Tuesday, October 26, 2010

photographer gone AWOL

Dear ESB:

We hired an amazing photographer for our wedding. She came from several states away to work with us, and we were so excited to have her there. A week after the wedding, she sent us some teaser images that were awesome, with the promise of having the rest of the photos done in a week.

Fast forward to 5 weeks after the wedding, and we finally got *some* of the photos back. At this point, my MIL was beginning to frame cell phone shots, so we were very relieved to see something. The photographer explained that she was 3/4 of the way done and that we'd see the rest in 10 days. There were only 110 photos in the group she posted on her website, only two of which were of our ceremony. There were no detail shots and nothing of my large extended family. She was with us for 9 hours on the wedding day, so I know she got those shots. I emailed her back saying I was thrilled with what we had, but nervous about the things that were missing.

Well, I never heard back. So, a week later I tried again. Nothing. Another week went by and I decided to call. No answer. I left a message which went unreturned. Finally another week later I sent another email, saying I was feeling like a stalker and that I know she's busy, but to please just let us know that what's happening. In every email and in the phone message, I stressed that we were so happy with her work but just needed clarification on what we could expect next.

Nada. At this point our wedding was 2 months ago and we still don't have all of our pictures. I don't know what to do next. My husband wants to give her another few weeks and then call a lawyer. I'm not sure. She has a blog and has been updating it a couple of times a week, so I know there's nothing weird happening with her life that would cause this.

What would you do?


I would write a letter. A very firm letter.

I don't think it's time to call in a lawyer just yet. Chances are something went wrong and she's scrambling to make it right. (See: this comment from Our photographer "lost" the reception pics)

But you do need to get her attention.

(Image from Vintage Diary via Laurel Thompson)


  1. What did your contract say? 2 weeks is a crazy short turnaround time. I would have guessed 6 - 9 weeks is more standard, and you're only at 8ish. Granted, she made it seem like she would have it done right away, so getting ignored now is worrying. Sounds like she's inexperienced, so maybe this is taking longer than she expected?

    Write her a letter that makes it clear you're worried (as in, will seek further action if necessary, eventually) and need attention now, if only an updated schedule.

    The fact that she's updating her blog doesn't necessarily rule out bigger stuff going on. Lots of people (especially those that rely on their blogs to help drive their business) blog even in the midst of tons of outside stuff and don't care to reveal that personal drama to potential customers.

  2. As a follow up to Rachel, you can also schedule blog posts ahead of time, so if she's just blogging past events, they could be going up automatically.

  3. Agreed, great advice. That sounds terrifying! I definitely think in this case that you have to be firm for sure...Even if there is something weird...over the course of that much time, how hard is it to send a paragraph long email?

  4. To me the weirdness here is not that you don't have your photos yet (like Rachel said, 8-9 weeks is a pretty reasonable turnaround time and you do already have 110 photos) but that she's not responding to you, and that you've tried phone and email, to no response. It seems like any kind of response - even just "hey things are crazy for me right now but I will get back to you as soon as I can" - would've been helpful so you didn't feel like you were in a photography black hole.

    I agree with ESB about the firm letter, but also wonder whether checking the comments on the blog, seeing if she is responding to comments recently, and leaving her a comment there to say "trying to contact you, please get in touch asap", might work. If she's not responding to comments, the posts may be going up automatically, so this won't work. But if she is responding to comments, she's not dead. This is a pushy tactic, because you're publicly saying "hey, please get back to me" - but I think after 3-4 weeks of trying to contact her with no response at all, that's warranted. I'd be interested to hear if other people think this would be out of line, or whether it'd be appropriate, because we're hiring an interstate photographer too, and this kind of potential future problem has crossed my mind...

  5. Well. This just breaks my heart.

    I am sorry that this is happening to you! It happened to me, too... I'm the one who had the photog issues that ESB so kindly blogged about.

    Here's the deal... you signed a contract. If she said 2 weeks (which DOES sound a bit quick), then she should have at LEAST contacted you by now. We had a similar situation where our photographer ended up shooting 90% of our reception on a corrupted card, never told me about it, tried to pass off the other photos like I wouldn't notice, wouldn't respond to email/phone calls, offered to give us a partial refund + then we never heard from her again. Yup.

    I ended up just letting it go... it still gets me riled, though, when I think about it. But I did send her an email explaining my frustrations (that Cara from Peonies + Polaroids helped me craft). She never responded. If you're up for it, I would give her another 2 weeks + then tell her you're taking legal action. I hate to see another bride miss out on her wedding photos.

  6. thats awful that she's not getting back to you. i'd sit tight another couple weeks though.

    things like this, and lauren's predicament, justify (in my head) not hiring a profesh photog for our wedding. like esb always says "you only need one good photo"

  7. I agree with ESB. A firm letter, a little warning plus your concerns. She has to know you're not afraid to take a lawyer. Shit, I feel with you. Did any family members or friends take pictures?

  8. Just to calm you down a little, I agree with the others. We got our pictures at about 8 weeks, and they got rushed out, because I'm a blogger. Our photags are crazy talented, but their average turnaround time is more like 12 weeks (worth it). So write a letter and make her tell you what's up, but it's probably totally fine.

  9. It's just rude and highly unprofessional to not response.

  10. I don't see this happening that much in our business but one thing just crossed my mind: Indie bride = indie photographer most likely. So you are getting that shoot from the hip mentality and not a business person. Weddings are are huge endeavor especially when you are traveling to shoot and taking several weddings a season as a photographer. Things can get crazy and if you don't have a solid business plan and a bit of experience, things like this can happen real fast. Web sites and blogs are practically free and easy to make and say all the right things, its best to speak to the photographer and try and get a sense of the professionalism and experience as well.

  11. I finally just checked over and saw that you posted my email, thank you!
    To update: we waited and waited some more, and wrote a very strongly worded email, and finally one day last week she posted a bunch more pictures to our page on her site. The weirdness continues, tho. She never told us she was posting the rest of the pictures. I just happened to see them because I decided to look at her site on a whim that day. She was actually posting as I was looking. We must have had some weird mind-meld thing happening. Anyway.
    I emailed her at that point and said how great the photos were but how weird it was that she just wouldn't respond to anything. And I asked for our files. No response there.
    I'm going to take some of the advice here and try posting a comment to her blog.
    Brian, you are right. She is actually a fine-art photographer, not a "wedding photographer". I guess that was the first mistake.
    Oh well. Hopefully this will all work out. Thanks for all of your advice, guys!