Can I sue a wedding photographer who did a lousy job?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by dave_yong, Feb 13, 2006.

  1. Hi All! This disappointing event happened many years ago when we
    hired a wedding photographer for our wedding. Even though many years
    have passed, i still feel we were treated unfairly by the
    photographer who claimed to be an experienced wedding photographer,
    but in fact he was just an amateur in this business. Our best
    friends recommended their wedding photographer to us for our wedding
    day. After looking at his porfolios and checking out his price, we
    hired him. On our big day He showed up at my wife�s house with his so-
    called personal assistant early morning (later, we found out she was
    his girl-friend). Instead of getting to work right away, they sat
    down with our guests and ate their breakfast (foods for our guests).
    Throughout the day his girlfriend just enjoyed talking with other
    guests and partaking the meals; no assistance to the photographer
    whatsoever. After breakfast, He then couple pictures of the flower
    arrangements and some indoor decorations. After that, he and his
    girlfriend again joined our guests� conversation before the bride
    came down from the second floor. He did not go upstair or asked us
    should the bride�s preparation be recorded. He did not take note of
    who are the family members. He did not shoot a single picture of
    the wedding limousine we had paid big buck for, and the beautiful
    flower arrangements my bride loved so much inside the church. AT the
    park for outdoor shot, he screwed up a big family picture which was
    assumed to be our gift to all of our family members � the picture
    turned out blurry because he did not use a tripod. In
    most of the outdoor pictures our faces were dark and our poses were
    ugly because he did not offer any right posing tips.

    He promised an unlimited shot but refused to shoot more than 200
    pictures as the day went. His excuse is we already had more outdoor
    family/relative/friend portraits than he had in mind. It is fine! I
    was ok with that. He and his girlfriends were never invited to
    partake the evening reception with us; however, they sat down and ate
    as our program was proceeding. Every time I needed a picture taken
    during the reception, I had to ask our wedding coordinator to remind
    him of the program and when was the time he had to take some
    pictures. Because of his attitude we missed some memorable pictures
    during the reception. The worst is yet to come. My wife, after
    looking at the proof which is full of amateur quality pictures, made
    a claim that she wanted a refund. The photographer said no and
    insisted that without paying the rest of the money, we had no right
    to the pictures. After a long thought and struggle, we got the
    products we don�t like.. A question ocassionally lingers in my mind,
    is it possible to sue him back then since he is such an irresponsible

    Last month, our friend hired a photographer for their wedding. The
    photographer, with all the fancy Nikon lens and a carbon fiber
    tripod, was very diligent and nice. After he showed the picture
    proof online, we all were disappointed with the poor quality of a so-
    called professional photographer who has a website full of flashy
    pictures and A plus customer feedbacks. If i were my friend, i would
    choose to sue the photographer..........
  2. sounds like your out of luck, unless he violated the contractual agreement in any specific terms.
  3. In the USA, just about anybody can sue just about anyone for just about anything.
    Whether you can obtain a judgement is another question, and assuming you can win, whether you can collect is yet another question.
    Winning a suit depends very much on the contract between the parties, as well as the laws of the state and/or locality where the incident took place. If you're thinking about a lawsuit, the best starting place is to bring your copy of the contract to your lawyer's office. <p>
    And don't trust web posts (including this one) when it comes to legal matters.
  4. Do you have a question? Don't come here looking for legal advice about sueing someone -- that is complete nonsense (your premise). If you had a problem(s) with your photos "many years ago" then it is too late to do anything about it. Would you sue your friends too for their lousy advice? With friends like that... What does your contract say? In any case incompetent people are in all walks of life. Sometimes too it is helpful to choose friends who can tell their left hand from their right. No one can stop you though, you sound so sue happy.
  5. You're still nurturing this bitter resentment over an incident years ago? Maybe you should, I
    dunno, hold a big anniversary party and hire a good photographer and bask in the new happy
    memories rather than hoarding this cold lump of bitterness.
  6. If you want real world legal advice: call a friendly lawyer and set up a meeting.

    And don't forget to bring a copy of your contract to the meeting.
  7. What a jerk!

    Lets go to a wedding photographer forum and ask if we can sue a wedding photographer. Would you go to a doctor and ask him if you can sue another doctor?

    Yes you can sue. Anyone can sue anyone anytime. Plain and simple. Will you win? Thats the question. I already see your a winner!

    Do you not look at the portfolio before booking? Is the portfolio so much different then the pictures he took of you? Did he mis-represent himself?
  8. How about suing your best friends for their recommendation?
    And why are you asking this kind of question on a forum for wedding photographers? We are not lawyers. This forum is for wedding professionals to discuss their work and help each other to provide best service to their clients.
  9. Dave - sorry to hear about your troubles.

    As for suing, you need to talk to a lawyer for two reasons: first, to determine whether or not the photographer did not do something he said he would (ie. did he promise a certain XX of images? or a certain 'quality' of images? probably not), and then, whether or not too much time has passed to sue. There is a statute of limitations in many states and countries that says that after XX years, you can't sue someone for something. These tend to be very generous - ie. 25 years for a murder case - but if it.

    What about your friend who gave you the recommendation for the photogrpher int he first place? Did you see their proofs?

    I always tell my clients that it is entirely acceptable to ask to see an entire wedding, as it was presented to a client.

    Next time you get married or have a party, make it simple and hire me. My clients are consistently thrilled, and you deserved no less on your wedding.

  10. Sounds guys thought you were getting a pro but, too many assumptions. Your post illustrates how important it is to see full weddings by a photographer and establish some real credentials before you sign a contract. After the fact is too late, there will never be those moments again to re-capture. I guess you can sue, I donno,....but, what for? It's over.....
  11. Please don't take me wrong! I am not here to ask for legal advice , neither here to create an unfriendly atmosphere. I respect wedding photographers for their hard work, dedication, and professional products. I am just not happy with those hypocrates out there running covered with a sheep skin! I have many portraits done by profs and i am happy with their service and professionalism. I just wonder is it a legal action possible. By no means i want to sue....
  12. I wonder what the statute of limitations are for this type of thing.

    I think that some of the responses here are from inconsiderate people that slam you for asking a reasonable question.

    And what does coming here to ask about sueing a photographer have to do with asking other photographers? Often the lawyers that handle medical mal practice are themselves medical doctors too. Most of the time this site is very helpful. Sometimes, as you can see from some responses her, you'll get responses from rude people.

    Like it has been already mentioned, your best advise is from an attorney....but I wonder if the statute of limitations has already expired.

    I would guess that a so called pro photog can be held liable for cruddy work, and one should be able to sue the dickens out of him, to be sure.

    The problem I see is that what one considers quality or lack thereof of images IS SO SUBJECTIVE.

    So this issue is not so black and white (pardon the pun).

    I hope that the few here that gave flippant answers will consider calming down their remarks, but of course this is the internet for heaven's sake, and to expect that is like dividing a number by zero and expecting an integer number.

    Peace to you all.
  13. Maybe i need to rephase my writing a bit. Let's say i want to hire a photographer for my daughter in the future, Should i include a clause in my contract like this: If your products don't match up to what you have shown me (porfolio)I want a refund? Now it sounds less lawyer- like! I think refund is more appropriate.
  14. Dave - for the future, IMHO, it's tough to make a contract that is legally enforceable over the issue of 'quality'. what is quality? nice lighting? focus? exposure?

    I think that your best strategy would be be to first get MULTIPLE references for any photographer you are considering. Sit down with them and ask a few questions - ie. can I see all of your work from one assignment as it was presented to the client? How long have you been doing this? etc, etc. tell him about your previous experience and see what they say.

    second - do NOT sign ANY contract until you meet with three photographers.

    I think you have the wrong mentality if you go into it thinking that you are going to put something in the contract. I think that you need to find someone who does a good job, does it consistently, and is proud of what they do. When I shoot a wedding, I work hard to get good results, but not just b/c i have a contract, but also because enjoy it and I want to be proud of my work and keep my reputation up.
  15. As far as quality, it would have to be have to be quite a differance in quality to be able to sue over. I don't know anyone who sign that. Who judges quality? You? Photographer?

    Just check referances and portfolios.
  16. It sounds to me like you got what you paid for.
  17. A bad experience. But please Dave, if you

    Were bleeding from the ears would you call a doctor?
    If your house, heaven forbid was burning perhaps you dial 911
    And if you want to sue someone into oblivion you would talk to a lawyer. I would like to hear what the photographer's side of the story is.

    Odd of you to post before what is more or less a partial group of peers. If you called a lawyer you could have had this filed by now.
  18. Conrab, Jon - I understand quality is subjective. Still we can tell a blurry picture from a sharp one. Yes, I learn from my mistakes but i don't hold any resentment against that photographer. What is done is done. (Sorry that my writing give hint of resentment. I should not have channelled my emotion into my writing) I just hope that the same bad experience will not happen to my family and friends or others. Yes, porfolio and references are the key.

    Dan - Thanks for calming the flame dowm.
  19. Steven - so you mean paying big money can be a solution. I kind of diagree. My friend paid a big buck; however, their pictures are suck!But anyway, sorry to post a question like this here.
  20. When you have a wedding (in the future) for your daughter, it will not be considered a fault to inquire about past references from the photographer. The photographer should have no un-easy feelings in providing you with past client phone numbers, if needed.

    Just do not take 'advice' from your friends who know someone who is a good photographer.
  21. Hi Dave, sorry to hear such a story of disappointment and obvious frustration at being
    powerless to anything about it. No one who shoots weddings likes to hear a tale of woe,
    and maybe some here are bristling a bit too much at you.

    It's actually an excellent reminder of how important this work can be to many people.
    People who aren't experts, just a couple who wants their wedding day to remember years
    from now.

    From your post here Dave, you seem to have had certain expectations. That is what a
    contract is for, to get those expectations in writing. It's no different than a contract for any
    service. "For this, I will pay you this".

    BTW, subjectivity is one thing, but blurry photos is another.

    As to the recent friend's wedding: Proofs are not always the last word in what the album
    or enlargements will be like when finished. Proofs are there to select for content, but can
    be cropped, corrected and enhanced to a more finished polish. On-line proofs are often
    very low resolution so clients can't just copy them ... and then not buy prints from the
    photographer who depends on prints sales to make ends meet.
  22. Dave,
    <Should i include a clause in my contract like this: If your products don't match up to what you have shown me (porfolio)I want a refund?> Who makes the decision? You? If so, are you willing to say "Ok, I don't like the pictures. I want a refund, but I understand I will have to give up all of the pictures as a consequence". I would bet not. As to your friend and the proofs from last month's wedding: Proofs are just that--proofs. They give an approximation of the finished product which, after being retouched, color balanced,cropped, and placed in an album to tell a story will show considerably different than the proofs. Your comments are the reason I have never been a big fan of throwing proofs up on a web site. It is a shame, however, that you had such an unfortunate experience with the photographer at your own wedding. It sounds like he was most unprofessional.
  23. hi Dave,
    I'm sorry your pictures turned out poorly and that you're not satisfied with them. It may be too late to sue, though, if this happened years ago. The right time would have been immediately, I think.

    Can you tell us about your contract? What did he promise to you in the contract? Was there a little segment about food for the photographer? Many times photographers add a clause saying that they get to eat at your reception, and you might not have noticed that if you were busy with other details.

    To take a devil's advocate point of view, perhaps the assistant was trying to be friendly and get the bride & wedding party relaxed and happy so that her boyfriend could get better pictures? (Although I know you still were not happy with them!) Some assistants don't appear to be full of action, but they take care of hundreds of tiny details before and during the event.

    Did you go over a "shot list" with him prior to the event? You know, where you look at the huge master list of potential shots and tick off all the ones you need, such as "bride dancing with father," "group portrait with in-laws," "bouquet toss," etc. If you did that, and he did not give you many of those shots you asked for, you may have a right to complain. If you did NOT do that shot list, then he was probably just trying to get "good" shots for you and may have missed moments that were critical to you.

    It's possible some of the old shots can be salvaged. Are you savvy with photoshop? If not, you can certainly hire someone to fix up and "pretty up" some of the shots for you. It sucks to spend extra money on this, I know, but at least you'd then have a good memory picture for the wall. :)

    Now I'm curious. Can you post examples of his WORST and BEST pictures for us? There's nothing I can do (except commiserate with you!) but I'd like to see and judge them.

    sorry for your bad luck!
  24. Dave, I am surprised that you did not see his portfolio first. How can you hire a photographer on what someone reccommends alone? I have never heard of someone hiring a wedding photographer without seeing actual printed photos of a wedding in an album. That is the first thing clients want to look at. A website can show fictitious products from other photographers. You don't order a car over the net and then sue the car dealer because your friends told you the car had ABS brakes and leather seats which yours didn't have. I think you have learnt an important lesson to do better research in the future. This photographer sounded pretty rude and disrespectful to me so I'm surprised anyone can recommend him. Sorry you got a bad deal!
  25. Dave, live and learn. At my wedding, my wife's cousin took informal snapshots and that's all the photography there was. Just as well, we haven't looked at those photos in years. So you're out some money. Half the people that get married have wonderful photos and their marriage sucks. So if your marriage is going fine after many years, count yourself lucky and don't sweat the small stuff.
  26. Dave, based on your earlier post about a "Sunpak" and now this "Post" I wonder about what was more pressing...Your "Sunpak" a few days earlier or this post...something smelss, I just dont know what!!
  27. I ate at Red Lobster a couple of months ago and the food was bad. Can I sue them and get my money back?
  28. Exactly, I had some bad dental work done to me 29 years ago -- can I sue? MY friend had some bad work done too lately, should he sue? Why not? The dentist uses fancy equipment with a carbon tipped drill, should I sue? They sure had a fancy ad and a pretty assistant who looked like his grifriend of all things!

    Let's see examples of the poor work here, please post a couple representative bad shots. Thanks!
  29. After 2 years, you can't sue.
  30. Dave,

    As others have mentioned, seeing an attorney is the way to get advice about suing. All states have statutes of limitations giving you a varying number of years to sue for different types of problems. The idea is, if you have a problem, take action while people and memories and paperwork are still around. After that period, if no action has been brought, people should be entitled to get along with their lives.

    The limitation on lawsuits does not mean that your grievance was not good or that your unhappiness is not justified. There may be other ways to address your current unhappiness. I believe that the Better Business Bureau system has recently removed any time limits on filing complaints. If they offer in-person mediation or arbitration, the chance to voice your grievances may be of assistance. The photographer may belong to a professional association offering similar assistance. If he advertises, or has a store front, there may be logos of trade associations he belongs to.

    Before doing any of the above, think about contacting him. Tell him this has been a concern of yours and you would like some closure. He may say no, it's been too long ago. He may say OK, let's talk. If he is willing to talk and asks what you want, he may refuse a refund. In that case, assuming he wants to do something in good faith, and has improved over the years, he might be willing to do some family photographs. I don't know. He might have just been a dumb kid who thought he knew what he was doing, but didn't. He may realize that now and be willing to work with you.

    Sometimes that intervention of an independent third party can help. If you are in a smaller community, a florist who refers clients to him or the wedding coordinator for a local religious institution may be able to get the two of you together.

    Even lawyers know that lawsuits may not be the best solution for their clients. Many lawyers try to resolve disputes outside the court system, in what is called alternative dispute resolution. Courts can be very expensive, take a long time, and still you may lose.

    For your disappointed friend, suggest a meeting with the photographer to voice the quality issues and to suggest remedies, such as a reduced fee.

  31. just out of curiosity, how much did the photographer charge you?
  32. Dave, sorry about your bad experience, but perhaps by posting this you've done the community a service. You'll often see newbies posting on this forum who obviously know nothing or next to nothing about photography, but have decided their new camera gives them all the qualifications they need to hire themselves out as professional wedding photographers. Perhaps some of those people will come across your posting and see the harm they may cause before they go out and ruin some other couple's wedding photos.
  33. Hi,
    I would be upset If I paid him $1,500 Plus, If you paid him any less you should not complain... How much did you pay him ? Remember you get what you paid for.
    Manny D.
  34. "By no means i want to sue...."

    If you title a post 'Can I sue a wedding photographer..." it usually means you 'want to sue'.

    As to your new question (and this is not legal advice just a personal comment) it would be difficult to enforce a refund for a subjective quality control issue unless the quality were so bad it would be substantailly and objectively of no value to a reasonable person.

    Others have suggested reviewing representative samples of the photographer, not just the advertising displays. That's great advice.
  35. Hi Dave,

    I'm sorry that you had such a difficult experience and that your outcomes did not match your expectations. Unfortunately, I hear about this a lot from brides who think that one of their vendors didn't live up to their expectations. Sometimes it's the florist, who they feel didn't arrange the flowers in the right way, or maybe the DJ didn't play enough of the right music. In any case, the only way to make sure your expectations match that of the person you're hiring, is to ask the right questions and to put all of your expectations in writing.

    Unfortunately, I do know of quite a few pros who have been in this business many years and who can be at a wedding all day long and only take 200 pictures. They have a shot list in their mind which doesn't really change, no matter what the situation. While I don't personally agree with this style, I am also aware that this is the way certain people work. Some photographers talk about blending into the crowd, and mingling with guests may be part of that strategy. Many photographers work side by side with a spouse or relative as an assistant, and different people have different opinions of what an assistant should do.

    I agree that proof quality is not always the same as print quality. There are some photographers who deliver print-ready proofs, but they've really gone above and beyond what an actual proof is intended for.

    The best way to protect your friends from this in the future is to educate them to ask to see a full set of proofs from a recent wedding, along with a recent example of what the final product will look like. It is also important to get a references from recent brides and ask them what they thought of the photographer's professionalism. The time to prevent yourself from getting a poor product is before you sign the contract. It's very important to do your homework and ask the right questions before making such an important investment.

    It sounds like the photographer fulfilled his contractual commitment, and the rest is a subjective arguement. If this is very important to you, you should seek legal counsel.

    All the best to you.
  36. Thanks for all your advises, sympathy and suggestions.

    Ken - My mother-in-law was a pediatrician and she got sued couple times in the past before her retirement even though her medical practice was highly recommendable among her peers and clients. And she was a distinguished seminar speaker for a well-known pharmaceutical company. My good friend also a pediatrician got sued couple times because the medicines he prescribed
    triggered some kind of allergies. In both cases, the doctors won the lawsuit. Please don't tell me a lousy dentist can not be sued! One of my aunts was diagnosed with a heart disease. The surgeons opened her hearts twice and found nothing. SHe was then sent to another hospital for a heart surgery. The chief surgeon opened her heart and found that the previous stitching was not done properly and her heart got serious infection. The surgeon stopped doing any operation and summoned a meeting with other fellow doctors and my cousin family. Those doctors recommended a law-sult and they were willing to witness. Please don't tell me a doctor can not be sued!

    I can take shots of my blurry wedding group pictures and, other poorly-lit and posed pictures. Would you attribute the poor quality of those pictures to my wrong camera exposure and focusing technique?

    Bill - Thanks for your suggestions. Back then i did not know about "Better Business Bureau." ABout 6 months ago, my friend recommended the Bureau to us for our house roof replacement. We picked a local company recommended by the Bureau. The job and cost were beautiful. How many independent wedding photographer are in the Bureau's list? I guess just a few...

    Marc - Yes, i understand proof online is low resolution picture. In my friend case. the final products are also suck.

    To those who asked - I paid $2500 for my wedding. Maybe to some of you, $2500 is not a big sum. I did look at the photographer's porfolio. He did the wedding shot for my good friend, this is how he was recommended to us. We did look at my friend's wedding album. The pictures were good and the photograper was recommendable by them. Why he did the "Opposite" is beyond my understanding. We did look at all the pictures he shot on our wedding day. I am sure most of you before taking a solo as a wedding photographer, you assisted one way or another. Did you stand there like an audience all the time when your mentor was busily shooting? If you are like my wedding photographer's assistant, good luck to your career!

    Ok, Thanks.
  37. Dave - $2500 is a good sum for photography. Sure, it's not $10,000, but few people here shoot for that amount. Even though I haven't seen the pictures, I think that for $2500, you deserve better than what it sounds like you got (ie. you should be happy, if not delighted, IMHO).

    Hope things get better. Next time, hire Marc!
  38. Who cares about the $2,500?!? It's the images of the memories that the photography screwed up...that is the real loss here...the $2,500 is just incidental at best.
  39. Who says that Dave Yong actually had a lousy photographer? Dave Yong says so...that's all. Maybe we can see a few samples?

    As mentioned, this is not the Legal Advice Forum.

    I think that all of these types of questions should be deleted.
  40. Dave, I'm sorry to hear you had bad experience. As others have said this is not a place to seek legal advice. While quality is subjective, blurry formal (posed) photos is something that shouldn't have happened to a professional. Blurry shots from lets say reception are another story as they might have been taken to show some action. None of us here seen the pictures so we have to rely on your judgment (as valid as it may be).
    Yes, i understand proof online is low resolution picture. In my friend case. the final products are also suck.
    You said your friend hired him last month. Are you sure you've seen the final product? (such as album or enlargements). 1 month seems rather quick for a photographer to produce an album.
    Regarding assitants: don't confuse them with 2nd shooters. Some assitants have no desire to ever become a photographers. Assistants are there to help main photog both with the equipment and sometimes with orginizing people for formal shots for instance. Nevertheless they should behave in a professional manner - they are hired to do the job, not have fun with guests.
    I use my wife more and more as my assitant. She doesn't want to become a full time photographer, but can use camera if needed, knows where to position herself holding additonal light or reflector, knows how to use the lightmeter, and has very good people skills.
    As to avoiding situation like this in the future: checking portfolio is a must, not only to see how the photographer works thoroughout a day, but to see if the work is consistent, and to determine whether his/her style is something you like. Price should always be secondary unless you're on a very strict budget (but then don't expect miracles). Sadly many people think that photography is a commodity and uncle Bob with his newly acquired Nikon/Canon camera can do the job.
    For $2500 you should expect at least a decent professional job.
  41. SOrry to post a question like this here. I will not do it again. I apologize.. OK, life moves on...
  42. Dave,
    Even they do a lousy job, the best they can do is refund your money minus cost of the print.
  43. Rather than submit an uneducated answer, let's look at why you didn't get what you think you should have. Just looking at someone's portfolio does not guarantee that they consistently deliver a quality product or service. The best way to find out if someone can do the job is by reference and reputation. When looking for a wedding photographer it is a good idea to see a few samples of the delivered product, such as a proof album, finished album, slide show, etc. But equally important is to be able to contact other clients to ask how satisfied they were. Personality has a lot to do with service delivery and if you get glowing comments from former clients, you are put more at ease that you will be taken care of.
    I wish more potential clients would actually call my former brides for a reference. I'm sure I'd have way more bookings than I do if they made that effort.


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