Payment problems, a bit long

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by claudio_andrews, Jul 22, 2008.

  1. I finished my first real wedding about a month ago. I also did the engagement and bridal photos for the couple
    (acquaintance), and they were extremely pleased with them. I did all the work for expenses only, to help them
    (and to a lesser extent, myself) out. I have now learned the terrible crime of not getting any money up front.

    Neither of the couple were willing to sit down and talk about what it was they wanted in terms of shots for the
    wedding. The day of the wedding I showed up hours early to get work done, and not only would they not cooperate
    but I was told at one point that photos were the last thing on their minds. I took what I knew them to want and
    left. A few days later they contacted me and told me they were not happy that I had apparently run out on them
    (despite the fact the wedding had been over for 2 hours when I left). They then said they would not pay my
    expenses for the wedding (in this case, basically gas, a few prints, and a canvas). I explained my position, and
    that is when the real problems started.

    The bride blew up on me and has more or less harassed me since. My stance the whole time has been pay what little
    you owe me and I will give you the photos (I should add, they already have all the engagement and bridal photos,
    none of which they have paid for). Last night, she threatened to sue me and demanded I give over the photos.
    Since then I have offered again to give them to her in exchange for the small amount she owes me. This brought on
    an onslaught of her insulting me and questioning my manhood, followed by a clear no. Her husband then emailed me
    saying that they would pay me everything except for one night of the hotel (I was there two), which was the
    rehearsal dinner I was going to do a few random shots for, but my girlfriend became ill and we left early. I
    agreed, and now they are arguing about the price of the gas, which they have the receipts for.

    I am at my wits end and am ready to tell them they simply will never see their photos, but I fear she may
    actually attempt to take me to court. Is there anything she could actually do, or can I consider this all bluff
    and truly to tell her no?

  2. Steven -

    You don't mention if you have a contract or not... Always use a contract. Period. No Contract, No show up for photos.

    My guess is that you don't have one, which will quickly turn into a he said / she said in court (if it gets that far). There I'd say your chances are 50/50 at best, since the couple didn't hire someone to do the photography because they were relying on you to do that.

    You arrived "hours early" - How early? (not that it really matters) - 2 - 3 hours early is considered the norm for casual getting ready shots plus formals (if done before the wedding) and it's not unusual for nothing to happen for an hour or two after the wedding - depending on the reception plans. I've had only one couple that went immediately from ceremony to reception mode (and that was because it all was in the same room...long story) Most couples will take an hour or two to decompress and drive around (have a drink or three) between the ceremony and reception. Some want formals done in this time, since they don't want to see each other (yes that still happens) before the ceremony.

    Point is - as the photographer - you're not done when you think you are... you're done when the contract says you are or the bride and groom say - okay. Again all of this is spelled out in the contract and through conversations with the bride and groom or if one of them doesn't want to play, I talk to the other. Usually one of them will play nice... If it starts out that they don't want to worry about photos, I start suggesting things to them... That will either get agreement or a reaction. Either way I win.

    Long answer...bottom line at this point, assuming no contract - you can fight on and lose them as friends and also possibly get bad word of mouth advertising. Or agree to their terms that the groom has proposed and chalk this one up to the school of hard knocks. (Personally, I'd go for the latter...It might be an expense lesson, but it's a good one!)

  3. Was there a contract? Was any money exchanged? She may not have a case if you were not compensated for your services. You can go one of two ways. You can keep the wedding images until you are properly paid and risk her badmouthing you or you can give her the photos and move on (and chalk it up to a learning experience).
  4. There I'd say your chances are 50/50 at best, since the couple didn't hire someone to do the photography because they were relying on you to do that.
    He didn't skip the wedding. He took the photos. He's just refusing to turn over the photos from the wedding until he has been paid for the expenses incurred from the photos he's already given them and the expenses from shooting the wedding. It's extremely unlikely that any judge is going to rule that he has to turn over all the photos for absolutely no payment just because the bride has decided she doesn't want to pay. Even without a written contract, the couple will probably have a hard time convincing the judge that the deal was "he's going to shoot our engagement and wedding photos and give us a number of prints, and in return, we're going to give him nothing but verbal abuse."
  5. I can't imagine a judge ordering you to provide images for free. I would think it's obvious that there has to be an exchange of payment - however meager it is - for services and that unless specified, neither party is obligated to come up with its share unless the other does too. I'd hold those pictures tight. But, especially since there's no written contract (many verbal contracts under a certain amount of money are valid) the best thing to do is check with a lawyer.
    As far as bad publicity, yes, there'll be some of that, but you sometimes have to do what's right.
  6. I would set a date two weeks from now and tell them that if payment is not received by then, all images will be
    deleted (don't actually delete them though).
    If they pay up before then, give them the images. If they contact you after the date, it's your decision to either tell
    them they are too late or negotiate further depending on how you feel.
  7. It sounds like you have put yourself in a bad situation by not having a contract that spells out the terms of your agreement (start and end times for coverage, costs that the B&G will pay, etc...) and not communicating well with the bride and groom during the event. From your recounting of the story, it sounds like you left the wedding without speaking to the B&G first... I would suggest that if you have taken all of the photos you are contracted to take and you are ready to leave you always check with the B&G and make sure they are happy before you pack up. Also, leaving the rehearsal dinner because your girlfriend is sick sounds like you were treating the event more as a friend who does photography than as a pro.

    Assuming no contract I would negotiate an agreement with the groom (since he sounds willing) and call the loss tuition. Forget the one night at the hotel, cut the fuel costs to something you can all agree to meet and give them the photos in exchange for the check. You have stressed that it is a very small amount you are looking for so even if you split it 50:50 I would assume your loss would be very reasonable.
  8. Post negotiations (I've a few), it would be unwise, in my opinion, to take a personal check. I prefder, at that point, to have cash, money order or bank check. The client can put a stop order on a personal check.
  9. Sure she could sue you but that costs money --whcih they don't seem to have.

    My advice?

    Don't negotiate, and don't delete anything. Be a man, suck it up and eat the expenses (considerate it a cheap education) and just give them everything you have , all of the originals and generously wish them a happy life. Given the level of BS and abuse and mixed messages you've gotten so far fro m the couple all communications fro mthis moment forward from you should be in writing (you've already learned the folly of verbal communications in business deals, haven't you?). Clearly they already have deep seated communications problems.

    As a professional, it doesn't matter that your girlfriend got sick orthat they told you that "pictures were the lastthing on their mind, or that yo uwere only doing it for "expenses" or any of the other excuses you've given for doing less than a professional job.

    Finally, don't even think about using the photos of their wedding to market yourself with either; that would just be begging for more trouble.
  10. Personally, I feel that they have received more than enough for free. No money, no additional photos. I don't reward people that act that way by giving them what they want. I may attempt to come to an agreement that benefits both parties (say, discount what they owe you by a certain amount to let them feel they are getting something if you feel you don't have a case or don't want to mess with it) but rolling over and giving in to threats and demands isn't really professional either. Business owners don't just walk around giving out things for free to everyone who complains and stay in business.

    As mentioned, cash or money order only, and I'd have them sign something at the time of payment indicating that the agreement has been fulfilled and no further services are promised or expected on either party's behalf, and that agreement supersedes any prior verbal or written agreements.
  11. I agree with Gary that business owners don't just walk around giving out things but I don't think you conducted yourself as a business owner in any other aspect of this (unless a contract exists and then that would govern). Sounds like you handled this as a friend and friends do give things away to satisfy disappointments and help all parties move on.

    I appreciate the comments concerning cash and money orders, while I think it is something of an insult to require those payment terms in this situation maybe it is justified.

    The lessons to learn are always use a contract (especially with friends/acquaintances) and require payment up front (calculate expenses ahead of time, charge that and then go with your budget).
  12. Exchange the photos for CASH only.

  13. "Exchange the photos for CASH only."

    And make sure the cash isn't counterfeit.
  14. Judges and courts can be very ....well .... judgemental and unpredictable. If a contract were in place that stated terms of service and payment...(eg. Photographer agrees to provide 5 hours of coverage from 11:30 am to 4:30 pm) and the photographer did or didn't meet the terms of the contract it would be cut and dried.

    The challenge here is that there is no contract and may be conflicting understanding of what was to be provided. If the bride and groom can convince a judge that expected services were not provided that's all they need to do. And it doesn't cost that much to file in small claims court.

    Absolutely do not delete or destroy any of the images from the wedding...even those that would normally go to the "bin"! Worst thing, if you can't settle this peacefully, would be to get to court and have a judge tell you to turn over all images, then you say you don't have them.

    Best advice - Try to settle it peacefully.... otherwise call a lawyer.

  15. There was no contract. I did try to approach the B&G actually, several times. I showed up about 3 hours early and they sat me down to do nothing.

    The thing with the rehearsal dinner wasn't supposed to be so much a photo event, they just offered to book the night so I wouldn't have such a long drive the day of the event. As it was they decided right before they wanted some snapshots.

    Maybe I did not, but I feel like I tried to conduct myself as a professional. I attempted to make meetings months in advance to talk to them, even up until the day of. Since then if they've had a question, I answered as honestly as possible. I've made some attempt to negotiate and it just seems she wants them for free.

    I'm more or less at the point where I feel like maybe I should just stick the originals on a disk and send them over, even as frustrating as it is knowing they have two full sets that I worked very hard on already. They're also demanding written releases for printing (I put out my work on CDs/DVDs with releases usually, because I can't print myself yet) which makes it even harder for me to just let it go and give it to them.
  16. I wanted to add that no money has been exchanged, either. She owes me money for the photos she already has, and she is disputing that amount as well.
  17. I'm so sorry that you're in this position! :( I think you just have to decide what's most important in this particular
    situation: A) to get rid of this "client", or B) to make your point.

    If you just want to get rid of them, send them their photos, signature required upon delivery, with a note that you have
    waived the fees owed, and no one owes anyone anything any longer.

    If you want to make a point (and your money), then don't deliver anything until they've paid. In that case, I would
    suggest that you ALSO send a sign-on-delivery letter detailing what you're owed as per your verbal agreement, and that
    they cannot have the photos until they pay.

    They may just be the type of people to want to pursue this all the way to court, which would be a huge stress on you.
    It's likely not worth it for just the cost of your travel.

    On the flip-side, this is absurd. If you have ANY sort of proof (e-mails?) that you had an agreement of photos for travel
    costs, then this would be the time to pull out those documents and put your foot down.

    I think I would also cease all verbal communication with them, and be prepared to record any harassing voicemails they leave you. Your
    verbal "agreement" is what has gotten you into this mess; only by putting all future communication in writing can you ever hope to get out
    of it.

    Only you can decide how far you are prepared to go with this.
  18. Steven,

    Contract, contract, contract! That said, the second thing I would have to say is, NEVER shoot for family or friends and expect to get paid! The old adage, never mix friends and money, will always stand. How much are you out? Is it worth losing a friend over? Look at it this way, you got LOTS of experience and hopefully some great photos for your portfolio. Getting your first wedding is the hardest one. The next one, make sure you have a SOLID contract, and make sure you get compensated in full BEFORE the wedding happens. Preferably 30 days or more.

    I have this saying on the wall over my computer every day to remind me that..."Pains in the ass happen when you bend over, remove your underwear, and put a welcome mat under your feet."

    Good luck,

  19. One more thing, from how these guys have treated you, you need to do one of two things if you do work out a deal.

    1. Only accept cash, or a money order.

    2. Have them make a check out to you, and then take it to their bank cash it immediately.

    I wouldn't be surprised if they agreed to pay you, handed you a check in exchange for your pictures, and then
    stop payment on the check.

    I'm all about CYA, if you couldn't tell!

  20. Time to draw a line in the sand; think about what you think is fair to you, and ask for that, once.
    They either pay what you ask or they do not, the negotiations are over. They want to sue, have at it.
    Move on.
  21. Thanks everyone for the advice. This has been an enormous stress hanging over my head for the past month. I have other work coming up and I'm ready to get focused on that, and things will definitely be done differently on my end (especially where a contract is concerned), but all in all the people I'm working with now have already been loads better than then previous from the get-go.

    As bad as yesterday was I realized I do not want to repeat it again. It occurred to me when I woke up this morning I could fight them hard for 40$ on gas, or I could tell them to just pay what they feel they owe, and give the unedited files as they want and save myself several hours of work. I plan to make their release as specific as I can to wash my hands completely of the situation where they cannot bother me anymore. I have voice and emails saved of them harassing me endlessly, but in the end if it goes to court it's just going to be stress that I do not need, and no matter what happens I'm not going to be making any profit. Seeing as how I have other people who are already impressed with my work and are ready to sign contracts and pay retainers where I CAN make a profit, it seems better for my pocketbook and health to focus on that instead!
  22. Good thinking Steven. The sooner you move on the sooner you can turn your energy to building your business. I
    have no doubt you will do very well. Good luck to you!
  23. We can all speculate here and give our opinions. But last time I checked, very few of us had J.D. at the end of our signature block.

    Get a lawyer--there's a chance even if you give them everything they are saying they want they'll think they can get more and will sue you anyway. It will be a few dollars, but it will do a couple of things. First, it'll give you a primer on the rights in your state. And second, it will keep this affair from costing you even more. Don't do a darn thing without a lawyer. Period.
  24. Write down the changes you'll make in how you'd do this again if you could do it all over again.

    Institute those changes in your contract and anywhere else you need to record the necessary changes to avoid this
    in the future. This is the most important part of healing this process for you.

    Do the above then send them all things they want and wish them well as they move forward into their married life
    together. Heck, make a couple of prints for them too and Move On.
  25. I think the best thing that can happen here would be if this did take you to court. Then she'd have to pay you. A contract, even if signed, is null and void without consideration. Consideration is payment. So, when the judge here's you didn't give up the photos because you weren't paid, you are free and clear. No contract. He'll likely order her to pay, and you to give the photos. Now I hope you have copies of the receipts.

    But all said she's probably just bluffing. Deal with the husband, he sounds more reasonable.
  26. Don't give up the photos that's the only card you have to play.
    If she owes you for prints/photos that are in her hands then why should she get the rest for free?
    I have had brides wanting photos prior to payment that's just a bad idea you will never see that money if you turn those photos over.
  27. Hi Steven,

    Sorry about the hassle, but to be blunt you created the mess to start with. Every photographer learns this lesson at
    some time or another, no good deed goes unpunished.

    You failure to act as a professional is your own undoing, but I think you alredy know that too.

    So here are some guidelines to help you out.

    1. Do not work just for expenses, period. Charge for profit on all shoots except direct family.Your "friends" will shaft
    you faster than just about anyone.The fact that you got no respect from your "friends " says alot about your
    business practices. They have no CASH involved yet, no signed contract from you and just a loose verbal contract.
    Don't expect others to hold up their end just because you did. Why show up for a meeting with you when you don't
    act as a professional?

    2. Always get a signed contract that spells out exactly the terms of the deal, any changes - get it in writing.

    3. And most important if you don;t know what you are doing, assist for a few years then start your own gig.

    Weddings are really hard and can be a disaster under the best circumstances..
  28. As said before, don't hand over the pictures. If they claim there is no contract, so they don't have to pay, then you can simply reply there's no contract, so you don't have to hand over the pictures.

    If they really plan on going to court, you have a rock-solid case. You already gave them pictures for nothing, they have no right whatsoever to demand more without payment.
  29. Well, you've learned the contract issue.

    I would send them lo-res files with either a copyright watermark or "Pre-Payment Proof" on jpg's. That way they
    can't argue that they didn't get a record of the event. They're just unusable for display or distribution. You
    own the photos. If they want prints they have to pay.
  30. When it comes down to a he said/she said the judge will almost always rule in your favor unless money has been paid. Until that is done there is no verbal contract as there have been no services provided because there is no proof from the plaintiffs that there was supposed to be any rendering of services. A judge can not and will not order that you provide your services and products for free.

    Tell the couple that to get the images they will pay your price. If they don't pay they get no images. Do not give in to their demands. You hold all the trump cards. If they threaten to sue, let them as the judgement will be in your favor. Either you have to do nothing or the judge will order you to provide the images while ordering the plaintiffs to pay for the images.

    This is one case where you are in charge. Be firm, be resolute, and do not give in to the couple. Send them a registered letter stating your terms, provide a deadline date, and if that date passes without payment ignore any future requests from the couple.
  31. "I would set a date two weeks from now and tell them that if payment is not received by then, all images will be
    deleted (don't actually delete them though)."

    This is extremely poor advice. It is unprofessional conduct. Absent contract terms to the contrary, it will be a breach
    of the photographers duties under any rational agreement merely by announcing this as it is a claim that the the
    verbal contact will be repudiated. (No short term destruction should included in a contract anyway) The photographer
    will be exposed to increased likelyhood of litigation and expense. lf there is litigation, it may cause grave disfavor
    from the tribunal. It will needlessly aggravate an already volitile situation. It will promote further ill will which may be
    broadcast to others.

    Ignore this suggestion completely.
  32. A verbal contract is a binding contract (just more difficult to enforce). HOWEVER, no contract is binding (written or verbal) unless Consideration has been made by both parties. Consideration in "contract law" means that BOTH parties must give the other party somthing of value (eg. money or services).

    For instance. A contract which states that the photographer will take photos for free and the client will do nothing to compensate the photographer is NOT binding (even if both parties agree to it). Therefore, if your client has not paid you anything, then they have not provided Consideration and their contract (written or verbal) is not binding and you have no obligation to turn over any photos to them.

    I can see only two defensable positions on their behalf, but both are a stretch and they would have difficulty proving that these were the agreed upon terms of their contract.

    1. If you ate at the wedding they could argue that providing your food was Consideration (I doubt any judge would buy this argument)

    2. They could claim that providing their "modeling" services free of charge to you (IE allowing you to photograph their private event) is Consideration on their behalf. This is a far more defensable position for them as you have mentioned yourself that you have in interest in building your portfolio (I would recomend that you don't mention that again). If they argued this position, they would be burdened with showing reasonable evidence that you agreed to provide photographs to them free of charge in exchange for them allowing you to photograph their wedding. You would be burdened with showing reasonable evidence that this was not the agreement.

    If in fact the agreement was that they pay your expenses in exchange for photographs and photography services, and they have not paid any of your expenses, then they do not have a case or a binding contract. If they have paid you a portion of your expenses or a down payment and they can show just cause for withholding the remainder of the payment, it is posable that you could be asked to provide some or all of the photos to them by a judge.

    I don't think your main concearn should be if they will take you to court or not. Even if they do take you to court, they don't have much of a case and neither of you really have that much to lose (except perhaps pride). Your bigger issue here is loosing your friends and generating bad publicity.

    It sounds like you may have a few hundered dollars in expenses (gas, hotel stay, prints, canvas). I know nothing about your financial situation, but a few hundered dollars is not an extreemly large expense considering that you learned a valuable lesson (always get a written contract and a down payment), built your portfolio, and gained some experience shooting weddings.

    One word of advice. Never agree to do work for your expenses only. You are trying to be nice and do a favor to your friends, but two issues arise here.

    1. A good dead never goes un-punished. I don't know why but this is a hard and fast truth.

    2. You de-value yourself and your services by convaying to your clients / friends that your time and skill is worth nothing and you are so desperate to get experince that you will do anything as long as they pay your gas, room, and board. Once you de-value yourself like that, they will treat you like garbage. I'm not saying that you need to charge full rate, but make sure that they feel that they are paying somthing for your services. I guarentee that the bride would think twice about blowing off a photographer whom she is paying market rates for because "wedding pictures are the last thing on her mind". I would also recomend not discussing your expenses with them. Just tell them up-front the exact amount you need them to pay, that way their are no suprizes or arguments over gas prices after the fact. You can estimate your expenses up-front yourself, just give your client a set price.

    My hard and fast rule. If I don't know / like you well enough to do it for free, then I don't know you well enough to provide services outside of my professional bounderies (IE written contract, down payment, reasonable rates for my time).

  33. "Try to settle it peacefully.... otherwise call a lawyer."

    Lawyers are not allowed to represent either party in small claims court and your attorney fees even for consult would FAR outweigh your possable gains in this issue. If it actually came to a point (unlikely) where lawyers got involved (no lawyer would take this case for either party, it's not worth their time), then just give them the photos and end it. The only way a lawyer would really get involved is if they wanted to sue you for damages and emotional distress for ruining their wedding. If it goes that far, then you need to lawyer up.
  34. James -

    Absolutely correct - lawyers are not allowed in small claims court... and most will give a brief (read 15 - 20 minute) free consult which should be more than enough for this...

    You've hit upon the biggest question / challenge here: What's the real / hidden cost of the bad publicity / word of mouth that the bride / groom will spread if he doesn't give up the images?

    You've also touched on a double edged sword which is probably enough to start a new thread about working for expenses or for free to build a portfolio.

  35. What's the real / hidden cost of the bad publicity / word of mouth that the bride / groom will spread if he doesn't give up the images?
    It's probably exactly the same as if he does give up the images. The bride has already made her opinion of him quite clear. It's incredibly unlikely that she'll change her tune even if he does turn over the rest of the photos for free.
  36. I would take them to court. They are not "friends" and should not be allowed to get away with this sort of behavior. I have taken people to court before when I was right. Each time I got what I wanted - fair treatment. YMMV but I believe its very worth while. As far as bad publicity, that is water under the bridge and not likely to change.
  37. Dave,

    Agreed. Most lawyers will give a free consult. Didn't mean to step on your toes.
  38. "Lawyers are not allowed to represent either party in small claims court" & "Absolutely correct - lawyers are not allowed in small claims court."

    Maybe in some particular states but this is not the standard nationwide at all. Its unfortunate to lead people to believe that it is. What states do you guys attribute this to anyway?

    I agree that the amount involved creates little justification for expensive lawyer involvement unless there is some claim of mental distress filed as mentioned. This is why I cautioned against the advice to delete files. BTW, mental distress is not generally recoverable for breach of contract actions but some rare exceptions have been found with respect to weddings and funerals. This is taking the issue way too far however. Its a simple but currently aggravating business dispute. Treat it as a business matter and go easy on the emotions. Be practical. Holding out until on the images is normal and practical leverage. You made a offer to compromise already and there is quibbling on the gasoline now. We don't know the terms of your agreement but it sounds like you are nearing the end of this as it is.
  39. John,

    You are correct. Not all districts prohibit representation in small claims court. Last I knew, eight states prohibit representation in small claims court State wide, and of those states that do not prohibit it, neither do they expressly allow it. Therefore, in such states, the local court juresdictions may implement their own regulations regarding the use of attorneys in small claims court. Many of those courts prohibit or at least discourage it. I did not mean to mis-lead anyone here. You should check with your own court juresdiction as to weather they allow representation in small claims court.
  40. John - I was basing my agreement and statement on Minnesota rules...which state:
    "Do You Need An Attorney?

    No. However, you may have an attorney if the judge lets you. Also, the judge can decide in which ways the attorney can help. Court procedures are simplified to allow you to represent yourself. "

    Key words there being "If the judge lets you" and "the judge can decide in which ways the attorney can help"

    I too apologize if anyone is mislead by the statements... but one really should not be coming to a photography forum for legal advice.

  41. Quoting David Haas> "What's the real / hidden cost of the bad publicity / word of mouth that the bride / groom will
    spread if he doesn't give up the images?

    Forget word of mouth or bad publicity. Thats gone! If you give them the photos for free with a smile, he/she will still
    give bad publicity when speaking about you. Even if they get what they want, they will still act very unpleased. Dont
    you back off now! You tell them right now, "No money...No photos" And thats it. You have very little to lose anyway
    and its better to prove a point. Dont reward this behavior. Use this as a lesson for next time, but you better not give

    If you called a random, reputable Photographer today and asked him to shoot your wedding. He'd ask for half as a
    deposit up front, then the balance due before wedding. If you dont pay the balance before, he doesnt show up and he
    keeps the deposit. By doing this, he has something of value of the customer that if they dont pay the balance, they
    lose($500) for nothing. Good for him too because he made (500) for nothing as well. The customer wouldnt think
    badly of him because he is running a business. They expect you to require payment. Anything less and they look at
    you as weak/nonprofessional and you are not all that interested in making a profit.

    If they went to a boat dealership and said,

    Customer - I want a boat.

    Salesman - Whattcha like?

    Customer - I want that yellow one in the corner.

    Salesman - Ok thats 20,000. I'll sell it today for 18,000.

    The customer would expect nothing less than to pay full payment(whether by loan or cash) for that boat before
    taking it. Otherwise its stealing.
    They wouldnt expect him to say, pay me for my time and document fees and just give me the rest later after you run
    it a while. And the customer
    wouldnt be upset. They expect this behavior. Its business. Your demeanor portrays your intentions. If you portray
    you are not all that worried about compensation, then you'll get that attitude right back. I suspect you were trying to
    come across as being a generous/very nice business man that really wants only what makes the client completely
    happy and helps their situation the most and not yours. I know the feeling. Been there. But look where it gets you.
    You can still
    be very helpfull make them very happy, but also get what you want. Its ok to let them know you are in it to make a
    profit. They dont work for free. I promise if their boss decided not to pay them, they'd get pissed. Good luck and
    stand your ground!!
  42. David Haas, please dont take my post the wrong way. This wasnt a stab at you. Just a statement based on my
    opinion/experience. I used your quote because this thread has gotten so long.
  43. This week alone I've had to collect on two customers. Here in PA, lawyers are allowed in a magisterial court (like small claims). However, even under order to pay, its often difficult to collect on such for various reasons.

    I've found that offering to accept payments will often "warm them up" to paying. In most instances, finance charges aren't allowed by law unless disclosed initially, but you can charge a service fee :^)

    If a payment plan fails and you can weather the financial hit, see if you can accept something tangible in trade. Barter is getting quite popular now with the current economy. I've bartered for many many a situation.

    Best of luck!
  44. Just tell them that you consulted a laywer as well and thinks that you should also go to court and sue them for unpaid services. You can bluff as well. One thing is to learn from mistakes and another is to let people think that they can take advantage of you. Good luck!
  45. The last thing I'd do is play hardball. The legal issue is, as far as I can see, null: Circumstances clearly favor the existence of an oral contract, and I'd expect you'd prevail since only expenses are at issue. Beyond this, though the amount varies from state to state, I can't imagine your expenses exceeded the limit for small claims court - a recourse for you, really, since you're the injured party, and would likely be either the plaintiff or make a cross - claim - in which case the couple might find themselves liable for additional damages. The heart of this matter is your reputation: You apparently knew these people, and it is possible that, if you have friends in common, the couple will not only besmirch your reputation as a photographer, but engage in character assasination ( in which case, of course, you'd have cause - defamation). Personally, I'd not admit any wrong-doing on your part, but tell them there was an apparent misunderstanding, and take what they are willing to give in exchange for the photos you've held back ( which is your work product, not their property ); and go beyond this, smoothing over the bad feelings ( again, never admit you were in the wrong ). Your reputation as a photographer translates into future earnings, and these should be substantially more than any loss you sustain in this case. The issue of a contract is key: Had this been a big money event, and the couple tried to stiff you; and presuming it went before the bench, the judge would have to accept their testimony as valid, unless you could disprove it. Presumption ( in this case, that two newly weds are being truthful about a spoken agreement ) would prevail unless you had traversing evidence or witnesses of your own. I'd suggest that since there is no implied contract or standard fee in these situations, that you to make a contract for any assignment - even if it involves relatives. A written contract, like a poker hand, speaks for itself, and cannot be attacked except by a claim of coercion, fraud, and other ( not likely to be be believed) affirmatrive defenses. On the flip side, if there is no contract, there is nothing at issue - and your case would probably be dismissed. Chalk it up to your trust and honesty against their duplicity, make nice, and move on , all the wiser for the lesson they taught you. C. Unger
  46. "..presuming it went before the bench, the judge would have to accept their testimony as valid, unless you could disprove it. Presumption... ...would prevail unless you had traversing evidence or witnesses of your own. "

    Wrong. Judges and juries (triers of fact) do NOT have to accept testimony, contradicted or otherwise, as truthful. Indeed, its their job to decide credibility. There is more on this subject but it is too removed from this photo business topic to get into. This misinformation, however, does illustrate, yet again, that this is a poor place to obtian legal infomation. The business practice and practical advice is often very useful though and there are some great comments about such things in this thread. My take is that this is so close to being resolved (gas expenses, rightly or wrongly the remaining dispute) is that either side will be foolish to go to court.
  47. Steven,
    Most things have been said. Whtat has not been touched on are:-

    1. you are expected to be on time which translate to you better be there early. If you are there early even 3 hours
    early as a professional you will start work on what ever is there to be shot ie the preparations, candid moments - you
    do not expect the client to tell you what to do. If you are 3 hours early and do not want to start work wait near by till
    its about 30 mins before call time - yoiu will need about 10 to 15min to unpack and gear up and the rest of the early
    time to look at angles. Being super early does not count when the brown stiuff hits the fan. After getting or not a list
    of must have moments from client you as a professional need to know what is it that you would need to cover for the
    client - eg your shoot list - it is not all creative shooting events are a lot about knowing what is a significant moment
    that is what the client is paying for and not a full artist interpretations of what the event is to you without those
    significant moments. Only except is if the job was sold as you will get what I think you should get, no formals, no
    must have shots, no can you take a picture of us shots.

    2.If you are on job even for a freebie it is not a date a vacation so park the significant other at home - would you bring
    the significant other to a job situation ? Leaving earlier even for freebie is a no no (what you did was unprofessional in
    my book)- the client never remembers the freebie part only that there are not enough pictures because you were not
    there do them. Always confirm with client that the shoot is a wrap before you go... do not ever quietly walk off that's a
    dang sure fire way to get the you did not take this or we looked for you and found you left before our weddding was
    done compliant.

    3. collect what ever not paid yet on hand over to client - one point to note never inovice severval sessions as one job
    then you avoid not being able to collect as you deliver once delivered and no payment is collect you run risk to
    collection issues plus is a hassle to have to chase for payment.

    4. In some cases even if morally you are right (debatable in most cases) for a business and health pov eating a loss
    is better for the business and you. It is not the fear of bad mouthing once a complaint has surface it likehood of
    getting a referal from the party is nil the best damage control can do is limit the amount of bad mouthing. As a
    professional damage control is a skill that has to there and ready to work as the saying goes some times the brown
    stuff does hit the fan.
  48. To John H.:

    I should qualify my statement. Testimony is parol evidence. The trier of fact will certainly be attuned to credibility, and one can , with proper examination, impeach a witness. However, barring this, in Louisiana, where case (common) law carries little wieght, legislative law ( statute ) dictates what the bench should accept as probative evidence.

    La. C.C. Art.305: Effect of presumption if there is no controverting evidence: " If the trier of fact finds the existence of predicate fact to be inferred, the trier of fact is required to find the existence of the fact to be inferred".

    I'm not a lawyer, and not giving legal advice. Statute varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and one should be familiar with local jurisprudence, or consult an attorney. In Louisiana, however, non-traversed testimony, supported in some manner ( as by another witness), must be inferred to be factual.

    I rest my case, counselor, and this is about as far into left field as I'm willing to go - especially since this matter is unlikely to come to issue.

    Perry Mason ( A.K.A. C. Unger)
  49. John H.

    By the way, attorneys are permitted to file a claim on their own behalf, defend themselves, and represent corporations being sued in small claims court. In addition, as Melvin Belli writes, ..."some states do allow attorneys to represent clients" in small claims court. I have no idea where this prevails, but apparently it is permitted in several states. If you disagree, argue with Melvin ( of course, you'd need a medium to contact him in the Great Beyond ).

    That's it...coming back in from left field...

  50. I don't think Steven cares about any of this.
  51. John:

    For once we agree! I was responding to your catagorical statements.
    As far as this goes, I don't care about it myself - just correcting the record....

    Best Wishes,C.Unger

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