Wednesday, December 1, 2004

Wedding photography mishaps


By James Booth

You've hired a professional photographer to shoot your wedding, spending thousands to record the precious memories of your union. You get the proofs back, only to discover some of the images, important ones, are missing, corrupted, or otherwise unusable. What do you do? Are you entitled to compensation, or a partial refund? One reader came across our wedding photography for amateurs series (which I'll reference later) in researching this very same dilemma.

Keven Howe writes:

I recently got married and our digital photographer's photos of our first dance and dances with our parents were corrupt. As a consumer could I expect some compensation?
As a photographer, would you be willing to offer any compensation? Our contract was $3600 cash for time, proofs, high-resolution images on CD, a 10x10 wedding album, and two 5x5 albums.
Could I trouble you as a consumer to fairly advise me on how to approach our photographer?

I'm more than happy to offer my advice on your situation Keven, but I'm not sure you'll like what I have to say. Overall, I'm inclined to say that you probably won't get much compensation for the corrupt images. There are several variables that have to be taken into consideration.

One thing to take into consideration is how many images were shot, and how many you received, both in the album and on the CD. If less 100 shots were taken, then I would consider the corrupted images a critical percentage of the job, and compensation would be in order. A pro-rated refund based on the number of images shot would be called for.

But if the photographer shot upwards of 300 images, which would be typical for a professional, then the six or so that are missing isn't that large a portion of the overall job. It wouldn't amount to much compensation if a refund were given based on those images.

If you were to take the value of those images as a percentage of the job, you would have to deduct the cost of the album, developing if film was used, printing, etc. and you likely wouldn't come out with much. Unfortunately, from a legal standpoint, sentimental value isn't considered as compensable if the matter were to go to court.

Although the first dance of the couple, and their dances with the parents are "must have" shots, like with any medium, be it digital, film, or video, there is always a chance of corruption that is out of the photographer's control. In reality, it could have been worse.

If a photographer chose to use a rather large memory card, like the 1GB and 2GB, and it corrupted, an entire wedding could be lost. Count yourself lucky that only a few were lost. Were they actually lost, as in irretrievable? Or were they just not fit for printing?