on our wedding day to worry over, the photography was the least of my concerns.

Fast-forward to this last weekend and Monday: We ordered fifteen prints of our wedding photography through our photographer. Fifteen prints, $120. Thankfully we had a big coupon. After applying discounts and credits, we ended up paying $25 (slightly better, but astronomical nonetheless). All of the prints we ordered were 4" x 6" so they'd fit into our new frames. The Man put the prints on the dining room table, so when I got home they were right there waiting for me. He said he didn't want me to look at them. As I opened the box, he slowly backed up. Our beautiful 4" x 6" pictures were oddly sized 3" x 4" images on 4" x 6" paper. Some were almost correct, but one wasn't even the right size paper! There was white space where our pictures were supposed to be! This was the straw that broke the camel's back.

I sat down and drafted the harshest e-mail I could muster, and then I waited twenty-four hours to cool off before sending it. The Man and I had a very long discussion about what we wanted to do. We called his brother and brought him into the loop. On Tuesday night, we fired off a revised (slightly cooler-headed) e-mail to our photographer.

Our complaints included:
- Horrendous lighting issues with the church photography
- Poor editing (that was outsourced by our photographer instead of him doing it himself)
- Waiting four months to finally get our pictures
- Not liking the album the photographer designed for us (at ALL)
- Receiving low-resolution photography on the disc given to us
- Incomplete/incorrectly-sized photograph prints

Our photographer's rebuttal included:
- Having relied on our word that the church's lighting was excellent, he arrived unprepared and without all of his equipment and wouldn't have been able to move us to another location within the church (he didn't come to the rehearsal in order "to save gas;" and his equipment "wouldn't have helped much anyway.")
- He and his wife claimed that all churches have poor lighting due to the many stained glass windows and uncontrollable lighting "issues." However, The Man and I captured stunning photographs at the cathedral, and that church has dozens of HUGE stained glass windows.
- He and his wife spent days editing our photos, but because she was doing a better job editing them, he let her do the whole editing job. (And I'll admit, her work was far superior to his in every instance, including taking pictures.)
- Apparently we weren't even going to receive a disc with photography on it. They only did that "to be nice." They wanted us to order all of our photos through them. At $15 per 4" x 6" print, there's no way we could have afforded to get one print, let alone several.
- His whole "product" was the album. Nothing else mattered. He edited the pictures solely for the album. He claims that he listened to all of our suggestions, but I made several more that were ignored entirely.
- The 4" x 6" prints were oddly sized because pictures "are cropped one way for a reason." They didn't want to change the shape of the pictures to fit in our frames because they believed the way they cropped the pictures was the only "correct" way that picture should be viewed.

In the end, we requested 100% of our original unedited photography to be delivered to us on a CD via mail. In an effort to keep friends happy, he agreed. Had he not agreed, we were going to ask for money to be refunded. He's also reprinting our prints to our exact specifications (full-size 4" x 6" just like we ordered the first time).

Looking back on the last four months, I remember tears and frustration, anger, and a bit of dismay. I knew from the first time I saw the pictures that the raw data was insufficient. But it's impossible to relive a wedding day, to reshoot those pictures. Short of that, nothing will make me truly satisfied. The photographer should have said something right away when he realized the lighting was bad. He should have been very clear in what the contract specified he'd provide and stuck to it (instead of leading us on several false paths like extra photographers, the CD of images, and allowing us believe we could help design our album). He should have called or e-mailed to find out what our prints' dimensions would be. And we should have been more forceful and mean the whole time. We tried to be nice and understanding, but we've learned that lesson the hard way.

Two more lessons were learned:
- Never do a business transaction with family or friends unless all agree on the EXACT SAME ideas
- The Man and I successfully fought our first battle from the same side. We stuck together, worked together, and consoled each other. If there is a silver lining, it's that we learned how to go at life shoulder-to-shoulder. That feels good.

So now you know what my week's been like. :)


Strayer said...

My father fancied himself a photographer, but he was not a pro. A friend of the family, back when I was a kid, asked him to be the photographer at their wedding, nonetheless. After the wedding, when he strutting around, "the professional photographer" he suddenly discovered he had taken all those wedding photos on a camera that had no film in it. The bride and groom were devastated.

Skunk said...

I know someone who also had said photographer. I'll have to find out if they, too, had any issues.

Either way, I'm so sorry! :(