We have a lot of friends. Once in a while they’ll ask us if we want to be a guest or if we’d mind photographing the event/wedding. I will photograph the event/wedding, but it will cost them 50% of my normal price. Yes, you heard me I charge my friends and family (minus parents of course). We did a family portrait in Lake Tahoe a few years ago. We agreed to do the portrait, but no one expected it to be free. All of the family paid a minimum of 50% off our regular price and for a few items they paid a little more.
So right now, I can imagine everyone saying, OMG you scrooge! No, my family understands it costs money to retouch a photo or make prints or Christmas Cards. This is not free and they don’t expect me to do it for free. My sister-in-law in California even had us photograph her sisters wedding about 8 years ago. They paid all the expenses to get us there and then 50% of the package price. And as they will tell you, it was all worth it.
So on with one of my latest story…Erin had a very good college friend, Alicia, that was a “professional” photographer. She’d been in business in Chicago for over 5 years and was doing this full time. Her husband, the lawyer was very supportive of her career path and now Alicia was starting to make it on her own.
Erin was getting married. Alicia was excited for her friend and said, “instead of me buying you a gift, let me do the photography for your wedding.” Alicia told her if she wanted an album or frame or something she’d need to charge her, but her base package that included a website, images on a disk and a proof book was all part of her gift to the happy couple. Erin did not love the idea because she had heard stories of friendships going south over working together, but Erin’s fiance pushed for her to accept. He said, “it will save us a ton of money. Plus what are we going to do with another toaster.” So reluctantly Erin agreed.
The wedding day came and went. It was a terrific day with a few small little hiccups, but nothing that “ruined” the day. Erin and her new husband were thrilled, it was exactly as they planned.
After things settled down and all the thank you notes were sent, Erin thought she’d give Alicia a call and see how the pictures were coming. Alicia didn’t answer so Erin left her a message. Nothing bossy or demanding just “checking in”. Several weeks pass and Erin still has not heard back from Alicia. She was now getting worried. She calls Alicia again, this time she answers. She explains things have been extremely busy and she has not had a chance to finish Erin’s pictures, but she promises to have them ready in a few more weeks. A few more weeks comes and goes, no pictures. Erin gives her friend the benefit of the doubt and waits a couple extra weeks before calling her again. When Erin place’s the next phone call it has been 10 weeks since the wedding. Alicia explains the images are done, but she’d really like to get her the wedding album she wants out of the way too. Does Erin mind paying her the extra $600 so she can finish it and send everything at once in a few weeks. It will save on shipping. Erin says okay, but can she see a few pictures. Alicia mails her a couple pictures of her and her husband and takes the additional $600 for the album out of her bank account. The pictures she e-mails are fine, but she really wants to see some more, these are just a couple pictures of her and her new husband.
Fast forward a month. Erin has called multiple times and left multiple messages. No Alicia. Finally Alicia’s husband the lawyer calls and speaks with Erin in a very rude tone. He threatens Erin with a harassment suit if she doesn’t stop bugging Alicia. Erin states, “I just want my wedding pictures from 4 months ago.” Alicia’s husband says, “she needs to deal with paying customers first.” And then he hangs up.
Erin lets a few months go by. She talks to her husband and they agree, it is time to threaten legal action. Alicia has had money for the album and her wedding pictures that she still has not seen. And it is now more than 6 months. Erin has now been informed by another friend that Alicia is being sued by another couple. Erin’s friend says, google her studio name and read the reviews. Erin is shocked! Alicia does not have complaints from one couple but MANY couples about their wedding photography. One of the reviews state it “had been more than a year and the photographer had over $3000 of there money and NO PICTURES!” Another complaint stated, “she ripped them off. No pictures and it had been 6 months.” Complaint after complaint. There were a couple “good reviews” but as one person stated on their google review, “the only good reviews have been written by staff or the photographer themselves.” (I’ll do another blog on how to tell a fake review from a real one.) Erin had no idea.
A few more months go by and Erin finally gets a hold of Alicia. She told her she need the pictures by December 20th (9 months later) or they were hiring a lawyer. Their friendship was over. And by the looks of the google reviews so was Alicia’s business. Alicia promised everything was being overnighted by the lab, the album would be ready a few days later. On December 21st, the package came, the wedding pictures were here! The package came directly from Alicia studio, not the lab. The proof prints contained in the box, were on glossy paper and had Walgreens stamped on the back. These weren’t even professionally printed. But the story gets worse, the pictures were awful. The picture she had received from friends and guest were better than these. And the couple pictures of the couple that she was e-mail by Alicia a while back, were the only pictures of her and her husband on the disk. Erin cried.
Moral to the story…Don’t let friends to do work for you if you want to keep them as friends. Erin trusted Alicia could do the job, but never did any research. Sure she saved herself a few thousand dollars by not hiring a professional. But was it really worth it? She spent months trying to get the pictures, her friendship is ruined and the pictures are snapshots at best. Her wedding memories are lost.