Wedding photographer lost some of my photos. Should I ask for a refund?
November 12, 2019 9:11 AM   Subscribe

I got all of my wedding photos over the weekend. I had paid my wedding photographer for 10 hours of her time and a minimum of 100 photos per hour. When I got the album, I didn't suspect anything was amiss, as there were more than 1,000 photos in the album. However, when I got to the end of the album, the photos abruptly stopped at the end of dinner, and there were no photos from the dancing portion of the reception. When I wrote to my photographer asking if there was a mistake, she told me that she had lost all of the photos from the last two hours of our wedding. Her SD card was corrupt and she could not access any of the photos. Should I push for a refund on the missing hours? And if so, how should I tactfully word it?

I got all of my wedding photos over the weekend. I had paid my wedding photographer for 10 hours of her time and a minimum of 100 photos per hour. When I got the album, I didn't suspect anything was amiss, as there were more than 1,000 photos in the album. However, when I got to the end of the album, the photos abruptly stopped at the end of dinner, and there were no photos from dancing at the reception. No photos of my second dress. No photos of my husband's step-dad and dad having a rock and roll dance off (we affectionally called it 'the dad-off'). No photos our saxophone player dancing in the crowd. No photos of my husband slow dancing with his 85 year old Gramma. Essentially, my wedding photographer lost all of the photos from the last two hours of our wedding. I had paid her to stay through midnight, but the photos ended just before 10.30pm. At first I thought there was a mistake and some had not uploaded, but when I wrote to her asking, I got the truth: even though she was physically there taking photos for the dance party, her SD card was corrupt and she could not access any of the photos from the last 1.5 hours of the wedding. She said she felt horrible, and that she had overdelivered on the rest of the wedding to make up for it. She also said, "I am prepared to pay you back the proportion of the hour missing if you could accept it." Now I am left wondering what I should do. I am bummed I will never get these memories back. And I am upset that she wasn't up front with me. But she did deliver the number of photos she had promised - just not over the hours I had contracted her to cover. Should I push for a refund for those hours? And if so, how should I word it? Honestly, money wont really make up for the missing hours of coverage, but I now have a bitter taste in my mouth that she was not honest with me up front. That said, the photos I do have are AMAZING and I am SO grateful to have these. Also it was the best day of my life, regardless of the photos - so I am tempted just to drop it all and move on, and not taint things further. Thoughts?!
posted by alipie to Work & Money (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
There are software and services that can attempt to recover photos from corrupted cards, was this an option that was discussed? Has she tried that?
posted by girlmightlive at 9:16 AM on November 12, 2019 [7 favorites]


I'm really sorry that this happened, it must be very disappointing. But congratulations on your new marriage! I'm sure you and your husband will have many more opportunities to create photo-worthy memories.

I don't think it's pushing her if she offered you the partial refund. You would just simply respond "that's thoughtful of you. Yes, I would like a refund for the time that the photos were lost". And that's that. then you go wherever you can to leave a great review for her service, don't mention the technical glitch because it was out of her control, and let everyone how wonderful it was to have her at your wedding.
posted by FirstMateKate at 9:18 AM on November 12, 2019 [17 favorites]


You know, if this were me it would depend on how much I needed the money. If I didn't need it, I'd let the money go. This wasn't her fault and she did work those hours taking the photos. And also I feel like on a joyous occasion it augers better to be open-handed if you can.
posted by Frowner at 9:20 AM on November 12, 2019 [32 favorites]


Seconding what FirstMateKate said, plus I'd recommend reaching out to your guests, and ask them to send/post any pics (perhaps you could set up a shared google photos album for this purpose) they might have of that part of the evening. Not the same as professional photos, I know, but you might be pleasantly surprised what you end up with.
posted by somanyamys at 9:23 AM on November 12, 2019 [23 favorites]


The photographer lost a bunch of your wedding photos and that's not acceptable. I'd ask the photographer to try to get photos recovered from the drive.

My caveat is: what did you pay the photographer? At least 150/hour plus expenses, more in larger urban markets.
posted by theora55 at 9:27 AM on November 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


Her SD card was corrupt

out of her control

I'm of the opinion that a wedding photographer that isn't using dual card slots is decidedly unprofessional. If both of them failed, sure. But if there was just one card, this is definitely on the photographer.
posted by zamboni at 9:27 AM on November 12, 2019 [39 favorites]


If she worked the hours, and provided extra photos (which would have been edited), I'd thank her for the offer of discount, but decline. She did the work, and you are pleased with 90% of the work.
posted by Ftsqg at 9:28 AM on November 12, 2019


If your guests to photos that cover the missing time period, you could ask the photographer to integrate the best of these into the album (or a separate album) in lieu of a partial refund. It will be extra work, but she made a big mistake and this would help make it up.
posted by Winnie the Proust at 9:33 AM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


I would personally be incredibly disappointed that I had to ask about the missing photos before she said anything. I'd ask her to pay for a solid attempt at recovering images by a professional service, and if that doesn't work, take the discount.
posted by Rock Steady at 9:42 AM on November 12, 2019 [37 favorites]


Agreed, she should have been up front from the start that she lost the photos, and proactive in trying to make it right. It's unprofessional for her to just not mention it.
posted by fiercecupcake at 9:50 AM on November 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


I'm of the opinion that a wedding photographer that isn't using dual card slots is decidedly unprofessional. If both of them failed, sure. But if there was just one card, this is definitely on the photographer.

This. I mean it sucks for her that her equipment failed but being a wedding photographer means doing everything you can to minimize the risk that a hardware failure can screw up your delivery. They should have at least two cameras and each camera should have duel cards set up to save to both.
posted by octothorpe at 9:54 AM on November 12, 2019 [15 favorites]


Maybe also ask the photographer for the corrupted card, and try to do recovery on it (if you or someone you know has the expertise).
posted by wenestvedt at 9:57 AM on November 12, 2019


I think you're pretty much ethically fine to go either way here.

If she'd been up front about what happened I'd say "just pay her for the work she did, it sucks but things happen." Given that she just sort of - hoped you wouldn't notice? - I might be slightly less inclined to give benefit of the doubt as to why she didn't have a setup that was robust to failure, and maybe I'd ask for a partial refund - half the cost of the missing hours, or something. She offered; you're not being pushy to take her up on it if it would make you feel better about what you lost.

But it would depend on how badly I needed the money; would that amount of cash be worth the time it would take you to ask for it and potentially wind up negotiating for it? Maybe, maybe not.

I'd ask for the SD card for sure, though, and look into hiring a recovery service.
posted by Stacey at 10:09 AM on November 12, 2019 [5 favorites]


We don't have any photos of the actual wedding service or kiss or anything because while shooting our extremely professional photographer who did great work actually had the back of his camera come open and the film just unroll and fall out. (Ah, those were the days!) So we missed a chunk of photography and did not get any kind of discount or anything. However, all his other photos were amazing and some of the best photos of my friends and family that were ever taken.

Now, some of the best were absolutely from the dancing and more candid part of our day - the hours after the ceremony! So, I agree with those above–see if you can get the SD card and a recovery. Be sympathetic to your photographer. She has likely completely freaked about this. She didn't handle it right in a customer service way, that's true. So, be calm, be a human, see if you can talk to her about recovery options. If it were me, I'd ask about the condition of the SD cards now and be very gentle about it and see if she can work with you to get it to a specialist. If it were me, I'd plan to cover those costs. If they are able to recover, then reduce your bill by the amount of the recovery. If they aren't, take the hour discount and move on.
posted by amanda at 10:15 AM on November 12, 2019 [1 favorite]


Take the refund for the missed hours. Get the card if you can so you can try a recovery service.

A possibility to ask her about - one time I had a bad card and it wouldn't read in my computer card slot, but the pics were viewable on the camera. I was able to get them by cabling the camera into the usb port of the computer and copying them across. The card would absolutely not read in the computer though, I couldn't even reformat it. You might just make sure she's tried that, cabling the camera directly. I know pro photographers can have strong feelings against checking their shots as they shoot, but if she checked at all and was able to see any of them during the missing time while she was shooting, it might be possible the camera can read the card even if a computer can't.

I agree with the others who have said a pro photographer should be shooting a dual-card setup with one as backup for the other. Especially in situations like weddings, which are very special "once-in-a-lifetime(ish)" events. I'm an amateur hobbyist photographer and I would never shoot anything for someone else without having my camera set up with one card as backup.
posted by under_petticoat_rule at 11:02 AM on November 12, 2019 [4 favorites]


I think you are fine to go either way but:

Personally, I would take the refund she offered because the photographer wasn't honest with you until pressed about the missing photos. Whether she could or should have done more to try to recover the photos, the fact that she "overdelivered" by giving you more pictures of what she had available, and the fact that the pictures are amazing is does not excuse the fact that she delivered those pictures to you without any type of advance notice. I don't think you have to drag her over the coals but I'd feel uncomfortable just letting it go.
posted by sm1tten at 11:19 AM on November 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


Get the refund and make sure you get the corrupted SD card also. You may be able to recover the photos. I wouldn't trust this photographer's ability to recover photos if they're also not already using industry standard dual card back-up systems .
posted by quince at 12:05 PM on November 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


You don't mention one, so maybe this isn't relevant, but did you sign a contract with her, and does the contract say anything about how loss of images due to tech failures should be handled? I ask because my husband does event photography, along with the occasional wedding, and his contracts always have a clause addressing this exact scenario.
posted by merriment at 1:09 PM on November 12, 2019 [3 favorites]


I would want a refund of twice the pro-rata hours missed. Think about it the other way, if she offered before the wedding to leave during dinner for a 15% discount, would you have taken it? Heck, no. So I would be asking for double that, due to the fact that she both should have had backups and should have told you about it.
posted by wnissen at 1:35 PM on November 12, 2019 [2 favorites]


If you are shooting pro and it's a no-redo possible event, man, you better be using redundant storage (dual slot SD/CF or SD/SD) or off-loading frequently.
posted by bz at 9:30 PM on November 12, 2019


Seconding merriment on this one. What’s the language in the contract?

Bottom line, she screwed up, and then tried to cover up. She only offered the partial refund after you called it out. If you wouldn’t enthusiastically recommend her to a friend, without mentioning the shortcomings, please hold her accountable.

If you find yourself feeling guilty/frivolous about doing so, you might find meaningful perspective in this real-life legal sideshow between the memorably-named parties Poon, Dude, and Tang. You’ve got nothing on these clowns.
posted by armeowda at 10:04 PM on November 12, 2019


I'd accept the offered refund of the lost hours, get hold of the card and put the refunded money toward a recovery service if possible.

I am bummed I will never get these memories back.

You might not get those pictures, but the memories are still real. Lack of photographic evidence doesn't diminish what happened. You had a beautiful wedding full of love and joy and now you are married! Find some other ways of documenting those memories if it will help you feel better - maybe gather up photos that friends and families took, or write down some of those favorite moments and your feelings about them, and put it all together in a way that you can keep and look at in the future. (source: my wedding photographers were a husband-and-wife team who unbeknownst to us were going through a bitter divorce. We got a few proofs and then they ghosted on us. That was 13 years ago and it sucked but at this point it truly doesn't matter.)
posted by beandip at 6:50 AM on November 13, 2019


Asking for the card (if it hasn’t been reformatted and otherwise reused) seems like a good idea. Then you can expend as much effort or cash as you like to recover other pictures from the missing time.

I will point out that whether she worked the hours or not is irrelevant—you hired her to photograph the event and deliver the photos and that didn’t happen. Plus the sketchy non-mention of the problem. My cynical-old-man brain thinks that she was hoping you wouldn’t look at things for a year and then she could claim the problem was on your end.

However, in forty years if you’re happily married, I don’t think you will care either way! Congratulations.
posted by Gilgamesh's Chauffeur at 6:44 AM on November 14, 2019


Hey all, thank you SO much for the help on this one. I wrote to her and asked that she either put the refund to a card recovery service, or refund me and send me the card so I could try. Either way, fingers crossed! I also asked why she didn't tell me up front, and she said it's been eating her up but she didn't want it to ruin our initial viewing the rest of the photos (which I have to admit, were pretty magical). So hoping to get good news on this one, but in the end asked that she put the refund towards trying to get the photos back!
posted by alipie at 1:52 AM on November 18, 2019


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