Monday, June 18, 2012

Our Wedding was (almost) Picture Perfect, but the Photos were not

Dear East Side Bride-

I have a post-mortem wedding question. I know that it's fairly common for people who skimped on photography to be a little bit sad afterwards, but here's the deal. My fiance and I completely upped our photography budget, thinking, this is going to be our only take-away from the day. And while we have some very beautiful images, we don't have the pictures we really want from the day because our (very award-winning) photographer arrived 45 minutes late, all of our photos were rushed, and he spent time during dinner, etc. frantically taking (too few) pictures of details and pictures that were missed earlier in the evening. Our photographer somehow seemed to miss all of the details and a lot of 'moments,' and perhaps something was 'off' or 'wrong' that day, but we wouldn't know, because he never mentioned it.

Now, looking at our recently arrived proofs is very bittersweet. After the wedding I began to come to terms with the fact that we had missed a lot of opportunities for portraits (it's fine if I just had one with my bridesmaids, because, well, I was only going to frame one anyway- right? and it's kind of OK that we don't have a picture of my husband with his brothers and dad together). I told myself they'd be well-represented in the candids (but there were only about 120 candids from the 5 hours spent dining and dancing) and that seeing some great candids would more than make up for it. It only got worse when I realized that so many of the details i poured my heart into were not captured (everything from the details of the invite- which we gave him to photograph to the fact that or that our signature cocktails were orange and blue- a nod to the college town where we wed).

I know we have little recourse now, having already paid, and also having the quality of our photos, etc. held hostage at the whim of the photographer. I guess my question is two-fold, do you (and your highly esteemed professional photographer friends) think we have any recourse/options? And besides telling myself to stop wallowing, do you have any suggestions to make me feel better/what we can do now to try to capture some of our missed moments?


Give it a year.

In a year, you will not give one shit about the wedding photos.

Polaroid by Lina Scheynius


  1. That sucks. The same thing happened to my brother and sister in law. I'm actually organizing a shoot for their first anniversary so they can have nice portraits of themselves looking the way they do now in their wedding attire. Not much you can do about the issue of candids, you could use to collect up all the shots that your guests took so you at least have something.

  2. i would tell him that you are not very happy with the result and see what he offers - maybe a bit of a refund, some free prints, something. if he doesn't do anything, well, that's what things like 'yelp' are for.

  3. Write down all of your memories and all of the important details that weren't captured in the pictures. If you put an album together, fill in the blanks with your words. You could even ask your close friends and family to send you their favorite memories of the wedding and include their words in your album instead of their pictures.

  4. Oh my goodness. I had a very similar problem (and also wrote in to ESB) when we got married two years ago. Our photographer went AWOL after our wedding, took forever to get us our photos, and once I had them realized that TONS of things were missing. Come to find out she had shot the entire reception on a corrupted card and all of the photos were lost. She never responded to my emails or calls, and offered us a refund which we never received. It took me a long time to get over it. It sounds silly, but I mourned for our lost moments. But ESB is right. You'll eventually get over it. And you only need a couple for framing in your home.

  5. Yeah, I think it's worth contacting the photographer. It's one thing to show up late because of some kind of emergency and still do a good job, but showing up late for no reason and then doing an inadequate job is totally unprofessional. He might just ignore you, or tell you to fuck off, but in cases like this I always think it's better to politely let people know that you're unhappy with their service-- otherwise you just feel like they walked all over you and took your money. Tell him that you're disappointed with the lack of photos taken and you think it's directly tied to his lateness and inattentiveness. Think of it as a way to get the bad feelings off your chest, and any refunds etc. you get would be a perk.

  6. In terms of not feeling so bummed: It seems that one of the frustrating parts of your experience is that you decided to up your photography budget and hire someone fancy to take your pics - and that didn't seem to pay off. So you can try to disambiguate two questions: (1) Do you feel ripped off? (2) Are the pictures themselves lovely?

    To try and reorient yourself to the second question: If you didn't hire an award winning photographer, would you be pleased with the pictures? Are there 20 or so pics that you could print out and put in nice album and it be the sort of thing that your kids and grandkids (should you choose to have any) will love to look through? If so, it may feel better to have some object in your hand that is only the best of the day rather than be constantly reminded of 200 sub par proofs and the images that could have been.

  7. I wish I had better advice. A similar thing happened to me (paid more for "better" photog, whatever reason he sucked day of).

    Unfortunately, I disagree with ESB and think you might still care about wedding photos (I do--why shouldn't you? This is what you show your kids one day, right?) IDK, it sucks, but hold on to the good images you do have and one day you will be able to laugh that your photog didn't seem to give a shit.

  8. I'm sorry, maybe it's just me, but if you have some "really beautiful images", isn't that what you want? I don't understand what the point of having a ton of "details" photographed. You have copies of the invitations, why do you need photos of them? And the cocktails? What are you REALLY going to do with photos of blue and orange cocktails? Frame them? Probably not. Post them on a blog? Maybe, but why is that the goal? It's a bummer if he missed photos of family and friends, but I don't understand the obsession with capturing a ton of inanimate objects. Did you pour your heart into details because you really wanted to? Did the guests appreciate them? If so, then you probably won't forget them, even without photos.

    1. Not helpful to argue with her about how she feels. She cares about the details, you don't, accept that and try to offer some helpful advice! Everyone is different!

    2. It's not about caring about the details or not, it's about caring about having PHOTOS of the details. I was trying to help, by suggesting another perspective. Mainly just to think, "What was I really going to do with those missing photos anyways?"

    3. Completely agree here.

  9. I agree with others who say that you should contact the photographer and let him know that you are unhappy. If you had a contract that listed the hours he was supposed to be there, and he showed up 45 minutes late, you should at least be refunded for that time. Our caterers royally effed up tons of things on my wedding day, and we set up a meeting with them after the fact to voice our concerns. We ended up getting a 10% refund. It wasn't ideal, but at least it was something.

    If things aren't resolved, I'd probably write an honest review of the photographer's work to tip others off to his lack of professionalism.

  10. I know the right answer because I really don't love my photos (but that's because of my issues mainly) but it still hurts right now.

    I would be annoyed because you've wasted money but you're married with better memories.

    Memories always seem a little but better anyway? (Well if you're an optimist).

  11. Speak to your photographer, but first think about the following before you do, as not getting a photograph of your signature cocktails is not a plausible reason to be unhappy with your photos. However being late is unacceptable - but - there may have been a personal reason hence not being up to scratch with his general candid performance.

    Anyway, was you photographer fully aware of your desire for detail heavy photographs, and did he also show this in his portfolio? It seems like you may have explained this when you gave him the invites to photograph.

    Read your contract, is there anything to say how many candid photos you should have got? Did he know that a photo of your husband with his dad and brothers was specifically important to you? There may be some images that you were expecting, but that he didn't take because you didn't request or that were out of the 'standard' family photo formula. If he knew about these ones, do ask him.

    Sometimes things go wrong for photographers, something could be happening in his life right now or that day that was so personal he didn't want to mention it to be professional. It is important to photographers to have a plan to avoid 'off' days, but sometimes life does but its nose in.

    Remember you were actually there on your wedding day and the memories you have in your mind are better than any photo.

    Approach your photographer and he will be very happy to help you I'm sure. All the best.

    1. I agree...I think the key is to know how much communication is there beforehand. We are just human...we can only be in one place. Did you have a second photographer? Did the timeline & amount of hours of coverage allow for enough time for the photographer to get to the reception site ahead of time to shoot the details? Because if not, then the photographer has to choose: do I shoot inanimate objects, candids of people (which, honestly, are hard to do well because if people are talking or eating, it's 9 times out of 10 very unflattering), or the actual "events" such as cake cutting, etc. I try to ask all my brides and grooms ahead of time what their priorities are, and go over the timeline with them to see if it's possible to get their priorities. If not, I let them know so at least they are warned. If you have some of the details still in your possession, you could request that he shoot them again (Like stage the drinks, etc...). I had to do it once because I wasn't able to get to the cocktail hour since the bride and groom wanted to go to 3 locations for group pics... so by the time I got to the reception venue, guests had moved on from the signature drinks. If you approach him with graciousness and offer suggestions, he should want to help you out. And maybe acknowledge where planning might have been the issue...and if that is the case...he can still try, but there is only so much one person can do. Good luck!!!!

  12. 1) Not a Photo Shoot

    2) If you feel cheated out of $$$, write a very detailed review and post everywhere (yelp, weddingwire, etc). Send a link to the photog in question.

    3) Sorry, I can't tell from your post. Did you enjoy actually being at your wedding while it was happening? "Only" 120 candids probably means everyone was having too much fun to take pictures of each other. Feel good that your guests (and hopefully you) were enjoying it as a party, not a photo shoot (see #1)

  13. i am still kind of confused how being 45 minutes late ruined the whole set of images. if it meant he had to rush through the portraits, then why did he also have to struggle to get missed details?

    did your contract specify approximately how many images you should expect to receive? because it just sounds like 45 minutes is adding up to like, waaaaaaaay less images then you expected in general (less portraits, less candids, less details.), which seems so strange unless he was only hired for a couple of hours instead of the more standard 8 or so. have you seen the FULL set?

    my confusion aside, talk to him. if this happened to us i would hope for a heartfelt email that was giving us the opportunity to fix what was wrong. if what he delivered was not on par with what is in his portfolio and what was stated in your contract, i am SURE he will do what he can to try and make it up to you.

    if he blows you off and does not try and resolve, def write a bad review.

    so sorry!!!!!!!!

  14. I can totally relate to your disappointment, but try to remember that just because there isn't a picture of it doesn't mean it didn't happen. Hold on to your memories as they are in your mind's eye, not as they are in the pictures.

    I was one of those people who skimped on a wedding photographer and who didn't think I needed a million pictures of my wedding or any of the details I had put together...until after my wedding. Then I regretted the decision (and also kind of judged myself for wanting a million photos of my wedding), and almost 2 years out, it still makes me a bit jealous to see other people's gorgeous professional wedding albums. But you know, I got a few photos of the event that I really love (most of which were actually taken by friends), and I feel very lucky for that. Plus, the more time passes, the more I love those few photos and the less I care about the (lack of) others. I'm with ESB on this -- time heals.

  15. Am I the only person who feels that 120 candids is A Lot of photos? Seriously, there are photographers out there who will give you a disc of close to 1,000 photos, but what the heck would you do with that many? You need just one (or a few) good ones.

    1. For 5 hours? Unless every photo is amazing, it doesn't seem like enough, frankly. Especially if you're paying premium.

    2. Did he only take 120, or only give them 120?

      Most photographers won't show you every single picture, but just a selection of the best that have been edited. How did she feel about the 120 she got? They may have been amazing, but she is just complaining that there aren't more.

    3. I would rather a photographer toss the hundreds of terrible candids before handing over the final images. Face it, most candids catch people a) eating b) making terribly awkward faces. 120 sounds like a reasonable number to me for 5 hours of a reception.

      Math - even if your photographer is shooting nearly continuously and taking 3 photos a minute, with no breaks, that's 180 photos an hour, 900 photos for the reception. And if s/he is shooting that fast, almost all of them are going to be unuseable, just because of how hard it is to capture people who are moving and talking. 120 photos would be 13% of the total, which seems reasonable.

  16. If I understand correctly, you don't really care about the specific photos of drinks, etc, but you don't think that he really represented the whole event in the pics. I think that's a justifiable complaint, and one that you can reasonably (and politely) bring to his attention. He might have more photos that he didn't think were 'good enough' that he could dig through.

    But I agree with the others that say you won't care so much about this later. We had an issue with our rings - they were custom made, done incorrectly and late, and finally delivered (still wrong) the day before the wedding. Frankly, I'm still annoyed at those people, and for awhile I would be bothered whenever I looked at my hand. However, I've finally disassociated my annoyance with them from my ring. And hopefully you'll eventually be able to enjoy the photos that you do have without being annoyed at the photographer.

  17. This is a bummer and I think you got some good advice. It's worth at least talking to the photographer but you need to be well prepared. Gather your ammunition, decide what your ideal outcome is before you start anything (actually my general rule for ALL potentially fraught encounters).

    As Jamie says - check your contract to see what number of images you were promised.
    Write down your concerns - if you didn't get the hours you were promised, if you asked for shots that you didn't receive (best if you can back it up with a shot list or email exchange), etc.

    Most importantly, know what you want going in. Will you feel slightly better if you receive a partial refund? Is is just a matter of having your concerns heard? If you don't get what you want, will you feel better if you write some honest reviews online?

    It's hard to not have some of the shots you want, but realistically you can frame one or two and you only use 20 - 40 pictures in an album. If you can sort through your photos and find that many that will work for you, this might not matter to you at all after a little time has passed.

  18. samesies. & i disagree with esb, it's been a year and i'm not over it.

  19. It must suck to be so disappointed by your photographs because the fact is, there isn't any way to go back and get the pictures you want. This is a fact that you just have to accept. I can't imagine how much that must suck.

    That being said, I think you should definitely discuss your feelings with your photographer. Beforehand you should consider:

    1) Your approach. No sense in being a bridezilla and being super emotional or angry. Present your case in a calm, collected, and adult manner. Professionalism is important when you're asking someone else to be accountable for their professionalism.

    2) REALLY think about what could possibly happen that would make you feel better. Will you feel better if he offers a refund? If he can take pictures of your invitation now? If he can turn back time and make it better? What are plausible options that would make you less disappointed.

    3) DEFINITELY talk to him before you do any wedding reviews. It's unfair if he doesn't know you're unhappy and you just tell everyone, complaining. His reaction could change your entire perception of things. If he is flippant, doesn't care, and is a jerk: put his ass on blast. But maybe he'll be really sorry, offer something in return, or have some way to change your feelings. THEN review.

    This is how I approach any reviewing situation. There's no sense in spreading a bunch of negative feelings and thoughts just to air it out if you haven't given him a chance to redeem/explain himself and possibly ruin his reputation.

  20. Or wait 40 years. My mother appears to have lost their wedding album, and also appears to not really mind that much. (we're actually pretty sure it's... somewhere, but it's been looked for and cannot be found at the moment.) But it's worth noting that my parents have a total of one wedding photo framed in their house, which is one more than they had framed in their house for the first 30 years of their marriage.
    I love professional, artsy, gorgeous wedding photography as much (or more) than the next person. But my favorite photo from my parents' wedding is one that a family member took, with a flash, at the reception. It sounds like you probably have enough great photos that you can make an album, and frame one or two and put them somewhere in the house - focus on that.

    All of that said - talk to them. I would take it really, really, seriously if a client came to me after their wedding and wasn't happy with the service I'd provided. You may not get anything concrete from it, but you'll at least get it off your chest, which is something.

  21. I'm in agreement with the people who urge you to think about this from a transaction standpoint. You paid someone for a service and didn't get what you expected, so it's worth digging into whether that's because you had unrealistic expectations or if you were cheated of something you paid for.

    1. What were you promised/what can you reasonably expect? Does your contract state the hours your photographer was supposed to work? Does the contract list out a requirement for certain shots he missed? Does his webpage say anything about taking photos of details or that you'll have hundreds of shots? Did you have a meeting in which you were verbally promised something that was not delivered? Was someone else at the meeting too who remembers it the same way you do? Your husband, your mom, etc?

    You have a legit case for kicking up a fuss about anything that's been explictly agreed to. You have a medium legit case for fussing about not getting things you expected because they were showcased in portfolios of other weddings he shot. You have no leg to stand on if something is missing that you just expected but never discussed and can't prove is a usually provided service.

    Things you can do- you can meet with him and ask for a discount after explaining your disappointment. You can ask if there are other photos that didn't make the cut, which he's holding onto. You can give a bad review on ratings services like yelp- usually you would do this after someone says no to the discount, or if you aren't planning to talk it through with this guy.

    Also importantly, I think you can take away a lesson about expectations in business settings- which is to get it all in writing. If you THINK something is part of the package, get confirmation.

    Then lastly, after you take the actions you can take, you just have to get over it. Life isn't a photo flipbook. Things happen not just to be in frames, but because you are busy living. You have opportunities to see your guests again in your regularly scheduled life, and get nice photos of them and you together. You can take your own photo of the program if that matters, or put the original in the scrapbook. Recreate the cocktail on your anniversary and photograph that.

  22. I was really irritated at our wedding photographer who had been so highly recommended via sooo many wedding blogs (even this one) so I know this feeling. It's been just about 2 years since our wedding.....I'm over everything except how she treated me when I did come to her with just one of my issues. Ultimately....If there are a handful of photos that you love you're just fine. But that doesn't mean you shouldn't express how you feel to your photographer. (side note: I would be really pissed if my photographer was 45 minutes late).

  23. Agree with ESB. I realised after our wedding that so many shots I wanted weren't done.

    Now two years later I'm glad because it means that many less photos to have to try and get into a album that still hasn't been done yet.

    Yack. 3 months after the wedding, touching and dealing with wedding stuff made me cringe. My husband and I can think of nothing worse than putting a wedding pic up on the walls, but know it's the 'right' thing to do.

    I think people (cough women) look at waaaaaaaaay too many wedding blogs and expect their photos to come out the same.

    Your photogrpaher aint a magician.

    Maybe the specialness that you wanted captured was made of emotion and feelings and buzz and didn't translate in the physical.

    I'm sorry you feel sad. Sounds like you got some awesome pics though.

  24. There are aspects of our photos that I don't love. I can relate to Anna (being negative about how I look) and there's one certain style of photo (casual non-party candids) that we have WAY less of than I thought we would. I think that's my fault for not being more clear about EXACTLY what we were looking for.

    But, the rest are great and I'm coming to terms with how few pictures we need to ignite the memories that we have stored away (it's been 8 mo).

    [I posted Anonymous, which I never do, to protect our photographer, who I really do think did a great job]

  25. If there are certain details of the wedding that you can recreate maybe he would agree to take some additional pictures? Obviously you can't recreate anything involving people, but the drinks, stationery, etc?

  26. Thank you all for your insights, advice and especially for making me know that I'm not alone. I do think that dwelling on the positive aspects are helpful, and love some of the creative suggestions to capture memories. And now, just a week or two after getting the pictures, I'm better able to appreciate the good photos that we do have.

    For background, for those who asked, we hired a photographer for 9 hours + a second shooter, so it didn't seem to us like we'd be lacking for photos. We did have the times set, and reviewed them the week of the wedding (and have it in writing and on email). We did go over photos that were important to us- with the photographer. And had specifically selected a photographer with a photojournalism style (and a background as a photojournalist) to get some great candids, but who was also a bit more mature and adept at setting up and styling shots. His self-professed specialty is capturing the moment, but also an emphasis on details (I can't make this up- it's in his marketing materials).

    My fiance and I had planned to do our photos and family photos prior to our cocktail hour, and had initially allocated 1.5 hours for bridal party and family photos (we needed a bit longer for the photos because of some 'blended family issues'). When our photographer arrived late we had about half the time for these photos (we had a strict deadline, because we had to participate in a religious ceremony prior to our marriage). Our 'detail' shots from getting ready were also quite rushed, because I had to get into my dress ASAP, my bridesmaids were already in their dresses, and I didn't have time to 'curate' some of the more fun detail shots.

    After the fact we raised the issue to our photographer, just saying we were a little disappointed and expected things to go smoother. I think our greatest frustration is that at this point instead of apologizing he tried to blame us. He accused my husband's family of taking too long to pose (sure, our 4 year old nephew wasn't the MOST focused, but it just took him an extra minute) and my bridesmaids of being too chatty (this was categorically untrue). He didn't apologize, much like he didn't give us the heads up he was running late.

    Based on your responses, I now feel OK to go back to the photographer and politely reiterate our frustration. If we don't get an apology, I think it would be justifiable to honestly review the photographer, because while he may be a great artist, he clearly isn't a person to help a bride feel calm and in control on her wedding day

  27. Good god. My CAR HAS BROKEN DOWN on the way to a wedding and you better believe I was still on time to shoot it. ITS MY JOB MO-FOs to be on time to this thing that will only happen once. So I totally don't get the 45 minutes late thing. INEXCUSABLE. I would have refunded an hours worth of my pay out of guilt alone without ever being asked, because that's customer service people. WTF?!