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News & Insight

Photographer Sues Unhappy Bride For $1 Million After Complaints Go Viral

By Brandon Perron on April 14th 2015

Most of you are familiar with the story of the photographer who was thrust into the media spotlight for trying to collect an amount of additional money from her clients by charging separately for the cover of a wedding album which was not included with the rest of the album in the package. In order for them to get the album, they needed to pay an additional fee of $125-150 for the cover.

[Read more about it: WEDDING BUSINESS WRONGFULLY ATTACKED ON PUBLIC TV?]

The photographer, Andrea Polito’s, defense was that it was in her contract, so technically, she was not being deceptive. While I am not a lawyer, I believe you should not just put whatever ludicrous off the wall clause you want in a contract. It needs to be reasonable, like not having to pay for an album cover, when the pages are included in the package price. The bride in this case clearly and quite strongly felt the same way, and she made it known to the world. She went to some extreme lengths to make her point; creating fake profiles, making some rounds in the press circuit, and the story went viral. It got to the point that it seemed she was vindictive with her sole mission to take Andrea down.

slr-lounge-news-wedding-photo-album-cover-5

The Photographer’s Stance

The bride “crying foul” caught fire like a dry brush prairie after a mid-summer lightning strike. How, does the adage go, “No such thing as bad press?” Well, for Hollywood celebrities that might ring true, but for small businesses, we don’t get the same fair shake of that saying. The photographer is now suing for up to $1 million in a defamation suit against the couple (the suit lists $200k – $1 million).

Many photographers are 100% on the side of Andrea Polito. I am, however, not in that same camp. I can understand why photographers automatically will side with Andrea. There is a certain comradery amongst us; we all know what it is like to have an unreasonable client make outrageously asinine demands and threaten similar actions if we don’t comply. So, we have the potential to live vicariously through this photographer and her trying to “stick it” to one of these such clients. I understand that I am very much in the minority on this one, as even many of the SLRL staff also sides with the photographer.

[To get some details on the lawsuit itself]

finao-spines

My Thoughts On The Situation

1. Again, I am not a lawyer. However, I can tell you that defamation suits are one of the hardest to win. Simply because it is all speculation and speculation is just a fancy word for a step above an educated guess. It tends to go against the grain of the justice system, where facts and not guesses are what is required.

2. The photographer did, in fact, have the contract set up to show you got an album, but did not get the cover with it. Regardless of what the contract says, that is very sneaky. It would be like buying tires but then having to pay the mechanic a fee for driving on them. While the bride did go to the absolute extreme of it, I can understand her frustration, and if we take the photography profession out of the equation, I think many of you would agree.

3. A million bucks, really…I mean, really? During a discussion about this story, few of the SLRL staff made the argument that many full-time photographers clear $250,000 a year. Yes, some do, but I think that number is fairly slim. Let’s look at this logically. Let’s say Andrea books 40 weddings a year at $4k final sale total (the job, prints, cd, whatever). That is $160k, and I’ll give her another $3,333.00 a month in additional paying jobs. Now she’s clearing $200k a year, and I am being very, very generous. Andrea is asking for 5 years of lost work? C’mon, I think that is asking for the moon, over some bad press. The bride went to the media, and it went sideways quickly, as things tend to do.

4. Frankly, the bride is allowed to be mad. She is allowed to scream from the rooftops of how unhappy she is with the situation. We all have that right, she just happened to do a very good job of getting it noticed. To try and say that she ruined an entire business, and that is potentially worth a cool million, is jumping the shark a bit.

5. Some might say in a referral-based industry this sort of “take-down” approach can, in fact, ruin a business. I won’t deny that, but in a referral-based business model, people listen to whom they were referred by and will take that recommendation as gospel. I am willing to wager, that if someone you trusted gave a recommendation of a business, you would trust their opinion, over some bad press by a single (albeit very vocal), patron. Andrea’s business should be no different. If she did, in fact, have a strong referral base, this would only be a strong wind upon a giant’s shoulders and hardly be noticed.

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Something I Think The Photographer Is Overlooking

Here is the biggest and most important caveat of this entire debacle: How is this going to look for this photographer’s business? I can see the headline now: “Photographer sues wedding couple for $1 million dollars because they didn’t pay for an album cover, which didn’t come with the album.” That will go over really well. I can’t imagine it going any other way (I hope my seething sarcasm is well translated).

While the photographer may feel she is owed some sort of compensation for potentially some lost business and while everyone who is reading this might agree, we HAVE to look at the big picture. How will this be viewed by “outsiders” who are potential clients? Potential clients who don’t understand what some people try to get away with and how much it can hurt our livelihood? My guess is this will not only drive the final nail in the coffin, but bury that wooden box 6 feet under, backfill the dirt and lay the seeds for the grass. Just like we side with the photographer, brides will side with the bride. I can only believe that any of Andrea’s potential brides will surmise to themselves, “What if I have a problem, I won’t be able to complain, for fear of being sued for a million dollars?” My guess is they will take a very hard pass on even flirting with that conundrum.

Conclusion

In business, we rarely get to do anything to defend our side, we merely have to take the brunt of it, minimize it and move on. While, we would love to get some victory over the clients who do us wrong with malice intent, we have to think about the image we are portraying to future clients and ithe world. Going after one unhappy customer, regardless of what that looks like, will easily be viewed as vengeful and will give the impression that if a potential client was to be unhappy, they might suffer the same fate.

Brandon Perron is a wedding photographer, making a transition into a freelance automotive digital contributor/photographer, as well as setting up his own private gallery. In his words, he is an uber sarcastic gasoline loving gear head, lost amongst the hipster hyper Eco-friendly crowd of PDX and has a mouth that makes sailors blush. He likes to think of himself as a daily life commentator, where nothing is off limits to poke fun at.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Joseph Prusa

    Another reason why wildlife photography is less stressful .

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  2. Chris Myers

    High quality (not kinda nice, but WOW nice) handmade albums cost HUNDREDS of dollars; and professional photographers do not get upgrades for free. If you choose an option that costs us more why shouldn’t we charge more? Having said that, I do price the highest priced option someone could choose and base my price on that (I don’t like nickle and diming people… so I quarter and dollar them!).

    Regarding your comment on “clearing” $250k, that’s just simply not true. We have business insurance to pay for (I carry a $2,000,000 policy which is about the lowest you should have), we have gas, upkeep on vehicle (we do location work, and any wedding photog is going to be traveling a lot!), we have to buy 10’s of thousands of dollars in equipment (I go to shoots with around $40,000 in gear) and gear wears out and breaks with use and has to be replace every 1 to 3 years, we have studio lease, etc. Then there is self employment tax, insurance and all that stuff that most of you get taken care of by your job! Not to mention advertising, blogging, answer customer calls/emails etc. which is all unpaid. Bottom line, if you gross $250k a year you are lucky to pay yourself $70k, let’s not get crazy here, professionals charge what we charge because it’s not easy. If it was everyone would be doing it and making big bucks. Most photographers are struggling and have at least 1 side job to make ends meet.

    I’m clearly on the side of the photographer here, because I completely understand where she’s coming from. She could (and should) make adjustments to prevent this in the future, but this customer went above and beyond to try and destroy her company, and I’m not sure how that’s cool in anyone’s book! It’s not like she showed up in jeans and a ripped shirt and got drunk and used a cell phone to do the job. You not understanding the contract does not invalidate it, and the time to protest is before you sign it!

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  3. Denise Cornelius

    I think what seems to missing here from this article is that the photographer does not put the wedding book together. She simply takes the pictures, the books are put together by another company. Covers are a la cart because the company putting the wedding book together has different covers that vary at the time of ordering the completed wedding book. This is not sneaky, it’s completely standard in the wedding industry. In addition, when the customer complained she was offered a cover free of charge immediately via email. This is not supposition, the emails are on record as part of the pending case.

    Being a journalist whether through a publication or social media is a privilege and a power of sorts. You have an audience and right or wrong the ability to influence people’s decision making. Therefore, the ethical thing to do is actually do adequate research before publicizing anything that might not be true. Her lawsuit is completely valid.

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  4. Andy Martin

    “reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it”… Ryan Holiday

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  5. Andy Martin

    The photographer is a victim. Plain and simple…

    Ryan Holiday explains this very clearly in his book, “Trust Me. I’m Lying”
    “You’ve seen it all before. A malicious online rumor costs a company millions. A political sideshow derails the national news cycle and destroys a candidate. Some product or celebrity zooms from total obscurity to viral sensation. What you don’t know is that someone is responsible for all this. Usually, someone like me. I’m a media manipulator. In a world where blogs control and distort the news, my job is to control blogs—as much as any one person can. In today’s culture…
    1) Blogs like Gawker, Buzzfeed, and the Huffington Post drive the media agenda.
    2) Bloggers are slaves to money, technology, and deadlines.
    3) Manipulators wield these levers to shape everything you read, see and watch—online and off.
    “Why am I giving away these secrets? Because I’m tired of a world where blogs take indirect bribes, marketers help write the news, reckless journalists spread lies, and no one is accountable for any of it. I’m pulling back the curtain because I don’t want anyone else to get blindsided. I’m going to explain exactly how the media really works. What you choose to do with this information is up to you.”

    http://www.audible.com/pd/Business/Trust-Me-Im-Lying-Audiobook/B008MMRKNI?source_code=GPAGBSH0508140001&mkwid=suUTc9NvR_dc&pkw=PLA&pmt=broad&pcrid=50791044420

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  6. Thomas Horton

    I have read several (too many) blogs and forum threads on this case. This one was one of the best written ones I have read. You made your position clear without the usual emotional hub-bub so often seen on the Internets Tubes.

    You represented both sides well.

    I don’t think you are alone in your opinion on this. While there is plenty o’ blame to go around, I do feel that the photographer brought much of this on herself

    A customer does not have to act professionally, the professional does. It will be interesting to see how this trial comes out, assuming the judge does not simply throw it out.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Thank you Thomas. It is nice to know the article was read as it was written, especially from someone who has read many things on this.

      It is a very emotional topic and very easy for people to pick a side. I think most read this, see that i am not automatically siding with the photographer…see red and then that is it. However, with an opinion piece that is very much the anticipated reaction. :-)

      I appreciate you taking the time to read it and comment.

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    • Thomas Horton

      Brandon,

      You are welcome. Now where is my check? Send it immediately or I will sue you for a hundred gagillion dollars! :)

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  7. Bill Veik

    At some point it appeared that the photographer learned her 150 dollar lesson about contract language, and attempted to make things right. If the clients cannot dispute that, and then went beyond reasonable lengths to extract far more than 150 dollars worth of flesh, and their alleged actions are proven true, then that SHOULD be the ball game. They lose. Unfortunately, we are talking about court.

    Is it just me, or should that “Court” word just always have the word “Kangaroo” in front of it?

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    • Thomas Horton

      No it may be just you. Our civil court system, full of warts that it is, works pretty well most of the time. The truly outrageous cases get the visibility but what is unseen are the thousands of thousands of civil cases that are handled appropriately every month across the country. No news service is going to waste time reporting on those cases.

      To brand all courts as a kangaroo court is illogical, inaccurate, and frankly unfair.

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  8. Michelle York

    I can’t decide who I think is right.. I think a client should have to stick by what they’ve signed but not if it’s a bit manipulative like this is. That being said, the client has done the wrong thing but it seems like both sides are doing their best to hurt the other.

    While on the subject of contracts.. my business has an online form to confirm dates and the package they have chosen, and at the bottom is our terms and conditions where they have to click the button for ‘I agree’ and type their name to, well, agree with our terms. (Nothing manipulative in ours!)

    What I have been concerned about is, in a worst case scenario.. would this hold up in court? All we get is an email with the answers from the submission form, with ”I Agree’ – Selected’ and their typed name at the bottom.. (No contract, ONLY the answers) It’s not attached to the contract, so would the client be able to argue that the contract we produce in court was not the one they signed?

    I would be more inclined to get them to sign hard copies, but we often live a while away from the clients and get them to sign and agree to all conditions before the shoot. Other than posting in the mail, are there any better options out there? I heard of an app called ‘Release Me’ (by photographer Joey L) that is all digital and they just sign their name on your iPhone. It looks great but it isn’t in the app store because they’re updating. But that would still only be signed on the day of..

    Thanks for any help guys :)

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    • Thomas Horton

      There are electronic document signing services out there. We are in the process of selling/buying a home and almost all the signing of the paperwork has been over the internet.

      Might be something to consider if your customers are remote.

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  9. Peter McWade

    Being in business and being a consumer I find myself siding with the consumer on this one. As a business it is important to be clear and concise about any dealings with customers. If there had been any issue with the client I would just rectify it by giving them the damn cover and be done with then. After that I would do no more business with the client. But by making it right it would have eliminated any further issues and all would go home none the worse. I see this from both sides and from my own business practices. It is just not worth the bull deal with a balky client. I can see the clients point in this case. If the cover needs to be a separate thing then it must be very clear. I can’t imagine buying a book without a cover. Really! Albums and Books naturally HAVE covers.

    Pete :)

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    • Anders Madsen

      “But by making it right it would have eliminated any further issues” – unfortunately that is apparantly what the photographer tried to do BEFORE this went viral and the couple went on TV, so while you in theory are correct, the real world scenario did not play out this way. It’s pretty clear that the client wanted the publicity more than the cover…

      As for the cover being includes, it is my understanding that these albums are specifically hand made to order and that the price of the cover depends on the chosen kind.

      Yes, it seems a bit silly, but I remember seeing an invoice for a Dodge Charger many years ago where there was a price for the basic car, a price for the chosen engine, a price for the transmission, a price for the leather seats and so on, so this kind of pricing is not (or was not) unheard of in the US. A car with no engine, transmission and seat is not very useable, after all. :)

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    • Brandon Perron

      And there is a reason you don’t see that pricing any more Anders. My guess it was WAY to confusing and some people complained very heavily. Most of all, i am sure people just didn’t get it, even though it was in the contract. Its why you have a base model and can options in top. Although I believe there are some very high end supercars that have this sort of pricing.

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  10. Shawn Campbell

    They’re not both going to lose in the end. The photographer is the only one who is ruined. And he’s ruined whether or not he wins this suit. He’ll never get another gig again. If he only gets a million the bride got off cheap. I’d have sued for 10 times that.

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  11. Jason Trayer

    I don’t think this is slick. I think this could be due to other events that made her pricing get presented this way. Pricing is the most challenging part of any business. There are many theories for pricing. I worked retail for a long time and the psychology of the sale is very interesting and each company approaches the pricing solution in many ways. Some are better than others. My brides rarely read my contract. They just want to sign and get to the next item on the huge checklist for their special day. At the end of the day, it is up to you to read everything and ask questions and if you don’t, that’s on you.

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  12. Bill Veik

    “An example would be putting “a non-refundable deposit” in your contract and someone signs it, they agreed to it. ”

    That’s easy. If the work is not done, and a contract not completed, it should always be refundable. The wedding book is different because this does not deal with an entire contractual arrangement. In essence it is an a la carte item. But the photographer is contract dumb to a value far greater than 150 bucks. The client far more egregious than 150 bucks worth of angry. In my mind, dumb act with no legal intention gets trumped by the client’s willful intent. If not, change the law. You get people taking these actions based on the idea they can get away with it, and it’s profitable.

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  13. Anders Madsen

    – and, just in case anyone would like to get the straight-from-the-legal-horses-mouth document, here it is:

    https://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/261722957?access_key=key-QrKf9QEx3kc3DfbFfqza&allow_share=true&escape=false&show_recommendations=false&view_mode=scroll

    And yes, I’m aware that this is the lawsuit only, so nothing has been proven yet.

    However, I do think that the sheer amount of documentation provided within the lawsuit itself, supporting the blog post by Andrea Polito, pretty much makes it clear that Neely Moldovan saw a business opportunity for herself as a blogger living off clicks and decided that a photographers livelihood was an acceptable collateral damage…

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    • Matthew Saville

      I saw that too, Anders Madsen, and I thought from the very beginning that it was quite clear the bride “had it out” for the photographer, with a personal agenda in mind as a blogger who could benefit from “going viral”.

      There is nothing else to it; no sane, fair person would go on local TV over $125 or whatever it was. Especially not when you read the documentation about how the photographer was already doing everything they could to explain themselves to the bride and work it out. The issue would have resolved itself in a matter of hours / days, with just 1-2 phone calls or emails, but the bride intentionally jumped the gun and went to the media.

      It is not unreasonable to expect between $200K and $1M in damages for this photographer. A highly successful photographer could expect to book $0.25M in jobs per year, shooting 25 weddings at $10K per wedding, or 50 weddings at $5K, etc.

      Whether this photographer decides to argue that $200K worth of clients decide not to book her because of this smear campaign, or that $1M in business is being lost because the legal nightmare has caused 3-5 year business shutdown / re-building, …I think they have a case for quite a significant chunk of that claim.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I think the whole of (American?) society needs to learn one lesson from this: smear campaigns aren’t worth it. You might feel deeply wronged and want to go on a rampage in the heat of the moment, but it’s probably not a good idea. Sleep on it, a few times, and get more opinions than just that of your whipped hubby.

      Photography related or not, I’m getting sick of seeing people go after each other in such dramatic, viral ways. This is just going to cause society in general to continue crashing and burning.

      In other words, be nice. It might even be good for your health, who knows…

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    • Hanssie

      “In other words, be nice. It might even be good for your health, who knows…”

      People would do well to keep your words in mind, Matt. Esp in the context of this post. You are welcome to agree or disagree with Brandon’s opinion, but please do so in a respectful manner.

      Remember, there are three sides to every story and though we can try this in the court of opinion, only the people involved know the truth and their own motives.

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    • Ben Perrin

      Great post Matthew and Anders.

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  14. Anders Madsen

    I have to admit, this is the first time, I have actually felt really, truly angry with a post on SLR Lounge. I don’t know if this post was meant to stir this kind of emotion or is simply the result of a extraordinary lousy piece of research, but you are so far off in your assessment of what seems to have transpired that I simply cannot just sit idle and watch your position go uncontested.

    If you had taken a few minutes to read Andrea Polito’s blog (http://www.blogpolito.com), you would know that the she reached out to the client and offered to assume the cost of the cover and have things sorted out BEFORE this went viral, but nevertheless, the customer (who is an experienced blogger and definitely has the potential to create a shitstorm if she likes) chose to go as public as possible (NBC – how is that for public!) and creating multiple fake social media accounts for badmouthing the photographer with one single purpose: To drive the photographer out of business for good, simply because she had the means, the contacts and the knowledge to do so.

    If I were Andrea Polito I would sue that bloody bitch down to her very last pair of socks for trying to ruin my life and livelihood, just because she could. How you are capable of making this sound like the photographer is at fault and should take this kind of abuse, just because you don’t like her contracts, is simply beyond me.

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    • Jim Johnson

      I so agree with you. The article made me slightly angry, but Brandon’s posts in the comments section have just sent me over the edge. It’s an opinion piece, but some people’s opinions just aren’t worth listening to.

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    • Thomas Horton

      Please realize that what Andrea posts on her blog is her side of the story and is written to put her side in the best light. There should be no expectation that anyone’s blog is the complete and full accurate story.

      I don’t think anyone other than the parties involved have the full story. If this goes to trial, only then will all the appropriate evidence be presented and evaluated. Only then will observers such as us be privy to all the appropriate facts.

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    • Anders Madsen

      Thomas, I agree – Andreas blog is definitely not neutral in this case.

      However, the one important part for me is the information about the offer to set things right by giving the couple the cover at no charge (a statement repeated in the lawsuit), yet they still go on public TV two days later, stating that the photographer is holding their images hostage and wanting more money.

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    • Matthew Saville

      While blog posts and whatnot are indeed just opinions, the crucial part here is, in my opinion, the legal deposition in which the bride admits to having lied about certain things. That, IMO, is what people should be reading if they want to play judge / jury on this.

      Honestly I think open discussion is harmless and entertaining, at worst, so I don’t see why people are getting all angry and riotous about one person’s opinion. Share your facts / opinions, and enjoy the discussion!

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  15. Justin Moon

    Over here in Australia this would never have happened, or if it did it would have been the photographer being sued by the client or the government. We have what are known as “Component Pricing Laws” which essentially means any advertised price must be the complete cost of the product or service. If you have to buy a cover of some sort in order for the album to be completed and delivered, then a package with an album would be required by law to include this cost. Simple.

    It’s amazing how one simple law can cut out a whole lot of crap.

    Read more here: https://www.accc.gov.au/publications/advertising-selling/advertising-and-selling-guide/pricing/component-pricing

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  16. Rob Harris

    Hidden fees are not a good business practice. It can upset customers. But when a customer decides to become vindictive, attempts to ruin a person’s livelihood, and lies in order to do it, then the courts may be the only recourse. But like any tar and feather party, everyone get’s it on them.

    The lesson for the rest of us is to review our business practices and ensure we are upfront and honest with folks. Even so, what this customer did was WAY overboard and inappropriate.

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  17. Jim Johnson

    I side with the photographer, not because I hate stupid clients or any other such nonsense, but because the bride set out to destroy the photographer (she actually bragged about it!).

    That has nothing to do with contracts, $150, or wedding photos. She set out to destroy the photographer! Those are her words, and she did a pretty good job. She needs to pay the photographer back for that.

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    • Brandon Perron

      I would argue that a core of any complaint, we look to sully a person’s business or reputation. Sure there are the extreme ends of the spectrum, however at its core it is trying to hurt the business. Why else would you post a negative comment on Yelp or tell your friends how bad a place is? That doesn’t seem like you are helping out, it seems you would be doing just the opposite and to me the opposite of help is hurt, so you are hurting the business with speaking of it negatively.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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    • Jim Johnson

      I partially agree with you, Brandon, but I would say it is more about adjusting the power balance between businesses and customers. Let’s face it, in this instance, if everything reported is true, the business had the power because it had the client’s money and were holding onto the product they were selling. So reporting it to the public balances the power.

      But balancing the power would be getting the information out and getting your money back or the product…. not putting a photographer out of business. However, putting the photographer out of business is what the client set out to do in her own words.

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  18. Shauna Benoit-Wyatt

    The deposition is public domain so you can go read it, but in it Neely (the bride) admits to lying.

    You are still using the slanted facts presented by the false new story to make your argument here.

    And you are dead wrong when you say that photographers rallied around her because they just wanted to protect their own. That isn’t even based in any fact but rather your assumption. Most of the photographers hadn’t even met Andrea when they defended her. They say her being railroaded by a bride who was clearly lying (again read the deposition where the bride admits this) and photographers wanted to stand up for what was right.

    I’m a little confused as why false facts are still being reported here. It’s a shame!!!!!

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    • Brandon Perron

      Alina…my blog post is not about the courts or what defamation is. Out of 1200+ words, maybe 100 of them were in regards to defamation specifically and how provable it might or might not be. I’d say you are hard pressed to say that blog post was about defamation.

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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  19. Tim Caisley

    Whilst some business is generated through referrals, there will be a percentage that come through online searches, given the international media frenzy that this debacle whipped up, anyone doing a search for wedding photographers in that particular area is going to be bombarded with articles, videos etc about this incident. So the photographer’s reputation has been nigh on obliterated. A change to the Business Name wont really make much of a difference either, since the overwhelming majority of media outlets will of listed the photographer by name. So from a SEO perspective, they may be goosed.

    As was said in another comment, the amount sued for wont be purely for lost income, it’ll incorporate damages etc

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    • Brandon Perron

      My business is 95% referrals, many of the photographers I know are the same way. One could chalk that up to you are the company you keep…but I believe that to be majority of photographers source of business. I just don’t see the amount she is asking for.

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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    • Tim Caisley

      Cost of doing Business + investment into business + Income to sustain current lifestyle. Add into that inflation, price increases over a number of years, Legal fees, damages, loss of earnings etc. It adds up & does so very quickly.

      It could very well take years for the photographer’s business to recover, if it ever does.

      Just because you get the majority of your business through referrals does not mean its the same for everyone. You don’t know her business model, she may get the majority of her business through Wedding Fairs, Online Ads, etc.

      Also, there is a vast vast vast difference between a complaint & a smear campaign & this smear campaign has worked, its got everyone talking about it, passing commentary on it.

      I very much doubt that such a lawsuit would of been submitted if her attorney didn’t think that she had a strong case & that the monies sought were of a reasonable level.

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  20. Ben Perrin

    I have no problem with the photographer charging the album cover separately. Faux leather is cheaper than actual leather and custom image covers for example. However this should be part of the process and be verbally stated by the photographer as well as clearly and obviously written. This would’ve avoided all this fuss in the first place.

    The bride trying to take down the photographers business because of this is petty and wrong. However I also agree with Brandon that this is an absurd amount to be asking for and will most likely harm the business rather than help. I also agree with Ed that she can re-brand if things go horribly wrong. If I was a potential customer for this photographer I would certainly overlook them now. It isn’t the criticism that bothers me but the way the entire situation has been handled.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Thank you for being a regular poster on my articles Ben. :)

      I have many album options with lots of different cover options and I do not have a “a la carte” clause in my contract. I see no point in that…you can easily explain the additional charges, this practice is done every day in millions of different business across the world.

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    • Ben Perrin

      I think I’m changing my mind. Whilst I still believe that the photographer could have avoided this with some better pricing models, this bride is clearly insane and trying to take down the photographer over an insignificant amount. The amount for the cover was to be removed even before this crazy bride went to the media. These investigative journalists should also be held accountable. I would also like to see them lose money over this.

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  21. Richard Olender

    I am on the fence on this one. Its pretty low to charge for an album cover however if it is clearly stated in the contract…That said, the client has no right to make false claims. You are not happy? Fine! But to create false profiles and outright lie is another story I almost think these people deserve each other

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    • Brandon Perron

      Interesting point on them deserving each other, Richard…makes sense. :) I think both of them are very much in the wrong in their approach. I think we as the business owner, need to be bigger person in the situation, I don’t think the photographer has been in this case.

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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  22. Craig MacPherson

    I haven’t read the lawsuit, but typically the amount sued for consists of a) specific damages, intended to compensate the victim for their actual losses, and b) punitive damages (harder to win and often the much larger portion of the amount requested) which are intended to punish the defendant for their behaviour and act as a deterrent to others who might think that such a thing as trying to absolutely destroy a small business using deceitful or fraudulent means (such as creating false profiles and reviews) might be a good idea. Consequently, the photographer’s potential loss of income may only comprise a very small portion of the amount sued for. Also, if you ever get in a lawsuit, try to get as much as you can because it gets ugly, can consume your life for years, and will cost you a fortune in legal fees. If you achieve a victory, it will by a Pyrrhic one. In any case, I hope the photographer has discovered the importance of a more transparent and clear business practice.

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    • Brandon Perron

      I disagree with sue for as much as you can. So if your gear at a wedding falls on a small child and causes them to have stitches, they should be able to ask for 100 million in damages, because “if you are going to sue, ask for as much as you can”?

      In a suit like this, it is not about the intention, it is about the outcome and if the intended acts were successful. I can make up all the lies i want in the world I want about anyone, but if they do no harm I can not be held liable for defamation.

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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  23. Bill Veik

    I side with the photographer. It was not smart business, to be sure. Her contract should be written to set a blanket price for the book that covers the cost of the most expensive cover. If they do not choose that, then you have the freedom to work in discount pricing in other areas or in the overall quote.

    That being said, from a legal standpoint she ended up being “deceitful” because the clients did a lousy job of reading what they were signing. Their actions in response were much more deceitful, especially if they cannot prove they are innocent in a couple of the key actions. I think the judge should publicly scold them all, and sternly warn them to be grown-ups and make this go away, gag-order included. If not, I side with the photographer.

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    • Brandon Perron

      It is more than “not reading the contract” thoroughly enough. Just because it is in a contract and someone signs it does not mean it is legally so.

      An example would be putting “a non-refundable deposit” in your contract and someone signs it, they agreed to it. However, many photographers have lost that battle in court…regardless if a client signs to a “non-refundable deposit” doesn’t make it legal. Deposits are refundable, that is their nature. It is why lawyers exist to write proper contracts and understand the law. Banks are another prime example, they have been sued and penalized many of times for having deceptive contracts and the whole “but the person signed” did not stand up in court.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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  24. Michael Simms

    If there is a charge that is not in the contract, then the client is not contracted to pay for it. She would lose this case if it were Judge Judy… :)

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  25. J. Dennis Thomas

    I think someone should smack both parties upside the head and tell them to act like adults. Both the client and the photographer are acting like petulant children. Kinda pathetic in my humble opinion.

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  26. Tanya Goodall Smith

    Nice write up. I totally agree with you.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Ah Tanya…another one of the brave souls in this world willing to agree with me on this!!! :)

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  27. Natalia SMith

    I don’t know what the agreement about the cover was. But it could make sense that if the client had to choose the cover. Maybe there was a standard very simple cover included but an upgrade costs extra. And as usual the press doesn’t explain everything and say no cover included. What if the bride chose the simplest cover which cost $20 then she wouldn’t cause the trouble. But maybe she chose the leather one with gold and diamonds which was $150. Makes sense, doesn’t it? You just never know what clients would like to go for in the end, and you can’t say album cost included and then the clients go crazy and order A3 size 100 pages with leather cover.

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    • Brandon Perron

      The photographer clearly stated that the package came with an album…but in the contract said the cover was an “a la carte” item, not a basic cover for free and an upgrade was an extra. It would be like going to a book store, buying a book and then them charging you for the cover of it…

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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  28. Ed Rhodes

    if she wins, it doesn’t matter how it looks, she will be $1 million richer. She can afford to rebrand (change company name, shoot some free gigs to build a new portfolio, etc). I’m sure more will come out during the exploratory phase of this lawsuit. From what i’ve seen, the couple was extremely vindictive and were out to ruin her. If it was in the contract, it was in the contract. The couple should have realized they made a bad deal and moved on. Tell your friends not to use her, and get on with your life, you don’t need to reach out to the whole world on $150, especially when the photographer did make an attempt to make amends, and you still went to the media anyway.

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    • Dave Haynie

      Well, it’s unlikely the couple will have $1 million, or even $200K, with which to pay the photographer. So maybe she’ll collect some of it over the course of years. On the other hand, she’s managed to let the world know that she’s deceptive at best, a cheat at worst, and will sue her clients if they complain. Sure, the bride went way over-the-top here, resorting to more unethical practices than the original one of the photographer… but many potential clients won’t read the details. They’ll just hire someone else. There’s no way in which this works out well for the photographer.

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    • Dave Haynie

      There’s also the devil in the details. The extra charge was called out in the contract. Was it hidden in the fine print, or perhaps called out in perfectly clear English, along the lines of “Your choice of cover, additional charge $75-$150 depending on style” or some-such… there could have been a good reason for this. Though I certainly would not take a job without going over ever item of the contract and getting any even-possibly confusing charge initialed by that client. But I’ll admit — I’ve spent lots of time writing and reviewing patents. That teaches you both “look out for tricks” and “cover your butt”.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Again, just because it is in the contract does not make it rightfully so.

      An example would be putting “a non-refundable deposit” in your contract and someone signs it, they agreed to it. However, many photographers have lost that battle in court…regardless if a client signs to a “non-refundable deposit” doesn’t make it legal. Deposits are refundable, that is their nature. It is why lawyers exist to write proper contracts and understand the law. Banks are another prime example, they have been sued and penalized many of times for having deceptive contracts and the whole “but the person signed” did not stand up in court.

      It took time for the photographer to offer up the cover for free. It is very likely the media interviews had already been done and recorded and ready to air. Who knows…

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    • Brandon Perron

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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    • Brandon Perron

      Dave it is nice to see someone else see that this really can not work out well for the photographer. Like you said even if the win a million dollars, the couple more than likely won’t have it and the photographer will never see it. While this bride potentially cost the photographer her business, she hasn’t ruined her life, the photographer can find another job, many jobs actually. However, suing someone for a million dollars is much more destructive to a person’s life, so this photographer is just as vindictive and terrible as the bride she is going after. Most Americans do not retire with a million dollars and they have been saving for 40+ years…

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    • Jim Johnson

      Boo.

      Brandon, this lawsuit is about getting her reputation sullied by people like you. Her clients will never pay whatever judgment might be brought against them, but at least the courts will say once and for all that she did not deserve to loose her livelihood because bloggers around the world thought their opinion was more important than caution. The clients lied, they admit that. The clients set out to destroy Politio’s business, they admit that. You and other blogs are the one who did the work for them.

      I have to admit, I’m pissed. You are mighty careless with someone else’s life.

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    • Thomas Horton

      Even if she is awarded the million and even if the couple pays a million, I don’t think she will get to keep anything close to a million.

      The only ones who win in these cases are the lawyers.

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  29. Kiel MacDonald

    Both seem to not understand the idea of basic legal process. Read anything you sign (contracts, releases, etc.) in its entirety. While you CAN’T sign away illegal things and unlawful clauses won’t be upheld, it’s on the signer to know what they’re agreeing to, not just in theory but in reality. The client should have paid the $150 or whatever (really, a drop in the bucket when you consider you probably paid $5k+ for the wedding at least) THEN proceeded to review the photographer and warn others of the possible issue with this practice of separating album cover from the album itself (hopefully we all mostly agree this is dumb), while not going overboard (as it sounds like the client did with fake accounts and the like). Meanwhile the photographer continues to show how out of touch they are with reality and good business practice and proceeds to sue the client over $150 and ‘defamation’ which they are doing worse to themselves than the client did to them in the first place (imo). Plus, that price tag they think they are entitled to… oh man. Oh well, nice articles like this are a good reminder on staying humble, being vigilant in your decisions, and making sure you know what you sign before signing it (except those software license agreements, who reads those, right? haha)

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    • Brandon Perron

      In most cases if you sign a contract you agree to the terms, but contracts do not get to be deceptive…

      An example would be putting “a non-refundable deposit” in your contract and someone signs it, they agreed to it. However, many photographers have lost that battle in court…regardless if a client signs to a “non-refundable deposit” doesn’t make it legal. Deposits are refundable, that is their nature. It is why lawyers exist to write proper contracts and understand the law. Banks are another prime example, they have been sued and penalized many of times for having deceptive contracts and the whole “but the person signed” did not stand up in court.

      I am glad that you understand why these opinion pieces are written…they spark conversation, whether you agree with them or not, the goal is to at least get people thinking. I appreciate you seeing it as nice article and being able to see the positives in it, which is the ultimate reason for writing and thusly, posting it.

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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  30. Graham Curran

    The photographer was sly in making a charge for the album cover, that should be part of the package. However, creating fake profiles to harass and damage someone’s business is definitely out of order. Defamation cases are hard to win and that is probably why the claim is for such a high amount. Why hire a lawyer for just a measly sum if you don’t stand much of a chance?

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    • Brandon Perron

      I agree, but I do think there are limits on what should be asked for…again that is just me.

      Thanks for reading and posting a comment.

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    • Andrew Wotherspoon

      The photographer wasn’t being sly, the cost of the cover is different depending in the selection you make, so it is itemised separetly in the contract.

      When it became clear the bride had not understood this and that it was an issue for her the photographer offered to give it to her for free.

      The amount of compensation the photographer is set out by law, not out of her imagination.

      If you look into the facts, the photographer has been pretty transparent in her dealings with the client, and the contract this client signed is the sane one all her clients sign.

      The cost if the album unxludesba variable amount, so its documented separatly. Its not hard to understand.

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    • Brandon Perron

      That is not the case…the photographer herself has said the ANY cover was an a la carte item

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    • Andrew Wotherspoon

      It is clearly stated here that it is a separate and variable cost, she even xpkains the business reason why:

      https://twitter.com/stacyreeves/status/557299917405040640/photo/1

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    • Valerie Holifield

      Yes the photographer had a blog post detailing everything. It’s been a bit since I read it but I believe she stated that she offered the bride a standard cover that was included in the price and then later the cover she wanted for free and the bride still chose to go ahead with defamation and a lawsuit instead. Seems to me the bride and groom were just trying to make a name and money for themselves using the bride’s SEO and social media knowledge.

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  31. Geoffrey Van Meirvenne

    Being reasonable does not seem to be in the dictionary of both the client and the photographer. Charging for the cover is sneaky and let’s be honest you just charge that then in the package price. 100-150$ is not going to make the difference to get hired or not on this amount of money. Client also overreacted and now the photographer is overreacting with the claim. Both are going to lose in the end…

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