Author Topic: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?  (Read 748 times)

rentalnewbie

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Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« on: November 08, 2018, 02:34:02 PM »
I am considering suing the photographer from our wedding in small claims court - I'm in NC if anyone has experience with small claims in NC, I would love to hear about it.

Here is the deal, we hired a photographer for our wedding that offered several packages. I really wanted good photos and we chose his most expensive package to the tune of about $3,000. As part of this package, two photographers were included for the whole wedding day. I asked the photographer if one of these people instead of taking pictures could film our ceremony and he said yes, he will sub-contract with someone to film the ceremony instead of another photographer for the whole day. Great.

Fast forward a year from our wedding and we finally receive our video, yes it took an entire year! My name is spelled wrong and our wedding date is wrong Ė both of these are fixable issues. However, what is not fixable is you cannot see or hear anything that is happening in our ceremony. At all.

The camera is stationary and at the very back of the 100 guests. Itís not looking up the aisle even, itís literally in the back corner so you cannot see me after I walked in or my husband at all. You cannot hear anything the officiant says (she had a mic), my husband or me. I would have no problem if the camera was stationary the whole time but you could see what was going on. I would like to be able to hear something but I also get that we werenít micíd except for the officiant. However, the choice to put the camera as far away from the ďactionĒ as possible pointed at peopleís backs wasnít a good one.

At the present time, I have emailed the photographer to see if anything can be done (near the end, the angle changes to one that you can see and hear so maybe there was a second angle thatís decent?) and expressed my disappointment at the long wait time, spelling and date errors but also the video quality. I also said I would have preferred he would have just told me he couldnít do a video and Iíd have hired someone else to do that part and chosen a lower level photography package from him.

What do you think rational MMM community? Are my expectations unreasonable? Suing an independent business owner, let alone someone in the ďartsĒ isnít something that I really fancy but at the end of the day he really didnít deliver on the agreement and I spent a lot of money on a wedding that I would like to have a video of and I donít.

herbgeek

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #1 on: November 08, 2018, 02:46:18 PM »
imo, videography and photography are different skills.  If you wanted a video, you should have gone to a videographer, and had a detailed contract with the videographer on what you wanted.  You didn't make any specifications on the video with the photographer, so you got what you got.  Its gonna be tough to win a lawsuit.  You did get a video.   Yeah it should have been better, but in the absence of a written contract with specified terms, I think you'll have  a hard time being successful.

That said, in a court of law I think you have no leg to stand on, but business wise I would show the photographer the video, explain why its not usable and ask for some reimbursement on your fee. 


rentalnewbie

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #2 on: November 08, 2018, 02:58:50 PM »
imo, videography and photography are different skills.  If you wanted a video, you should have gone to a videographer, and had a detailed contract with the videographer on what you wanted.  You didn't make any specifications on the video with the photographer, so you got what you got.  Its gonna be tough to win a lawsuit.  You did get a video.   Yeah it should have been better, but in the absence of a written contract with specified terms, I think you'll have  a hard time being successful.

That said, in a court of law I think you have no leg to stand on, but business wise I would show the photographer the video, explain why its not usable and ask for some reimbursement on your fee.

You are right they are different skills, though there are companies that do both (a friend of mine does both actually) but he should also know that and not have agreed if he couldn't do both.
I see your point from a legal standpoint, I do have a written contract and it does say he will provide a video of the ceremony - though it doesn't say that you need to be able to hear anything. :) Honestly, it's so bad that I feel like it's egregious, it says he will video the ceremony in my contact but I got a video where you can see or hear nothing of the ceremony, just people's backs and coughing.

It is also a good point that I could ask for a partial refund in lieu of some sort of other action. He did do a good job on the photos and our engagement photos were also nice.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #3 on: November 08, 2018, 04:18:05 PM »
Attorney that practices in Ohio, I'm not your lawyer, so take my advice with a grain of salt.

In addition to whatever the terms of the contract say (and the contract doesn't seem to help you here), people in the trades/arts are generally required to perform in accordance with industry standards in the local community.  The photographer was required to photograph your wedding in a manner consistent with industry standards in the community.  He or she just couldn't show up with a disposable Kodak and say job done.

BUT, your photographer is not a videographer.  I'm not sure what type of standard a court would impose on the photographer in this situation.  Per your description of events prior to the wedding, you basically just asked them to have somebody film the wedding and leave it to them. In other words, your lack of details prior to the wedding tells me you didn't make your expectations to the photographer all that clear. I'm really not sure if you have a claim against the photographer.

Which brings us to the videographer, who is actually who your beef is with.  There's a bit of an academic issue here as to whether you have privity of contract with the videographer.  I've been working too long today to think about this, but this might be a defense for the videographer. Even aside from that, again, it's not clear whether you wanted a film of the wedding, or whether you wanted something professionally done.

Ultimately, it sounds to me like you didn't make your expectations clear. The camera may have been placed where it was to avoid being an eyesore in pictures.  The other issues may be related to not hiring a pro.

If you wanted a quality video, you should have hired a videographer, full stop.  Things would have been mic'd properly, they would have been able to move around without being intrusive (same but different skill that photographers utilize doing the same thing), they basically would have resolved all your issues.

But you hired a photographer for $3,000, and then basically wanted them to have professional video quality for no additional price. 

I think this whole situation is unfortunately on you, and if you came into my office, I'd tell you that I felt bad but that you should move on.
« Last Edit: November 08, 2018, 04:36:14 PM by ReadySetMillionaire »

FallenTimber

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #4 on: November 08, 2018, 04:35:57 PM »
My wife and I are wedding photographers shooting 30-40 weddings each year, so I'll give my perspective from a photographer standpoint.

As stated, the two skill sets are very different, and require very different equipment. In order to film a wedding properly, you need to have invested in high-quality audio equipment, including lavalier lapel microphones setup on the groom / officiant to capture vows, or the ability to tap in and capture audio through the DJ's equipment. Without it, even the best cameras will fail to capture your vows. Even with high-end audio equipment, audio can still get messed up (forget to turn mic on, wind picks up, signals interfere, etc). That's why professional wedding videographers will have you recite your vows before the ceremony in a silent room, alone, so they have a clean version as a backup for their video. Clearly your videographer did not use professional audio equipment.

As for setting up the video camera in a corner versus the aisle... having a video camera center aisle makes it extremely challenging for photographers to work around, because we need to be in the center of the aisle through portions of the ceremony, and especially for the first kiss. If a video camera is setup in the aisle, we'd end up blocking the shot of the first kiss with our own bodies.

Having said all of that, it sounds like your photographer hired a low-budget videographer. On a $3,000 package, he's likely paying a second photographer around $200-$300 for the day, and thus he likely spent about that much on a videographer. And unfortunately, any videographer in that price range is going to be pretty terrible. I'm sure the photographer was cringing just as much as you were when you saw the final film. I've never seen a quality wedding video done by any videographer for under $2,500 - $5,000 (for a 4-6 minute video).

As for taking the photographer to court, I don't believe you'd have any leg to stand on (though I'd have to look at your contract to be sure). In this industry, photographers / videographers have artistic license to do their jobs as they see fit. Just like if you hired a graphic designer to create a logo, and the logo turned out terrible, you couldn't sue him / her. You could ask for a partial refund and possibly get a few hundred dollars back, but I'm afraid that's about the best you're going to get.

Did the photos turn out nice, at least? Have you reached out to any guests to see if anyone happened to film on their cell phones? If you can round up all the raw footage from the videographer + cell phones, you may be able to piece together something.

ReadySetMillionaire

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #5 on: November 08, 2018, 05:10:47 PM »
My wife and I are wedding photographers shooting 30-40 weddings each year, so I'll give my perspective from a photographer standpoint.

As stated, the two skill sets are very different, and require very different equipment. In order to film a wedding properly, you need to have invested in high-quality audio equipment, including lavalier lapel microphones setup on the groom / officiant to capture vows, or the ability to tap in and capture audio through the DJ's equipment. Without it, even the best cameras will fail to capture your vows. Even with high-end audio equipment, audio can still get messed up (forget to turn mic on, wind picks up, signals interfere, etc). That's why professional wedding videographers will have you recite your vows before the ceremony in a silent room, alone, so they have a clean version as a backup for their video. Clearly your videographer did not use professional audio equipment.

As for setting up the video camera in a corner versus the aisle... having a video camera center aisle makes it extremely challenging for photographers to work around, because we need to be in the center of the aisle through portions of the ceremony, and especially for the first kiss. If a video camera is setup in the aisle, we'd end up blocking the shot of the first kiss with our own bodies.

Having said all of that, it sounds like your photographer hired a low-budget videographer. On a $3,000 package, he's likely paying a second photographer around $200-$300 for the day, and thus he likely spent about that much on a videographer. And unfortunately, any videographer in that price range is going to be pretty terrible. I'm sure the photographer was cringing just as much as you were when you saw the final film. I've never seen a quality wedding video done by any videographer for under $2,500 - $5,000 (for a 4-6 minute video).

As for taking the photographer to court, I don't believe you'd have any leg to stand on (though I'd have to look at your contract to be sure). In this industry, photographers / videographers have artistic license to do their jobs as they see fit. Just like if you hired a graphic designer to create a logo, and the logo turned out terrible, you couldn't sue him / her. You could ask for a partial refund and possibly get a few hundred dollars back, but I'm afraid that's about the best you're going to get.

Did the photos turn out nice, at least? Have you reached out to any guests to see if anyone happened to film on their cell phones? If you can round up all the raw footage from the videographer + cell phones, you may be able to piece together something.

This is a really good explanation of what I'm getting at with industry standards and implied duties.  Videographers and photographers are two very different things.

pk_aeryn

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #6 on: November 08, 2018, 07:31:52 PM »
Not to rub salt in the wound, but hereís another perspective: itís really good that the photos came out well and youíre happy with those.  I commission event photographers as part of my job and sacrificing a second photographer was a risky move if the photos were very important to you.  So again, bummer about the video but agreed with others here in the thread.

rentalnewbie

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #7 on: November 09, 2018, 09:40:33 AM »
Not to rub salt in the wound, but hereís another perspective: itís really good that the photos came out well and youíre happy with those.  I commission event photographers as part of my job and sacrificing a second photographer was a risky move if the photos were very important to you.  So again, bummer about the video but agreed with others here in the thread.

The photos did come out good and there are a lot of them. I was very happy with the photos. Though I am still waiting for the album of photos that was also listed as a deliverable in my contract. It's been 14 months...

Thank you all for your views and it seems like I can really do very little. Though I will make the point to the photographer that he should also not contract with people agreeing to do video since that is clearly not where his skill set lies. He should have told me no when I asked about this possibility. I probably would have booked him for a lower package with just photos (probably only 1 photographer package) and looked elsewhere for a video of my ceremony. Probably I would have paid more overall but really it would have been worth it to me. Even a "raw" video with no post-production where you can see and hear what is happening would have been a significant improvement over what I got.

I think that is what really upsets me, I feel like he over-promised by agreeing to film the ceremony and while he can apply this lesson to his future contracts, I will never be able to get a passable film of my ceremony again.

Honestly even if I had sued him I wouldn't have got enough money that it would make me happy about the situation, even my full payment price returned would not make me happy and I'd have felt bad about suing him as he's a nice guy and small business owner.

FallenTimber

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #8 on: November 09, 2018, 11:57:30 AM »
Iím sorry this happened. If it makes you feel any better, raw ceremony footage can be cringeworthy to watch. Nervous officiants, grandparents coughing, kids crying, semi trucks / Harleyís / ambulances going by. Photos allow for a more romanticized recollection of your day without the distractions.

Still, Iím sorry it didnít work out, but at least your photos turned out great.

Beardy

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Re: Wedding photographer - breach of contract?
« Reply #9 on: November 09, 2018, 12:27:18 PM »
I think everyone pretty much agrees at this point that unfortunately you're up a creek.

On another note, since the photographs of the ceremony sound to have turned out well, have you considered maybe creating your own sequenced slideshow of the ceremony? Throw a song in the background and re-record you and SOs vows to play simultaneously over it, salvage what few good shots it sounds like you got from the video, and hack together something worthwhile.

I know this doesn't really get you anywhere regarding a financial return, but it would give you a video media artifact of the event. I don't know how much skill in this area you have, though it sounds like you may have resources in a friend to at least get some basic guidance on. Think of it as an anniversary project for you and SO!