I'll keep this blog post as professional as I can under the circumstances, and we are looking for photographer's support. Mine, Michael's and my assistant for a day's wedding photos have been compromised and tampered with. The wedding was a "family" member and we felt sorry for them that they were on a budget. The price was peanuts and we worked tirelessly for 14 hours, and countless weeks following to carefully hand craft the wedding photos. We also shot their engagement and stag and doe free of charge. I've come to learn via Facebook that the bride is unhappy with the photos. So much so, that she sent an email to all her bridal party requesting to comment negatively on all the wedding photos she posted. Thank goodness I have all this documentation to back us up. After seeking legal counsel, my assistant contacted her to please remove images that her and her bridesmaid are taking upon themselves to re-edit, as well as a statement that the photographers intentionally made her look old and ugly. A statement which is liable in court for slander. And posted to the Facebook world for all our friends and family to see. She laughed, and refuses to take the images down. If anything, more edited images continue to appear. And our "army of supporters" as someone quipped, continue to document it every step of the way.
Now I understand that everyone has a right to their opinion. The tricky part about wedding photography is trying to be on the same page with the client in terms of final output. The problem becomes when, they compare your work to high end weddings to those that are on a budget. Of course gorgeous venues, beautiful food and amazing details photograph well. Most brides take the time to do their hair and makeup, ensure their room is clean and free of garbage to photograph and take pride in the details. In this case, there were no florals except for those that were fake, a sea of turquoise and a bride who does not like the way she looks on any given day. There was no dinner provided to the guests, no bombineres and very little guests on the bride's side. It is difficult from our perspective, to turn a photograph into a masterpiece when there is very little to work with. We are memory makers, not magicians. With that being said, we are a company that bides by the term "no excuses." If a hotel room is a mess, we try our best to photograph the bride by a window. If we are running low on time, we try to pull the reigns in to get all the shots we need. Because we know, at the end of it all, if photos are missed because the hairdresser is running late, it's not her that will take the brunt of it...it's us.
This is our first experience dealing with a negative situation like this, and it is quite disheartening to say the least, to be told that our photos "suck" and accused of deliberately screwing up wedding photos. In a message to my assistant, the bride let her know that she takes better cell phone photos of herself and in a separate email stating that she turned down a 5 million dollar Cover Girl contract as well as a 2.5 million dollar contract with Jive records, and has never seen such ugly photos. Did I mention she is a paralegal as well? Poor Michael took so many photos of the groom, and to be told that they are all unflattering and ugly is a horrible feeling. In fairness to us, every vendor was complained about (other than the makeup artist and wedding singer who conveniently happened to both be the complainer). Everything from the bridal party not paying for their dresses, the dressmaker screwing up the hemline, the aisle runner being wrong, the invitations having to be redone etc. My mom was going to make the cake, and my stepdad was asked to videotape. Both foresaw what was going to happen, and both eagerly declined and I was encouraged to do so, but we forged forward. A promise is a promise and I am a professional.
So you see, we understand we are not dealing with someone entirely on this planet, however from a legal aspect, the manipulation of our photos is something that is a poor reflection of our brand and talent. We have deep pride for our work, our reputation and our relationship with our clients. When I posted these re-edited photos on Facebook, the comments from my colleagues came flooding in. I am not alone in this experience and the copyright laws that are included in the contract are supposed to protect us from such damage. But when something like this is associated with your name, how protected are you? My before shots, and her "after" shots...claiming that a bridal portrait should be more "heavenly."
This is definitely not my typical client. It was my assistant's first wedding and I felt sorry for her as the bride yelled at everyone in the room to be quiet so she could put on her makeup. I let her know that this wedding was not the norm. Most brides, despite the nickname bridezilla are loving, gracious and happy on their day. I was advised to never shoot weddings for family or friends and anyone who gets a discount, almost always takes advantage and wants more. Photographers that I know charge up to $25 per edited image. These photos were edited by hand, all 800 of them for nothing. The value of nothing, is obviously nothing. Lesson learned.
In this photo above, my husband was focusing on the "guy in the front", whom in this case happened to be the father of the groom. In my experience, the father of the groom is a pretty important guy. No? It was done deliberately, but not maliciously like the comments suggest.
Something that I struggle with personally, is giving clients photos that are technically imperfect. Of course any photos with obvious closed eyes, distracting angles or totally blurry get thrown in the reject pile. But what if that photo with the distracting angle has a cute and candid moment that is meaningful to the couple, that we are unaware of? We don't know the dynamics going on between them and certain guests. In one photo at a family wedding before my aunt's death, someone took a slightly fuzzy picture of her and I laughing on the dance floor. And I still cherish it. The beauty of digital is that if you don't like a certain photo, then you don't have to post it. In the above shot, I felt this was a cute moment because while others may not understand it, it was a photojournalistic approach to a day which was full of posed smiles. Sadly, this was posted intentionally with the commenters prodded to say negative things. It was all planned.
It's sadly true that often times, high end budgets have higher calibre people. Strangers have booked us, and in our upcoming weddings have scheduled us in for a weekend at bed and breakfasts, rehearsal dinners, a next day brunch and often send tokens of their appreciation. Or at least a thank you card.
They also maybe have an appreciation for quality and in our experience, never complain.
It certainly puts a damper on things when you have worked so hard at something, put your heart and love into it and it gets shit on. But you can't win them all, you learn and grow, avoid it happening again and most importantly, try even harder with your next client. Everything is a learning experience. My only hope is that future clients don't suffer because I've over-scrutinized whether or not to include the photo that may not be technically perfect.
To see the complete photos and writeup of this blog, please check here. You will note that the bride left the last comment on the blog and was happy with what she saw, but somewhere along the way when the party was over, is left angry with visuals of a day that she was not happy with. And the photographers unfairly take the brunt of that. I've offered them the very little money they gave us back because they are so unhappy with their photos. It's sad to think that you didn't live up to someone's expectations, but when you try your best...what else can you do?
I am happy to announce that the bride has redone her portraits with her cell phone to her style and taste.
I have yet to pose a bride eating her veil but it goes to show we all have our own rights to what we think is classy.