Avoiding Wedding Photography Lawsuits and Upset Clients

The advent of cheap, high quality digital SLR’s has dramatically changed the world of photography, perhaps no more than in the wedding photography business. Whilst there are many talented newcomers to this industry, there are many who believe that they can jump straight in and do a job that is actually among one of the most skilled and stressful in the business. This video from the popular US show Judge Joe Brown highlights some of the many pitfalls of wedding photography and shows the not inconsiderable knowledge of the Judge himself about the art and techniques of wedding photography. Apologies for the typical daytime TV scuffles and antics :)

The backstory is all too common, the bride and groom hire a photographer who offers excellent prices yet when they receive the final product are extremely disappointed. So lets go through the key points of the case and highlight some of the classic errors the photographer made, many of which, have been impressively noted by the judge.

  • Getting the images printed at a low cost supermarket instead of a professional lab, and admitting this to the client.
  • The photographer used a budget DSLR with a slow kit lenses. Whilst fine for outside shots it allows very limited flexibility in low light conditions.
  • The photographer does not know the speed of her lenses, indicating a very limited technical knowledge.
  • It appears that the photographer had no knowledge of the venue and had not done a recce. It was a surprise to her on the day that A. she was not allowed to use flash and B. the venue was so dark. The photographer had obviously had no communication with the venue management to establish whether professionals could use flash.
  • The Judge is quick to notice that even the outside images are not sharp and would not stand decent enlargement. This can almost certainly be attributed to using a kit lens.
  • The photographer avoids answering a question about what aperture she used on various shots suggesting she did not know. The Judge further asks where her 28-70 lens is, meaning a fast standard zoom, a prerequisite for professional wedding photography.
  • Photographers should be aware that the average person in the street does not know a Nikon D3 from a D50. To most, they both look professional but will give very different results.
  • The Judge asks why the photographer is not using a 1 series Canon and suggests that by using a base model Canon the photographer is not acting in a professional manner.
wedding photography lawsuits

Wedding Photography Lawsuit

Wedding photography is one of the most difficult yet rewarding areas of the business. If you are planning to work in this field some of the following steps would be useful.

  1. Manage your client’s expectations! Make it clear what they will receive.
  2. Have the right equipment to cover all eventualities of the shoot.
  3. Have the right knowledge to deal with unforeseen issues.
  4. Research both your venue and your client and be aware of any potential issues before they occur, such as poor lighting in the venue.
  5. If you want to be professional, have a professional image from the start of the job to the finish. Have a good attitude, and whether you are supplying final images or proofs make sure that the postproduction is of the highest quality possible.

In the Judge’s summery he berates the photographer for using sub standard equipment and poor unprofessional technique. As a published photographer, he is obviously very knowledgeable in photography, perhaps even more so than the defendant. He awards the bride, significantly more than her original request, probably more due to the defendant’s attitude than the quality of the work.

For Further Training on Wedding Photography:

Check out Digital Wedding Secrets;a very popular and comprehensive instructional eBook package for aspiring wedding photographers and has guidance on virtually everything needed to start a professional wedding photography business. With 189 pages of information and many other materials such as shot lists and sample contract templates, there is value here for any level of photographer interested in wedding photography.

A word of guidance…Their website is a little obnoxious to navigate – you’ll see what I mean. But I have found them to have the best wedding photography training package. Their free eBook that comes with the newsletter is a little helpful, but the primary ebook package and all it’s extras are a lot more useful and actionable.

It is currently available at half price here: Digital Wedding Secrets eBook

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10 responses to “Avoiding Wedding Photography Lawsuits and Upset Clients”

  1. A Rebel, in my opinion shouldn’t be used for weddings. It only costs about $600 for that camera and the lens. And if they photography 100s of weddings like they say, then they can afford better. And what a bad attitude!

  2. Mike says:

    I did an entire wedding with a Rebel XS and a lens kit 18-55mm. My pictures turned out better than what the ladies in the video had and my clients could blow em up. No one can remember the f stop on each photo. Alot of photos you would have to change the f stop. Alot of churches do not allow flash photography. The entry level DSLR although don’t have the higher end features of the 5d etc are still good cameras. Still take professional looking photos as long as the photographer knows the limits and knows how to use the camera to full use.

    I believe the reason they couldn’t blow them up with pixelating them is because they made the mistake of giving them .jpeg format which is a lousy format for photographs and will definitely pixelate when blown up.

    Your article is unfair to say you need a camera that costs over $1500 and lenses that cost almost as much to take beautiful wedding pictures. Yes equipment counts but not as much as the photographer’s skill and knowledge of their equipment. Fact is any nobody can buy an expensive camera and lenses but only a photographer has the eye to take a beautiful photo. Oh and one last thing. I can take beautiful HDR images with my kit lens as well.

    • European enthusiast says:

      I started on Rebels and kit lens. Nice camera. But if you are to deliver professional product, especially if the wedding is indoors, you are usually taking too much onto your camera. Get inside a dim-lit church with a 5D2+35/1.4L and 600D+18-55. No flash, just ambient. No big brainer, who the winner is. I’ve used 7D+50/1.4 at f/1.4-f/1.8, ISO 800-1600 and I BARELY get a handholdable shutter speeds. So, kit lens would be totally useless.

      When you are truly limited by your equipment, that’s when the equpment makes a difference, otherwise, you’re right with the brain behind the camera thing. But for some scenarios, pro gear is not an option, it’s a mandatory thing.

    • Ed says:

      Of course it is about the PHOTOGRAPHERS EYE, as well as a capable camera and fast lenses…but that woman clearly DIDN’T have the EYE! She is a scumbag out to make a quick buck using an average camera and lenses that aren’t capable of producing truly beautiful shots..

      I suppose it all depends on taste and opinion when it comes to saying what makes a beautiful shot, but that woman in the video didn’t know how to..I feel so sorry for the people duped into buying her services!

      Mike what is your point about taking HDR photos? And do you have the shots of the ‘entire’ wedding you shot using your kit lens..?!? I would love to see that…and hopefully you didn’t charge your ‘clients’ too much!

  3. James says:

    This is an entertaining piece. I didn’t know Judge could be such experts on photography.

  4. I agree that the photographer is what makes the photo, not the camera. However, the Canon 5D or 1D is just a better camera all around. It has more features, its better in low light at the same ISO than a rebel. It also has more ISO settings. The photos will look better when blown up. A 35mm lens’ fstop (for example) can go all the way to 1.4 when the kit lens 18-55 can do what…3.5? Its also faster, crisper. The advantages to better equipment are numerous, so numerous that it is worth it to invest the $. It wouldn’t kill them to invest $ into their business. And since they have done 100+ weddings, you know they have the money.

    “I believe the reason they couldn’t blow them up with pixelating them is because they made the mistake of giving them .jpeg format which is a lousy format for photographs and will definitely pixelate when blown up. ”

    And I disagree. Yes they will look better in a format that isn’t compressed like jpegs. However, a lot of printing companies will only take jpeg format. For this reason, I have blown up many jpegs to 24×36. Mine all look great. This person probably takes photos at the lowest possible small size jpeg in-camera. So that when blown up, it possibly loses quality? Not sure.

  5. John V says:

    Funny thing is todays Rebel cameras have better image quality and auto focusing than the Canon 20D, 30D and 40Ds… and those cameras were the pro wedding cameras of yesteryear! If you can’t shoot a wedding with a Rebel you can’t shoot with a $2500 camera. I wouldn’t use a kit lens but a couple of fast lenses would help for low light environment. Don’t think a $7000 camera would have helped that photographer on Judge Joe Brown.

  6. It is good to see the judge slam these unprofessional photographers. One it is terrible business to even back mouth to these people. Using a Rebel with no flashes and just natural light is no good. There are too many people in the business with Rebels and cheap cameras that try to get into the wedding business and charge just a couple hundred dollars and say they are professional. You need to understand lighting and focusing issues, composition, and so much more.

    It was sad she didn’t know what a f-stop was when it is basic knowledge. I will say this though in their defense. The judge said he never heard of churches not allowing flash, well I haven’t been to a church yet that allows me to use my flash. I personally don’t understand the problem, but it seems churches do not allow it. I think they over react.

  7. les howard says:

    Unless I missed it , not using the choice of hi resolution files in fine mode may be one of the contributing factors to poor quality and pixelation..
    Even inexpensive Canon Rebels have very high megapixels, Much higher than what is needed for wedding photography including enlargements to 20×30 and above. The less expensive canon DSLRs have the same “engines” as the more expensive prosumer models.
    When my best digital camera was a 10D.(years ago) I had no problem making 20×30 inch aerial photos with no pixelation . They were also tack sharp. Todays rebels have more megapixels than the top cameras of bygone years. Much more than what is required for wedding photography
    There is no substitute for education, practical knowledge and years of experience.
    While it s true that RAW files can solve most problems that may come up, a poperly exposed JPG taken with the correct color balance,Iso, shutter speed, lighting, and aperture, for the scene is perfectly OK..
    Wedding photography , done properly , requires many years of experience. The best thing one can do is assist an experienced pro in order to learn the craft..
    Just knowing where to be and how to handle whatever problem coming your way is way beyond most amateurs capability..This is not something to learn on the job.! There is too much at stake. The client has one wedding. You have one reputation. No amount of money will buy either of them back.
    Please learn this thuroughly before you cause many regrets.

  8. David Hurd says:

    I shot weddings and senior pics with a Nikon D40, 18-55 and 55-200 kit lenses. Clients were happy and I made lots of cash! That’s how I paid for my professional equipment. I always had my clients sign contracts before the session for my protection. It worked for me. I remember watching this particular episode. I thought Joe Brown was arrogant! :-)

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