Damaged Lens...need it replaced but who pays?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by khacg, Sep 20, 2011.

  1. I recently shot a wedding for a couple I fell in love with during their engagement session...they had hired & booked another company for the wedding and had engagement images done but were unhappy and came to me on referral.
    Despite the fact that their wedding day was the same day as my own planned nuptials I agreed to shoot their wedding as my fiancé and I were already considering eloping instead anyhow.

    Anyways... the wedding was super fun but came with a few incidents that began at 10pm when I was setting up for Crazy Booth with my assistant...the drunk guests kept reaching over our "blocked" off 12x12 area and taking prop items and running off to the dance floor with them...after having to collect items numerous times the guests then began entering the area we had blocked off in order to set up the lighting and props. Several guest were using props, making their pose and asking other guess to use their own camera's to take their images. (breech of contract)
    After very calmly explaining to them for the second time that we were trying to get it started and they needed to wait outside of the area for 10 minutes until invited in. (One male guest commented "bitchy bitchy" behind my back after leaving the area - another breech)
    I then turned my back to the dance floor housing 80% of the guests and crouched down setting my camera at my feet and began passing items to my assistant to hang on racks. At this time one of the same guests asked to leave 2 minutes earlier stepped through the small opening in between me and the wall landing directly on the front half of my 3 day old Nikkor 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II.
    It took me almost TWO years to save for this lens...despite his 300lb 6ft frame I wanted to hurt him... ;)
    I could take no more and spoke directly with the bride and groom who were outraged at their guests disrespect and behaviour...they were very apologetic, sympathetic and spoke directly with the "offenders", all was not perfect afterwards, but independently manageable.

    I did not have a ex-claimer in the my wedding contract for equipment damage ( I do now)
    That being said they continuously apologized throughout the remainder of the evening (10pm - 2am) and to my great relief; shortly after the lens being broken the groom approached me and said he would pay to replace the lens; that being said he also had enjoyed quite a few drinks himself so the sincerity/true intent of the offer I am unsure of...they have emailed me a few times while on their honeymoon (they will be returning tomorrow), apologizing and thanking me for doing such a good job, staying despite everything that happened but no mention about the lens since that night (2 weeks ago)
    Deciding that I would exhaust all other options to replace the lens first rather than possibly causing tension between myself and my clients I proceeded to inquire/make a claim with my insurance company to no avail.
    I have itemized contents insurance and liability...the lens being only a few days old had not been registered, filed and approved for singular coverage so my claim was denied.

    I am looking for opinions on how to proceed from here...this is my full time business, I work long long hours as this is my only income to support my household of 7 so this kind of money was not easily saved, nor can funds just be obtained to just buy a new one.

    I am not even sure how I should approach/word an email or conversation with the clients to take them up on the offer if that is the route I decide to go...
    What do you think, thanks in advance for your time!
  2. I'll take one for the team, here, and be the heavy.

    You have a lot at stake, if what you're doing is the only thing supporting seven people. If you're working that close to the wire (in terms of being able to stay equipped, have backup gear, etc), then you need to re-think what you're charging.

    I'm not sure how any language in your contract would (or should) have made equipment damage by a guest the B&G's problem. That's what insurance is for, and with many months on your part leading up to the purchase, that's plenty of time plan the logistics of getting an e-mail off to your insurance people the moment you got the lens in hand. Yes, I'm scolding, after the fact. But I'm only doing it because you're doing it too, and you know that really is the bottom line of the story, here.

    I'm afraid I really can't think of any graceful way to bring this up with your clients, though you are bringing it up here, using your full name on one of the most visible (and instantly Googleable) venues on the web. If you are that tight with the B&G, they may very well come across this conversation (go to Google and type in tanya field lens replacement and notice that this thread is already near the top on the first page of results just minutes after you posted - so, think carefully about how you phrase things here, as this is for posterity!).

    If they never again broach the subject of helping you out with your loss, but you still think it's good form to accept such an offer if he makes it again, just let a future conversation about your schedule or other work include a mention of your having to change your plans because of equipment setbacks, or mention that your schedule has become more complex because you have to juggle the logistics of renting a lens until you get yours repaired.

    Whew. An expensive several lessons learned (about dealing with guests, about insurance, and more). Sorry that it happened, but stuff like that is always going to happen.
  3. Save your receipt for repair of the lens: it is a income tax deduction on your 2011 Federal tax return.
    Dealing with drunks, putting a lens on the floor...that's the reason for camera neck-straps. A drunk can't walk on your lens when the camera-lens is hanging from your neck. You've learned a rather expensive lesson.
    Good luck...
  4. Did you buy the lens with a credit card? Many cc companies offer insurance cover during the first x days after purchase. Worth checking out if you did pay by cc. - In fact a good reason to use a cc even if you have the cash to pay it off straight away.
  5. Well, having done weddings with drunks myself it can get pretty damn difficult. Hindsight is great and maybe you really like the B&G as I did in most of my weddings (except the drunks) but your problem is now. And yes you made a mistake but I have made many at weddings as some of them can get pretty chaotic. However, you run a business and someone at the wedding damaged your property despite your taking precautions to protect it with a barrier. These are facts that your customers are aware of. I would, in person, with good will make a friendly low key overture to the couple telling them the amount of your loss and ask for their help. All they can do is say no but you should try. This does not have to be hostile. At least ask them to cover a portion of your damages. This is much better, IMO, than small claims court or making demands. I found most, but not all, of my customers were very reasonable sensible people. And, before, managing large contracts in another profession, I found the informal solutions much better than hours of depositions fighting over contract terms which just, in many cases drive people apart and cost sometimes more than they gain. As for your incurring their hostility what is the worst thing that can happen. Well, they may not be a good referral is probably the worst. How much would that really have an effect upon your business? In mine it would not have cost me much as I drew business from varied sources. Best of luck to you. You sound like a very sincere person trying to do the right thing and to do the best for your customers.
  6. This is going to sound very harsh but, I have little sympathy with you.
    Damage to equipment is YOUR responsibility and would never be the wedding parties problem. Hence the reason for insurance. If that guest had fallen over and broken their neck on your equipment then would you expect the b&g to be responsible?
    As soon as you bought an expensive bit of kit you should have been onto your insurance company to ensure it was included on your policy. There is no excuse for not doing so.
    I am sorry but I don't believe you should be mentioning the grooms offer at all unless he brings it up again. You should be taking the hit on this.
    IF and it will be a very big IF the groom brings it up again with an offer to pay then by all means talk to him about it but the likelyhood is that he has sobered up and realised just how expensive the kit is and that it is not in fact anything to do with them.
    Again, sorry, but you have learnt an expensive lesson in the need for proper insurance and proper control of your environment.
  7. ummm...okay... and what part of Drunk + Dancing + Wedding = equipment damage - didn't you see coming?
    Even if you didn't see it coming before the wedding, the guest's behavior prior to the opening of the booth should have been a big tip-off. One reason why I never do a photo booth at a reception.
    If anyone is responsible for the damage, it is not the b/g, but rather the large, 300+lb guy who did the stepping. First stop would be B/G to get his name, contact information, etc... and since your insurance has denied the claim - which surprises me - since most companies have a good faith period where they will cover you if the item was purchased within x number of days (usually they give you a week to register since they don't want you to register it then return it).
    Since the groom did mention that they would help cover it - I'd suggest a phone call when they are back - or even better and in person discussion. I would start by assuming some of the blame... I can't think of the last (or the first for that matter) time when I even brought my 70-200 into a reception hall... Nope...still not coming to me... I also can't remember the last (or first) time that I laid my camera with same 70-200 attached down even for a second, on the ground...nope... so I would suggest a 50/50 offer with the client -since they offered. If they refuse - then go for the guy who stepped on it.
    As for the items you point out as breeches - did the wedding guests sign the contract? Did they get a notice handed to them on their invites saying "any photography using the pro's props, etc... is prohibited?" Did they get a notice saying "no complaining or grumbled or badmouthing the photographer"? The contract is between you and the b/g... not the guests. Now you've basically accused the clients (B/G) of a breech. Not a good barginning spot.
    And yes - if you are the sole provider for a family of 7 - then you really need to bump your rates.
  8. Several guest were using props, making their pose and asking other guess to use their own camera's to take their images. (breech of contract)
    One male guest commented "bitchy bitchy" behind my back after leaving the area - another breech
    You do not have a contract with the guests. And its breach (except in these cases, it wasn't).
  9. I have had a contract with a hotel making me responsible for the behavior of my guests. I asked the hotel to remove this clause which it did. Even if your clients sign such a contract it may not hold up in a court of law. Contracts that are unreasonable can drive away your prospective clients.
  10. This is exactly why pros have equipment insurance. Neither the client, the venue, nor the guests are responsible for your equipment, you are. Not having an insurance policy is called "self-insurance" where you are responsible for your own losses.
  11. If the lens was on the floor, so perhaps you did not need it ? Was it too long for the 12 x 12 area?
    I usually use 3 lenses for weddings, 24-70/2.8, 14-24/2.8, and the 85/1.4. It actually does not matter, if any lens was on the floor, could have been damaged as well.
    Perhaps next wedding leave the 70-200 lens at home ?, and keep the rest of lenses on your body, or in a backpack, but not laying around loose.
  12. Aside from that, Tanya, how were the pictures?
    I'm sorry for you, but you can see how the comments are going.
    By the way, if you used your real name here, or are otherwise identifiable, this post will be part of the record for any litigation resulting from the episode. A former attorney with my University, now on the other side, by the way, once said "Never put anything on the internet or in an e-mail that you wouldn't care to see blown up on a screen in a courtroom."
  13. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and advice... this was only my 4th wedding and first Crazy Booth..we were supposed to have a separate room to set up and do the booth in but the wedding hall was difficult to work with and wouldn't let us use it on the day of.
    I did pay by cc I will look into that suggestion for sure, thank you.
    I do not bump rates because the 100's of clients who have contributed to my success thus far would no longer be able to afford my services...I wish I could but it doesn't feel right.

    I saw it coming which is why hired an assistant and have insurance and submitted the required documents the same day I got the lens ...none had been processed by the date of damage.
    (which I purchased to use mainly for events and the many charity fundraisers I sponsor or contribute too)

    A lesson learned...all I can do is start saving again for a new one.

    Thanks again.
  14. The images are fantastic thanks!

    Oh and thanks Steve for really addressing the issue...you're the "man"! lmao
  15. Just to end on a positive note, Tanya, I looked at your web site. Some very nice pictures there and your prices look quite reasonable. Press on bravely, it looks to me like you have the professional skills to do very well with future weddings. They pretty well redundantly ganged up on you. You are very gracious after all of that. Please come back and tell us how you are doing. Best of luck.
  16. Hi Dick... I meant to personally thank you for your previous post and relating to "we all make mistakes"..for sure my camera shouldn't have been at my feet on the floor even in an enclosed area. You live and you learn.

    My new site is currently being designed as I wanted to ditch flash for more advanced workings that are fluent with mobile use.

    Thanks again for your positive and helpful comments, much appreciated!
  17. Whoa - Hold the horses - If the documents were "in the mail" on the day of the damage - I'd be on the phone to the insurance commissioner and the customer service department at the insurance company and wouldn't stop until they paid.
  18. Yes... I got the lens Wednesday... by closing time that day I had faxed the image, receipt and application. However my broker was not "in" the following two days so, I was told the sent information was not "processed" before the damage occurred therefore; it was not insured.

    Should I be looking into that more?
  19. Yes, I think you should, especially since you faxed it which means it was on the broker's desk. Do you have a fax receipt/phone record with the date and time?
  20. Yes. Insurance companies (and their customers - parties to a contract) have an obligation to deal fairly with each other in good faith. Is this a matter of fair dealing and good faith? Maybe not. It seems like you did what you were supposed to and they didn't. However, the filing of a claim so quickly after getting a policy might seem suspicious to them and the time to activate the policy provisions might be consistent with the general run of the business for them. The Insurance Commissioner in your state may have some insight as might an attorney. Of course filing a claim via an attorney won't make you popular and might cause them to raise rates or terminate the policy (in strict accordance with the policy terms and state law). OTOH, for your agent/broker/company to sit on payments for two days and then deny a claim might make you consider changing brokers/companies as well.
  21. Not terribly relevant to this particular situation, but at a recent wedding I attended, the photographer was using "obsolete" Nikon F3, Nikon FM, and Hasselblad 500c/m equipment. State of the art stuff in 1980, still capable of fantastic results in good hands, but we all know that manual focus film equipment is not in common professional use these days. During a quiet moment at the reception, I commented that it was nice to see a photographer who still knew how to use a focusing ring, and she mentioned that one of the advantages of using such equipment is that she doesn't need to carry insurance. Her equipment is fully depreciated, and in the event of a problem, she can buy used replacement gear cheaply enough that she doesn't worry too much about it. Cheaper to do the occasional replacement out of pocket than to pay insurance premiums.
    I'm not certainly arguing that it's the right solution for everyone, but it is interesting to consider the business case for using equipment that's a wee bit less than today's state of the art, but that will deliver high quality images without risk of excessive damages. Especially when drunken guests are an occupational hazard.
  22. You do not have a contract with the guests.​
    As to Steve's comments about the alleged breech [sic], I agree except in the unlikely event your contract adequately covers such a situation. What specific language in the contract, the client signed, was violated? Even if there was a violation, was there a provision that the client will be responsible to pay consequential damages or even any remedy? The new contract supposedly has a damage clause which I gather applies whether there is any breach or not but I wonder what that really says and, ultimately. means. Plus there's the issue of whether it is even worthwhile as others discussed.
    I do not bump rates because the 100's of clients who have contributed to my success thus far would no longer be able to afford my services.​
    There won't be new clients in the future? Having to save three years for a single lens is success? Business realities (buying equipment insurance, inflation like rising petro costs, chunked equipment, ect.) aren't factors in business decisions but contracts long since discharged are? Discounts or adjustments to packages can't be given in the future? You can see the future and there is no chance that you will experience a financial loss wiping out the thin margin existing now?
    It sounds like you are barely breaking even and, in effect, close to donating your time and expertise for free and merely getting reimbursed for expenses. If you want things to be the way they are, that's well and good but if this is an important means of support, now is a good time to analyze whether some adjustments to your current model will enhance your success.
  23. Again... Thanks for all your shared comments and thoughts, much appreciated!

    "There won't be new clients in the future?"
    Absolutely..I obtain new clients consistantly but that doesn't mean they would be able to afford higher pricing, people speak of driving clients away for having a damage clause in my contract...new middle class clients would be driven away from increased rates just the same. It doesn't help that I live in a city that within a 25km radius there are nearly 5000 "photographers" half of which are selling the same "services" I offer for $50 the only difference is the high quality of product/service/experience and talent I bring to the table. However most clients don't seem to know the difference they only see a picture of their child and the flaws are unknown to them, hence why place like Walmart/Sears are still in business.
    I more than anyone hate that I work 60hrs+ a week, barely see my kids, edit to all hours of the night...I know I should be earning more for what I provide...I do think I will raise them a little for 2012 and take your advice on offering the VIP clients appropriate discounts etc.

    I have a hard time saying no, being firm and straight forward, upsetting people..I struggle daily with that in the business sense, I take things too personally, I wish I wasn't so willing to give time everytime I am asked to charities like www.nilmdts.org and www.ronaldmcdonaldhouse.com as it only makes things harder to manage, workflow more sufficating but I also think it is who I am, I like giving even when I don't have 3k on a fly for a lens I want...I am only on year three professionally and I feel I am finding my way....

    "Having to save three years for a single lens is success?"
    Success is not only rated by the amount of money you make...it may be one aspect to it for some but there are many more that I have reached that make me successful. Two years to save for a lens 3000$ lens because as a mom of five I sacrifice, this is my f/t job...I don't have my husbands income to afford me such on the fly purchases..he is home and I work everyday 7 days a week.. my children come first and have luxuries I didn't, a quality of life adventures/fun I didn't, private piano lessons, invisalign braces, tutors, 1,200$ in perscriptions a month...these needs, experiences, memories provided to them are far more important than a lens. So I am far from rich and yes I went without a new winter coat for two years, no bday/xmas exchange from hubby to I, no date nights, no extras for myself and put everything towards saving for a lens I have wanted since I started professionally and then it got broken.

    You live and you learn...
  24. Tanya -
    Since you are in Canada - you need to contact the appropriate Canadian authorities. In the states it is the state insurance department and possibly the attorney general.
    I know that cars and cameras are different - but when I buy a new car - even if I don't tell the company right away - I am still covered - so if I were to total it (new car) on the way out of the lot - I would only be out my deductible.
    I would suggest that you have a very strong case - as you faxed it - and they don't appear to be denying that they had it - they are just saying it didn't process since your broker was out...
  25. I agree that if the insurance company let paperwork lay on somebody's desk for two days, that's their problem, not yours. Definitely push it with the proper insurance authorities. I don't think the bride and groom have any responsibility here any more that they would if one of their drunk guests had backed into your car in the parking lot. As for the guy who stepped on your lens, you could ask that he pay but chances that he would are slim. If could probably take him to small claims court, but he would argue that it is an innocent accident. And even if he is reasonable enough to offer to pay, he may be in no better a financial position to shell out $3,000 than you are. I think the bottom line is fight it out with your insurance company.
  26. new middle class clients would be driven away from increased rates... that I live in a city that within a 25km radius there are nearly 5000 "photographers" half of which are selling the same "services".I offer for $50 the only difference is the high quality of product/service/experience and talent I bring to the table.​
    I have the sense that you are filtering your own analysis. If all this competition is selling the same quality services, how is it that they can manage to charge more but, somehow, you can't? Surely the price can't be "the only difference".
    I more than anyone hate that I work 60hrs+ a week, barely see my kids, edit to all hours of the night... ...my children come first​
    If pricing has all this effect in your marketing scheme, there should be an equilibrium where moderately adjusted prices will result in less hours of work but about the same amount of return. You don't get a second chance to enjoy the children when they are still children. They grow older each day and you never get to encounter them this young ever again. According to your own good values, its hard to see how the nickle and dime approach is compatible if it results in endless hours of little return. It seems like you need to make some changes now or consider another line of work.
    I'm not trying to be negative here at all. Indeed its the opposite. this lens mishap could be a blessing in disguise to some degree. An event prompting an evaluation of where you are going next. How to utilize your valuable talents even more effectively. It may be a tired phrase but it seems like a great time to think outside the box.
    I like giving​
    That's great and you still can. Is it as satisfying giving to everyone when some would be content to give you fair market value for what you market or to help people who are in more of need a break?
    Anyway, I'm not trying to tell you that you are wrong, just giving some alternative perspective to think about. I wish you the best.
  27. One question, are you sure the lens needs replacing? Have you sent it to Nikon for an estimate? It is likely it can be fixed for much less than the cost of replacement, and I have a feeling it would be much easier to get the repair cost covered by your client.

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