Newborn photographer won’t give me my photos

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by Wantmybabypix, Feb 21, 2018.

  1. need some professional advice:

    Had newborn photos taken of my daughter and two older children on 11/16/17. The photographer has a big advertisement presence on Facebook, and I really liked her style which is why I picked her. It didn’t occur to me until later on that she doesn’t have any reviews on Facebook or the web. She doesn’t leave the option open to clients to review her. She does seem to get a substantial amount of business based on her postings.

    The shoot went well, paid $300, plus $78 for a small package of prints. I needed a birth announcement photo so I specifically asked her is she could send me my favorite picture that week. She said no problem, and within 6 days sent me 4 of the (maybe 30 other) pictures she took. She said 6 weeks til the rest are done.

    Six weeks go by, we are in the first week of January. I email her asking for an update, but she doesn’t respond. After my 3rd email she finally responds and said she had a busy holiday season and needed a two week extension. I said no problem. This same day, when searching her name on Facebook, a post came up from another girl, calling out this photographer for ignoring calls and not giving her her baby’s photos from September. All her friends and family were commenting and sharing and within an hour the woman said the photographer sent her the gallery and then the post disappeared before I even had a chance to jot down this other clients name.

    So a whole other month went by and she made no attempt to contact me. I was getting very angry because I felt I had been so patient with this woman. I sent her another email asking for an update and she didn’t respond. It took 5 more progressively angry emails to get her to respond. She said she would have my photos by Monday (2/5/18). Monday came. Photos did not.

    Instead on this Monday she posted a Facebook status “apologizing to her clients” for being behind but she is very sick and will be back to work soon. I emailed her asking what’s going on and all she did was send me a screenshot of the Facebook status she just posted. I said I don’t care that she is sick, I should have had these pictures in December. She ignored me. I should also add she continued to post photos all through the month of January, so she was clearly working.

    I’m at a complete loss of what to do. I don’t even care about the money, I just want these priceless pictures. I feel like I should do what the other client did and call her out publicly. However, I’m such a shy person. I don’t even know how to articulate a post like that and make it sound “good” and then be humiliated publicly because all my friends will think I’m naive and got scammed. Plus, I don’t have a whole army of friends and family to share it, so it might not be much of a threat to her.

    I did email her with the threat of calling her out on Facebook if I don’t get my pictures by next week. That was yesterday and she hasn’t responded. I’m getting anxious about what to say in this potential post?!? Am I even making the right decision? Any advice would be so appreciated!!!
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    1. Do you have a signed written contract?
    2. Is her business registered with any authority, for example: Taxation, Business Names, Local Authority registering her business address, etc ?
    3. How many prints, exactly, comprise "a small package of prints" for which you paid $78.00?

  3. LOLOLOL. Sorry for a brief grammatical diversion. When I first read this, I was very amused to think of a newborn holding a camera and being considered a photographer, not to mention stubborn. Then I realized where the modifier was meant to dangle and got the point. :)
    movingfinger and brian yarvin like this.
  4. I am not a pro photographer, but I am a lawyer with 30 years of experience representing parties engaged in disputes. Based on the description of the emails that you have sent so far, I doubt that they have helped your cause any with this photographer. Human nature being what it is, she may have responded by putting your work on the bottom of her to-do stack. Maybe you should just lie low for a couple weeks and not contact her or post anything about her, and not risk antagonizing her any further. Even if you have a signed contract with firm deadlines in it, that is hard to enforce--it requires you to go to court with a properly pleaded case and win, and then an appeal period must run, before you can take any practical action with a court judgment or order to get your photos. So I think your remedies at this point are quite limited, and are mostly of the nature of cajoling the photographer to finish the job and deliver the prints. Perhaps if you do post something, the best thing would be "Sorry to hear that you have been sick. I hope you are feeling better soon."
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2018
  5. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I think that Bob is/was a lawyer and he is based in the USA. I also think that the OP is in the USA (assumption made by me because of how the OP wrote the date on which the photos were taken).

    (Probably) not specific to this conversation, but as a general point, having a signed written contract with both deadlines and details of the goods and services to be supplied can be quite easy to enforce or at least get money re-funded without going to court: depending upon where the transaction takes place. That was one of the reasons for my asking if there was a signed written contract. What I should also have asked the OP is the location where transaction took place. Also one of the reasons for my asking whether the business is 'registered' is because in some areas pursuing breaches of Consumer Law is relatively simple, costs practically nothing and does not require court proceedings - again this is dependent upon the location.

    All that said: as general comments I agree with Bob, that you (the OP) probably have not advanced your aim of getting the prints that you want. As my Mother would say, "you always get more with Honey than Lemon". As a juxtaposition to Bob's viewpoint, I am not a lawyer, but am/was a Pro Photographer, and I like Bob, I think Honey wins nearly every time.

    I think that a salient point is - (if there is a contract, or even if there was a spoken word agreement) - it is important to know the answer to "3. How many prints, exactly, comprise "a small package of prints" for which you paid $78.00?"

    I originally asked this because we have seen quite a few threads here where the OP (a client) is of assumption that the Photographer must provide ALL the images which are made in a portrait session. This area has always been a problem when it is not clearly explained and understood before the Portrait Session begins; hence again the value of a written contract.

    Let's hope the OP returns to clarify these details.

  6. By small package of prints, I meant 7 sheets, a mix of 8x10s, 5x7s, wallets.

    I am more concerned with receiving the digital copies. If I never receive the prints or my money back, I do not really care. I just want the digital copies. While we do not have a “signed contract” i did save all of our emails discussing what work to be done and price. I have an email of the down payment invoice ($150), and unfortunately I paid the other $150 in cash, but the $78 for prints went on my credit card. I feel so stupid for getting involved in this. I’m a very educated woman, and I’m so disappointed in myself for not researching this further.

    I am located on the east coast, USA.

    I completely understand the whole “catch more flies with honey” mantra, and I feel I was very nice and understanding when she first told me she was behind schedule (I said thank you, no problem, etc...) but she then made no attempts to contact me for double the amount of time she had asked for. Plus, I saw a Facebook post from another disgruntled client who publicly called her out. This client was given her photos in less than 24 hours, and then removed her post. I’m thinking I should go the same route,though I really don’t want to.
  7. If she's sick, what do you want her to do? Life happens. So you're disappointed. Move on for now and hope she gets well. Then she can finish her work for you. Next time consider hiring a firm that has more than one employee. When my daughter got married, it took her 9 months to send me my copy of the wedding album. That was her not the photographer. What was I suppose to do, fire my daughter? :)
  8. I think this photographer's actions is disgraceful and unprofessional. A 30 picture shoot for newborn pictures should have been in a gallery no later than two weeks if that person had a full time schedule. There is more to this story and I would bet that the 4 pictures delivered is all that turn out as deliverables.
    bethe_fisher likes this.
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Thank you for the additional information.

    Assuming that within the email correspondence, of which you have copies it is clear that you have paid for the digital files and as it seems that the only marketing and or/business platform that the Photographer employs is "Facebook", then I think that going to Facebook and stating the factual case that the Photographer has not delivered goods promised, in a timely and professional manner; is a good idea.

    There might be a minimal expense legal-type procedure, not involving a lawyer but through a State agency like the 'Better Business Bureau' (I am ignorant of what he BBB does, but only using it as an example of where you might look and the type of agency that you might enquire about).

    The above suggestion is given with caveat: as it has not been definitively stated that copies of digital files were purchased. This is a point which I flagged earlier and still remains unclear. -

    Good luck.

  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    You shouldn't feel stupid.

    From the information you've provided, you simply trusted what you read and saw. I think that you make a good point about you not doing enough research: but that's a mistake, it is the Photographer who is acting improperly, not you.

    That's disappointing, because there are lots of honest Photographers out there.


    For clarity and just reiterating: be quite clear that you have purchased and are now owed the digital files (as opposed to paying only for the Portrait Sitting and "a small package of prints".

    Once again good luck.

  11. I would do chargeback. Sure you don't care about the money, but this will discourage her from doing it to other people.
  12. If she really is sick, like in the hospital ICU or something, then obviously she can't get them out, but then again, she should tell you that.

    So, your newborn is now four months old, so they won't be quite the same, but you could have someone else shoot more, now.
  13. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    But didnt you at least see proofs?

    Since you already paid, the best recourse is to get your money back... you do have a receipt?
    Holding the money till delivery is the best hostage agreement to getting pix faster.

    Sick can be a problem. BUT... she could have at least given you an option to the digitals with a reduced price of the difference in prints and editing. After all she does have the pictures someplace on media and has absolutely no use for them. She needs the money more!

    Make her an offer to send the unedited digitals and reimburse some of the money, maybe half, with an option to have her print them when she feels better?

    EDIT: OH 4 months is the perfect age for cute pix since they are just lifting their heads and smiling.

    Last edited: Mar 21, 2018
  14. You can try to be nice, as the lawyer suggested, or go public on FB, which has worked.

    The photographer is a con artist. “I’m sick, here’s your money back” is one thing. “I’m sick and I’m making it your problem” is something else.

    The law won’t help you. Public accountability will.
  15. JDMvW's Law
    Never piss off a waiter until you already have your food.
    (can be generalized)
  16. I adopted that frame of mind when an ebay transaction went bad. The seller refused to send the item, wanted more money presumably but not saying as much and hoping I'd give up

    I pressed her and she came up with excuses such as "the post office sent the parcel back to me" and "also I've just had a baby" - still trying to get me to give up

    Maintaining my cool, I offered her a little extra for the item, she accepted and once paid, presto I received the goods. Value? goods were worth three times what I paid in the end
  17. Out of hundreds of eBay transactions, I have been stung only twice, and in one of those I did get a refund nearly a year later.

    I am careful about where I bid. Newbie sellers are not patronized.
    SSepan likes this.
  18. Hmm... this is outrageous. You could have called eBay and they would make her fulfill her obligation. I buy from eBay and Amazon all the time and such an instance (partial shipment with no valid reason) never happened.

    This "can be" a big problem if her digital images happen to be terrible - e.g., over- or under-exposure, unsharp images, lousy composition, equipment problems... stuff that she is not willing to admit. ;) Perhaps, if you can find her telephone, give her a call and have a heart to heart talk, that you would just want XYZ images in print, unless she volunteers the digital originals. (?) Good luck.
    Last edited: Aug 9, 2018
  19. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Still nothing?

    The proof you need, emails, texts, phone records or any correspondence that will include...
    What is expected of the photographer
    Compensation... your payment receipts or statements from the photographer acknowledging payments
    Proof of attempting to contact the photographer demonstrating avoidance since payments

    Go to the local court house and file, $15.
    get your money back.

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