Need Advice re: Booked Wedding Photographer Please!

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by p._b., Sep 3, 2010.

  1. Hi all. New to these parts. I am a professional photographer, and now a bride.
    I recently booked my wedding photographer based on the work I saw on their website and blog. Everything I saw up until the day I gave them a VERY HEFTY (nearly $3000) deposit was fabulous.
    Then, literally just after I gave them this money (which is 50% of the package cost), no wedding photos were posted. Here and there are other types of shoots, though it honestly seems as though it's a different photographer. The editing looks careless, the lighting arrangement is awful, the retouching very shoddy. I would never, ever, evvvver in a million years have booked based on the past 3-4 posts. It makes me sick to my stomach and very sad to see these photos and know that this is in charge of my wedding day. I am spending over double what I wanted to spend because as a photographer, I just wanted to make sure I had nothing to worry about (photo wise) on my wedding day.
    The wedding is over a year away (late 2011). I know the photographer is not booking weddings even nearly every weekend at this point. Do you think there is any chance we could get even a portion of our deposit back if we cancel now? I can't afford to take that kind of loss, but I also can't afford to pay another $3000 and risk getting terrible photos of a day that only happens once.
    Any advice is so greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.
     
  2. What does his or her contract say about cancellations? If it says you don't get money back, you won't get money back. About the only thing you can do is to express your concerns to the photographer, listen to what he or she says, and make your decision.
     
  3. My cousin went through something similar. The photographer's website looked good, I wouldn't say amazing, just good. When it came time to view her images, they were God awful! Dark, blurry, oddly colored.
    I would definitely express my concerns with him. Are you certain that he is the only photographer or does he contract others? Pay very close attention to his contract. If you do decide to cancel with him, does he refer to it as a 'deposit' or a 'retainer'? Legally, a deposit is refundable.
     
  4. A part of my deposit is non-refundable. Says so in the contract. I often get MORE than the deposit amount paid up front, which I appreciate, but if someone canceled, they would be able to get back the difference between what they paid and the non-refundable part. I've never actually charged as much as $3000 for the whole shebang. My non-refundable deposit is more like $500 usually. To me, a non-refundable deposit of $3000 for a wedding a year in advance seems awfully, awfully high.
    I think you could try. If you believe you've been a victim of fraud—the photographer was showing someone else's work for a while—well, I wouldn't feel obligated to tell the truth to the photographer when canceling. Tell him that you and your fiancé are breaking up and the wedding is off. On the other hand, if the photographer really is a crook, I dunno, you might be in trouble. At some point, you can call the police or a lawyer. $3000 is certainly enough to sue somebody over.
    Are you familiar with the Wayback Machine? It's an online archive of web pages from the past. Mind-boggling. Problem is, I'm not sure the Wayback Machine stores photos from the past, if the links have been broken. But it's sometimes a way to see what a web site looked like before a recent change. (The Wayback Machine should also serve as a reminder to us all, to be careful what we say in these forums, on Facebook, anywhere. The Web Never Forgets.)
    Good luck.

    Will
     
  5. Thanks everyone.
    The contract states that if cancelled, the security deposit is non-refundable, but it doesn't specify anywhere in the contract the deposit amount. It is not a retainer, it is a deposit.
    To address some other issues mentioned above: I do not think these people are crooks or that it is fraud, I am almost positive (from what I know of them) that it is an exclusive team of 2 photographers...not contracted out ever.
    Personally, if it were me and I had a bride come to me over a year before the wedding and said that she didn't like how my style was changing, I would return the deposit, less any applicable prorated amounts if I have already done things like engagements sessions, etc. Why work with someone who doesn't like your photos/style?
     
  6. Why work with someone who doesn't like your photos/style?​
    Reminds me of a movie anecdote. On the set of the first Superman movie, Christopher Reeve, then a young nobody, approach Gene Hackman (the villain) in awe and asked, "Mr Hackman, it's such an honor to work with you. What attracted you to this film?" Hackman's reply was, "You mean, other than the $2 million?"
    Your photographers are obviously not the Gene Hackmans (Hackmen?) of photography, although they might be hacks. But their answer to your question might be similar: "You mean, other than the $3000?"
    As for fraud or at least garden-variety dishonesty, don't think it's impossible. Good photographers—even those who haven't shot a zillion weddings—are at least somewhat consistent. If you saw wonderful photos on their web site earlier, and now you see terrible images, well, their might be another explanation, but I think it's not unreasonable to suspect that the earlier images were not their own, somebody complained to them, and they replaced those images with their own. It happens apparently with some regularity.
    Be aware that the contract defines the minimal responsibilities of each party. It does NOT prevent a party from providing MORE than the contract requires. In other words, they may not be obligated, under the terms of the contract, to return your deposit, but they might be willing to do it anyway. If they're not crooks. I know that if somebody gave me this much money, that far in advance, and then changed their mind, I'd give them a substantial refund.
    If they can persuade you that they actually are good, as you apparently thought they were, then you should consider working with them. But gosh, to pay $3000+ and then get horrible images, that's a major bummer.
    Whatever you do, proceed in a measured fashion. Don't threaten a lawsuit as your first option. Ask to see prints of the images that were on their web site earlier.
    Good luck,
    Will
     
  7. Exactly what I was saying, from a legal standpoint. No matter what you say, a deposit is not "non-refundable"
     
  8. I may have suspected that they were using someone else's images (and hey, it's not impossible still), but the images weren't replaced on a website.
    I'm speaking about the past couple months of new blog posts as compared to postings from prior to my deposit, which look like a totally different person took and edited the shots. It's very disheartening. The only explanation I can think of is that this photographer has stopped shooting as many weddings (which is seems) because they don't need to/don't want to/both, which has led to them becoming rusty and lazy about all aspects of their work. I am appalled that a professional would even show the photos as their work and be proud of them, when they've presented such fine work prior to it.
     
  9. I think the real question is what is your peace of mind worth? As long as we are doing quotes, it was Mark Twain that once said" I am not so much concerned with the return on my money as I am with the return of my money. I have no other advice to offer other than don't tip you hat. Have a course of action prepared and then re-visit with the photographers (what do their albums look like??). Hopefully the whole thing is a mis-understanding of sorts. But if it isn't, you need to be prepared to act fast.
     
  10. P.B. writes:
    I'm speaking about the past couple months of new blog posts as compared to postings from prior to my deposit, which look like a totally different person took and edited the shots. It's very disheartening. The only explanation I can think of is that this photographer has stopped shooting as many weddings (which is seems) because they don't need to/don't want to/both, which has led to them becoming rusty and lazy about all aspects of their work.​
    Oh, I think I see. Sorry for my earlier misunderstanding. So you're saying that the OLD pictures are still there in their blog—and that they are markedly superior to the new ones?
    Hmm.
    I don't think laziness can explain this. I have a lot of training in a number of fields—writing, music, photography. No matter how tired I am, I don't allow myself to write ungrammatical sentences. I don't stop paying attention to my spelling. I make mistakes, but not through laziness. As a musician, I don't play sloppily under any circumstances. And what makes my many, many lousy photos lousy isn't technical sloppiness, but simply lack of inspiration.
    So I just don't see how somebody whose work USED to be really good, is now showing work that really stinks. I just don't think it happens. You GET good in the first place by developing good habits through endless repetition. Once you have the habits, they're there for you even when you're tired or not interested in what you're doing.
    Of course, I could be wrong.
    Will
     
  11. I really do appreciate all of the feedback and I feel a little better about going to bat if I have to. I think I will first try and ask why the sudden change in the photos.
    My main concern is this:
    I certainly don't have $3000 to throw out the window. The whole thing was going to cost me nearly double that (and a new photographer will cost at LEAST that) and we're paying for our wedding ourselves. If money weren't an issue, I'd say "I'm sorry, this won't work" and hope for the deposit back, yet not sweat it if it weren't returned.
    So, if there's no way in the universe I will get the deposit back (at least 50% of that), what am I left with? A wedding photographer who knows I am not happy with their work, potentially awkward and/or hard feelings on my wedding day? This could show through in photos. Who knows how conniving these people can be? I don't want to upset anyone for many reasons. I just feel like I'm in a really tight spot.
     
  12. If you do decide to cancel with him, does he refer to it as a 'deposit' or a 'retainer'? Legally, a deposit is refundable.​
    Don't count on a payment being labeled a deposit or retainer as magically making it one. Much more influential is whether the terms of the contract amount to the payment being a deposit or retainer. In other words, how the contract actually works, not so much if the labelling is correct. Hold the date and/or liquatdated damages in the event of breach or cancellation type terms, ect. vs. mere initial payment is what to look for.
    Find out what is going on with the your counterpart to the contract. Everything may be OK afterall.
    As to legal issues and being able to obtain a refund of a non refundable payment (if that's the case) it may depend on whether there were misrepresntations, whether the contract was for a specific photographer vs. a studio. the small chance that the state has a contract recission period (usually for real esate/home improvement and other sensitive matters with a three day deadline or the like), a general contract enforcement defense perhaps if the circumstances existed.
    Due to the unique nature of wedding photographer choices, you could seek a remedy of "specific performance" to compel the photographer to shoot the wedding if somene else is being substituted although ticking off your photographer, in the process, is a potential consequence.
    If you decided to breach and did, the other side has a duty to mitigate damages by trying to secure alternative work which is plausable when a wedding is a year away. A failure to do so may even permit some kind of refund from a non-refundable fee is some states. The timing of a refund, if any is possible, may be inconvienent to your planning. Neverthess, contemporaneous reminders to the counterpart of that duty and refering work to them (if you can do so in good conscience to people being referred) would bolster such a claim overall.
    We really don't know enough facts to assess your sitatuion. Certtainly you need to communicate asap to determine whether legal analysis and expense or other decisions are really warranted. Consult a lawyer a in your jurisdiction and not us for legal advice.
     
  13. Thank you, John.
    I was coming here for peer advice, not legal advice. I am a photographer as well so it's even more of a strange situation for me. I never thought I would have a predicament like this and just wanted some other perspectives, as I don't hear about this often.
     
  14. Did you MEET them? How did it go when you met with the photographer(s)?
    That is a key issue I think and nothing has been said about that, which in itself, speaks volumes to me.
     
  15. Sounds like buyer's remorse. You signed away a big chunk of change. Now you have regrets.
    My advice? Sleep on it for a while. Chances are that everything will be fine.
    Eric
     
  16. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Exactly what I was saying, from a legal standpoint. No matter what you say, a deposit is not "non-refundable".
    I caution the OP about taking blanket legal advice here.
    I cannot ascertain what area the OP resides and therefore cannot comment on what might or might not be refundable.
    I would therefore argue neither can anyone make a blanket statement such as the above, even if they be an High Court Judge or an Attorney General.
    The best advice for the OP is to seek advice from a legal professional in her area so she knows what are her rights and obligations.
    The next best advice is for her to calm down – and stop thinking through the whys and what ifs about what is happening. She obviously does not want to proceed then she needs facts as to how she can get out of the contract she signed, by the most efficient manner possible.
    I urge the OP to get professional advice pursuant to the specifics of her position: as in some situations and jurisdictions there is a cooling off period for contracts and such might give her an out.
    WW
     
  17. Thanks again everyone. It is not buyer's remorse. I was actually very, very excited. I thought maybe I was being hyper-critical and over analyzing the new "bad" photos...so I showed my fiance, and a few other untrained eyes and they took the "wtf" stance as well.
    I will talk to my lawyer and ask their opinion. Again, not here for definitive legal advice, just wanted a few opinions from people who were in the industry.
    Thank you!
     
  18. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "just wanted a few opinions from people who were in the industry"​
    I would not part with 3 grand, nor consider spending 6 grand on any item or service on the basis of viewing an internet site. To extract 6K from me (which is about 10K pre tax dollars) takes face to face selling, my interpretation of their handshake; me looking into the seller’s eyes when they answer my questions; some samples and some input from previous clients also.
    WW
     
  19. For anyone who may want to know...
    Spoke to my lawyer. She said that "liquidated damages" are only awarded when the damages owed are uncertain or difficult to quantify. In this case, being that no services have been performed or goods delivered, and it's more than a year prior to the event, it's very easy to know what sort of damages have occurred. i.e., Nearly none. Perhaps some time spent drafting paperwork, etc.
    With over a year until the date, as a wedding photographer charging these types of rates, they surely can re-book another wedding or similar event.
    She also said that a deposit is payment toward a final product. Nothing has been delivered and if we cancel, nothing will be delivered, therefore it should be refunded.
     
  20. I would not part with 3 grand, nor consider spending 6 grand on any item or service on the basis of viewing an internet site.​
    I didn't have the heart to say that, because, well, it seems fairly obvious. I know that there ARE wedding photographers in the US who are getting $6K per wedding, God bless 'em. Some, maybe more. I dream of the day when I myself receive a $3000 DEPOSIT.
    But I assume that anybody not only asking but GETTING this much money is, you know, getting pics on the cover of Brides magazine, has hundreds of testimonials on his web site, has a physical studio where he (or she) visits with potential brides and serves them cappuccino, etc. If it's possible to make this kind of money from a web site, without evening being very good, then gosh, I need to raise my rates.
    (My wife's in the background mumbling, "Yes! Yes!")
    Will
     
  21. I didn't/don't want to reveal too much about who this photographer is, but they have been featured in notable publications and had good reviews up until several months ago.
    It wasn't until after the deposit was given that it all went downhill.
    And believe me, many of the photographers in my area are asking similar price tags for wedding packages like the one I chose.
     
  22. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thanks - I always like to know the outcomes - whatever the question.
    Good luck with it.
    "I didn't/don't want to reveal too much about who this photographer is"
    Very sensible.

    WW
    BTW - re the deposit; the refundability (is that a word?) and the legal advice comments et al:
    the odds were in favour of you being located in the USA - but $6,000 for Wedding Photography is not specific to locations in the USA . . . but I have learnt never to assume.
    (Aside)William P. . . . for your business plan, the answers today are:
    Soy Decaf Latte; a very sexy PA; and the necessity for you to have your hair styled twice each week . . .
    I am either in trouble with your wife - or I have got you out of a bind and she will be happy with what your business "as is" . . . let me know how it turns out.
     
  23. My first suggestion is to look into your local laws. Every jurisdiction is different, but in my neck of the woods, if push came to shove and a suit was filed, the photographer would be required to refund everything except $500.
    The laws here are very specific as to what can and can't be held as a deposit and $500 is the max if no services are rendered.
    I'm not sure about your area, but I hope this helps.
     
  24. (Aside)William P. . . . for your business plan, the answers today are: Soy Decaf Latte; a very sexy PA; and the necessity for you to have your hair styled twice each week . . .​
    Thanks, William. I knew I was doing SOMETHING wrong. Apparently I don't get my hair coiffed often enough, certainly don't have a PA attractive or otherwise, and I never realized that it was a faux pas to serve regular latte. I will rectify these marketing boo-boos and report back later. ;-)
    Will
     
  25. Spoke to my lawyer. She said that "liquidated damages" are only awarded when the damages owed are uncertain or difficult to quantify. In this case, being that no services have been performed or goods delivered, and it's more than a year prior to the event, it's very easy to know what sort of damages have occurred. i.e., Nearly none. Perhaps some time spent drafting paperwork, etc.
    With over a year until the date, as a wedding photographer charging these types of rates, they surely can re-book another wedding or similar event.
    She also said that a deposit is payment toward a final product. Nothing has been delivered and if we cancel, nothing will be delivered, therefore it should be refunded.​
    This advice sounds a little bit bizarre to me. I would ask another lawyer. "Liquidated damages" actually means damages that are agreed in advance (eg. "if you break the contract, you will pay $x" - in other words, if the contract had an agreed cancellation fee for example). "Unliquidated damages" are where it's left to the court to calculate how much loss the party who broke the contract caused to the other.
    Under a contract like this you normally promise to hire them for the day and pay a certain sum as their fee. They promise to take the photos. If either of you fail to fulfil your obligation, the other is entitled to damages. So if you say you changed your mind and decide you don't want them to shoot the wedding after all, they're entitled to damages reflecting their loss of profit. If they don't turn up to the wedding, you're entitled to damages. If you promised to pay $6000 in total, then in theory the damages are $6000 (plus in theory any consequential damages they suffer though there may well not be any in this case, possibly minus any expenses they would have had to pay out of the $6000). They are under a duty to try to 'mitigate the loss', which means the good news is that if they book another wedding for that day then the amount of their damages is reduced by the amount they get from the other wedding (which might be the full $6000, or might be less, in which case you're liable for the difference). Of course, it may be difficult to prove whether they booked another wedding and how much they were paid under it.
    $6000 liability is I suppose more of a slightly scary theoretical possibility rather than (I would have thought) a practical one. I can't imagine any wedding photographer concerned for his/her reputation would do this, they should be concerned that you might bad mouth them, and I would have thought in practise most would want a reasonable compromise about handing back a reasonable proportion of the deposit, especially where you have given plenty of notice that gives them a good opportunity to book the date with someone else.
    As always, the above isn't legal advice and needs checking, but I wouldn't take the legal advice you've been given aready as gospel, it justs sounds odd, unless there is some special consumer rights legislation tucked away in US law that gives a right of cancellation to consumers in this case - I doubt it.
     
  26. Legally, a deposit is refundable.
    Often, that's simply wrong. In my state, unless the contract explicitly says something different, a deposit means, if the customer cancels, the vendor or service provider keeps the deposit, and if the vendor or service provider cancels, the customer gets twice the deposit back. Be very careful about taking legal advice from Internet forums; often it is way wrong, or at best of questionable accuracy for the jurisdiction where you are.
     
  27. I'm not going to go into the legal aspects or possibilities here other than to say that if their contract is like a lot of ours - it states that if the photographer is unable to book another event for equal or more pay on the same date - and you no longer wish to have them take your photos - then you forfeit the entire retainer / deposit. In exchange for that exclusivity is granted to that date and your event. (Meaning that the studio / photographer won't go out and solicit other business for that same date.)
    Now - what I'd do is call the photographer and ask to meet face to face. Don't do the meeting over the phone or via email - FACE to FACE. Sit across from him (ask him to bring a laptop with his portfolio) and tell him your concerns. Ask to see samples of his work. Don't take no for an answer. And BE HONEST WITH HIM. Tell him that you are concerned about the apparent decrease in the quality of his work in the past x months / days / weeks.... Find out if he is willing to share the "WHY?" If he insists that nothing has changed even though you and others can see it - then seriously engage an attorney that specializes in contract law.
    I'm not saying that there are excuses but maybe there are... Something could have happened in his life that is impacting his ability to produce the quality that you saw earlier. Maybe equipment changed, broke, got stolen, or maybe he is having physical or psychological problems. Or possibly they are on a medication and having a bad reaction. - I've seen stranger things happen when people change or go on / off meds.
    Good luck - hopefully it is nothing major and it works out for you.
    Dave
     
  28. I wholeheartedly agree with David's post which well fleshes out the prior suggestions of communicating and finding out what's going on before drawing conclusions.
    I also like and find wisdom and practicality with the clause in his contract that calls for a forfeit of a hold the date style retainer IF another booking cannot be secured (hopefully of similar value). It sort of borrows from the mitigation of damages duty in case of breach, I mentioned earlier, which is a after the fact damages amount issue and incorporates and essentially preempts it right in to the retainer terms. Its not arbitrary at all. The inherent fairness and compliance to liquidated damages analysis bolsters its enforceability. Preserving evidence of good faith efforts to secure new bookings is critical but easy to accomplish. As always, have contract changes professionally reviewed for local use.
     
  29. I don't understand all the talk about the law etc. I think you live in very litigation-happy society, which thankfully is not the case in most of the rest of the world.
    I strongly suggest phoning up the photographer and challenging them in a very controlled, polite manner. Say exactly how you feel and express your concerns, then await their response. Only then, decide what to do.
     
  30. I don't understand all the talk about the law etc. I think you live in very litigation-happy society, which thankfully is not the case in most of the rest of the world.​
    I agree, and I'm not the lawsuit happy type of person. I would hope that is a last resort! I will keep you all posted.
    Also, I am curious to know where most of you are located as I didn't realize this was such an international forum. I am in the Northeast US.
     
  31. Let me offer a different perspective. Before you go down the road of trying to get your deposit back or anything like that, why don't you have a direct in-person conversation with them so that you can share your concerns. Listen to them - there may be some valid explanation for everything, or perhaps the primary photographer is getting out of the business. Once you have this info, then you can decide what you want to do.
    You once trusted them and they lost your trust. Explain this to them calmly and see how they respond.
     
  32. I am curious to know where most of you are located as I didn't realize this was such an international forum. I am in the Northeast US.​
    I'm in the northeast as well but they don't cal this the world wide web for nothing.
     
  33. I'm in the northeast as well but they don't cal this the world wide web for nothing.​
    Haha, I know. I was just getting the impression that it was mostly international (I could be wrong), because it seemed people were saying the "US" as if it were not their own country.
     
  34. I would ask if the one you booked shot those images that concern you. Then ask who will ACTUALLY shoot your day.
    If someone came to me and said they were concerned about my quality and wanted to cancel, I personally would not hesitate to refund their money. I only want clients who want me/my style.
    Best, D.
     
  35. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I don't understand all the talk about the law etc. I think you live in very litigation-happy society, which thankfully is not the case in most of the rest of the world.
    I do - the thread went sideways - Perhaps I started it.
    But I was simply cautioning NOT to take comments here as legal advice (mainly because I could not ascertain where the OP lived or worked).
    I specifically quoted one such piece of advice, which in certain jurisdictions was WRONG.
    From that point there was more talk of legal action.
    I don't think legal action is the first course of action, but I do think that knowing the rules (i.e. "rights and obligations") in a most useful idea.
    I also think that face to face is a good idea and I said that in as many words when I commented that I wouldn't have parted with 3K, without a face to face meeting.
    I live in Sydney, Australia and work across all States & Territories, in Australia.
    WW
     
  36. The talk about law was because Photographer Bride was interested whether she was entitled to get her deposit back, and had asked about that. It sounded like she'd had some slightly shaky legal advice.
    The other advice about talking to the photographer and try to work out what it happening, who will shoot at the wedding, whether the photographer will return some or all of the $3000, whether or not she's entitled to the deposit back, is fine practical advice, but at the back of it all it is useful to know what your rights are - it helps if you know how firm you can get with the photographer if you have to, or whether you will end up losing your $3000.
    I also like and find wisdom and practicality with the clause in his contract that calls for a forfeit of a hold the date style retainer IF another booking cannot be secured​
    Absolutely it's a good idea. But there isn't any indication that the OP's contract says this, so it's probably not very relevant here.
     
  37. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "because as a photographer" . . . "I am curious to know where most of you are located as I didn't realize this was such an international forum."
    As you are a Photographer yourself, why not hang around and participate – the world is a big place and there are lots of different points of view; cultures, religions and experiences shared here.
    Have fun: http://www.photo.net/photo/11164434&size=lg
    WW
     
  38. here isn't any indication that the OP's contract says this, so it's probably not very relevant here.​
    True but we don't have any actual contract language and only the OP's interpretation of it. Anyway, I thought it might be helpful for others to consider the scheme while a discussion of the general topic was taking place. It wouldn't have fit so well in a "Which lens should I buy?" thread.
     
  39. As you are a Photographer yourself, why not hang around and participate – the world is a big place and there are lots of different points of view; cultures, religions and experiences shared here.
    Have fun: http://www.photo.net/photo/11164434&size=lg
    Thank you, I planned on doing this! I just wanted to remain anonymous in this case to protect my photographer and myself. Great shot btw :)
     
  40. This doesn't have to be so complicated. Really, it's over a year away! Call the photographer and say you changed your mind. Ask them to bill you for any services rendered, time included. If it's an outrageous amount, or they make a big stink about it, have your lawyer send a letter. A good lawyer will get you out of anything and it won't cost you anything near $3K. In fact, I doubt any photographer would hold onto that kind of money without good reason (And I can't think of a single one- really a year and a half away?), especially after a letter threatening legal action.
    In fact, judging by the above responses, you can see that most wedding photographers are self-absorbed Google fools with nothing better to do with their time when it comes to answering other's legal questions. Consider yourself redeemed.
     
  41. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    In fact, judging by the above responses, you can see that most wedding photographers are self-absorbed Google fools with nothing better to do with their time when it comes to answering other's legal questions.
    You make me smile, Mr Crocodile.
    WW
     
  42. you can see that most wedding photographers are self-absorbed Google fools with nothing better to do with their time when it comes to answering other's legal questions
    If that Google fool comment is aimed at me, I often try to point people in the right directions with their legal questions when they come up, without actually giving legal advice, because I have some knowledge in the area, having worked as a corporate lawyer for many years in a couple of the biggest and best UK and US international law firms. I had a look at the post and replied after a long hard day photographing a wedding. But, actually, you're right, I probably do have better things I could be doing with my time - like sleeping!
    Like I said, the legal theory and the practical answer may well diverge in this situation, I'm not trying to say that the legal position, whatever it is, gives the answer. I just thought the OP might like some background information, which might just help.
    A good lawyer will get you out of anything and it won't cost you anything near $3K.​
    A good lawyer won't get you out of anything - he will just tell you when it's not pursuing.
    In fact, I doubt any photographer would hold onto that kind of money without good reason​
    Maybe. On the other hand, I think you might be surprised.
     
  43. In the UK it would be unusual to take a non-refundable deposit a year out. Most contracts have a clause along the lines of cancellations made X months out gives full refund, Y months out is 50% etc. Timescale depends on the nature of the business and the understood difficulties of getting a booking to fill the vacated slot. A nationally-printed photographer should ahve no problem filling the slot in this timeframe.
    If you are really worried about this, and if you are civil but assertive, I think you could explain to them that you are concerned about the seeming drop of quality of photos on their site and you are apprehensive about the booking. If they can't give you enough assurances then discuss the scale of refunds. Remaining calm and objective (difficult, I know) is the key to negotiations I think
    If they have started to sub-contract work (or sold the business to someone less skilfull) maybe you could be more demandng of a full refund because you are no longer getting the service you originally paid for.
    I wish you good luck either way.
     
  44. Timescale​
    Another good way to bolster the enforceability of a hold the date/and or liquidated damages clauses considering the the required element of reasonableness at time of contracting, and in some states, also factoring in reasonableness at time of breach. The closer to a wedding date a contract formation (and a breach or cancellation) the less likely replacement work can be secured. That makes increased amounts of 'hold the date' payment forfeiture closer to a wedding date more reasonable. It's based on reality.
    self-absorbed Google fools​
    Most insulting. How dare you suggest I used Google!
     
  45. In the UK it would be unusual to take a non-refundable deposit a year out.​
    I'm not so sure that it's unusual - if you Google "wedding photographer contract" and narrow the scope to the UK, a large proportion of them - the majority of the ones that I saw - require a deposit and say that it is non-refundable, or words to that effect. Some of them say that the deposit is refundable if there's a cancellation, but very many say that it isn't refundable.
    In the OP's case, that's all a bit academic, since she is in the US not the UK, and she tells us the contract says the deposit is non-refundable. Though there may scope for arguing whether the $3000 was deposit or part payment.
    There's some reason for the old saying about possession being nine-tenths of the law. The fact that the photographer is holding the money and would have a good argument for keeping hold of it is significant. The real thing that might persuade him/her to return some or all of it is not so much the threat of legal action, but the worry that the bride might go onto the internet and start telling people what happened if he/she didn't return it, naming names this time. Just for that reason he/she may well hand the money back.
     
  46. naming names this time.​
    The ole' win the battle but lose the war situation. A potential legal win in one instance can lead to reputation loses in many others.
     
  47. Yikes That's a lot of cash to put down as deposit :) IMHO only a handful of photographers would I trust with such sums, a whole 12 months in advance, before they even press the shutter. I do get bookings a year in advance sometimes. Hmmm.. time for a price hike, methinks! :D
    <p>Let us know how it goes though. If you have such strong reservations this early, you may be better off getting your money back and booking someone else.
     

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