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Wedding Photographer Threatened with $300K Lawsuit

By Christopher Lin on August 7th 2012

I came across an interesting video today by Gary Fong that has been circulating the wedding photography world recently.  In it, he talks about a wedding photographer, Nelson Tang, who receives a letter from a client demanding his $3,800 fee back plus $15,000 under threat of a $300k lawsuit.

According to Gary Fong, who says to have seen the photos, the photographer did a  “freaking great job.” Furthermore, the couple put a thousand of them on Facebook where they got praises from their Facebook friends.

The client, who is also a lawyer, goes as far as to threaten the photographer’s livelihood.  He even threatens to “hire a person who specializes in search engine optimization” and “blog extensively.”

Two Main Takeaways

1) Always have a written contract
2) Never deliver all of the RAW files.

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Co-Founder of SLR Lounge and Photographer with Lin and Jirsa Photography, I’m based in Southern California but you can find me traveling the world. Click here to connect on Google +

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Ed Rhodes

    wow, what an a-hole

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  2. Bart Elder

    If I read the court docket correctly this case looks like it was dismissed due to lack of activity, the suing lawyer did not respond to mailings.

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  3. Linda

    Any updates on this story? I hope the lawyer lost.

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  4. Chelsea

    Wow! 300k is WAY excessive!

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  5. Is Your Photography Business Protected Against 'Wedding Insurance?'

    […] the past where photographers have been sued for “bad photos,” or even one (read about  Nelson Tang case here) who is currently being sued even though the photos were “freaking […]

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  6. linux vps

    Its not my first time to go to see this website, i am browsing this web site dailly and get good information from here every day.|

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  7. Steven McConnell

    Someone is on a power trip!

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  9. Jorgen

    Can we see the pictures somewhere, so we can judge for ourselves?  I do support the photographer though, based on the way the other part has handeled this..  

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  10. De

    I don’t think he’s a lawyer.

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  11. Relishphotography

    Can’t the PPA help out with this?  Is he a member?

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  12. Sam

    Did the client have a written copyright release to post images on facebook?
    I understand the photographer did not sign a service contract with the client, but did he sign a release.  Can the photographer sue for copyright?

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  13. Catherine Lacey Dodd

    It does indeed sound like blackmail. How utterly painful to receive a letter like this

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  14. tony

    sounds like the photographer can get him arrested fot theft of services do this you provide a service people love it they try and sue you for your service?????? call the police

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  15. Luckycanuck

    Stella awards again?

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  16. Diane D

    Definitely appears like the so called lawyer is a fraud. I do not have a law degree but I do have common sense, something this “lawyer” obviously lacks. He is threatening for funds, to me that spells extortion and that is not legal, he the is threatening the mans livelihood, to me that spells blackmail and then as it is pointed out in the video, there are no court stamps on the so called law suit that the “lawyer” claims to have filled. Go to courthouse and ask about file, there would be a File #, usually on the top of the page. Even a court clerk can verify if the paperwork is real or a fraud. I think I would be inclined to sue the so called “lawyer” for punitive damages, mental anguish and anything else that they might allow in the US – and from reading the news from the US you could come out way ahead financially and be able to clear your reputation. Good luck and I’m sure you’ll come out on top.

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  17. Sweetie

    That’s awful! For those wanting to see the photos, if he didn’t have a contract he probably didn’t have a copyright release signed so I hope he won’t make the mistake to post them. I wish you the best Nelson Tang!

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  18. Attila

    I am a lawyer (in Canada) and an avid amateur photographer, and I have just this bit of advice:

    (1) I assume professional photographers have insurance for various purposes, and if not they really ought to: it’s hard to run a business these days without insurance. Now, although it may be costly to purchase, professionals should seriously consider purchasing protection for professional liability, negligence, and errors and omissions (E&O) insurance coverage. This basically means that if you have this kind of insurance coverage, and if you were sued like Mr. Tang was, your insurer would take over your defense: a lawyer would be hired by your insurance company to defend on your behalf. Again, though it may cost to have full-spectrum insurance of this kind up front (and there may be deductibles,etc), it might result in significant savings in the long term if you ever ran into trouble of this kind. It’s really great that this case is being publicized and people are contributing to Mr. Tang’s defense, but I’m assuming not all professional photographers can consistently rely on the photographer community coming together in this way to help out.

    (2) The lawyer’s “demand letter”, as read by Gary Fong, is truly appalling and highly unprofessional, to say the least. I’ve never come across anything quite as bad as that – just unbelievable! Mr. Tang should seriously consider submitting a complaint against the lawyer/client/plaintiff to the law society or bar association (or whatever lawyers’ governing bodies might be called down in the US) in his jurisdiction. At a bare minimum, the letter constitutes (a fairly obvious and fairly extreme example of) “sharp practice”, i.e., form of unethical legal practice. Lawyers’ governing bodies (bar associations, law societies, etc.) usually take such matters quite seriously, especially when there are threats of the kind this lawyer/client/plaintiff made use of.

    Just one note: unfortunately, unless this lawyer/client/plaintiff forgot to mark the “demand letter” as being “without prejudice” (which he probably did), the letter would likely not be seen by the trial judge – pre-litigation correspondence (especially pre-litigation settlement negotiations) normally do not form part of the trial on the merits. So, as much as it would be great to have the case tossed out just on the basis of a judge reading the letter, that’s not likely to happen. However, if Mr. Fong’s description of the circumstances is accurate, and if Mr. Tang’s defense lawyer is any good, and if the lawyer/client/plaintiff keeps up that kind of attitude in the lawsuit, there’s a good chance it can be tossed out for being frivolous, vexatious, etc. – in which case it would be the lawyer/client/plaintiff who would be hit with considerable costs in favor of Mr. Tang.

    Best of luck to Mr. Tang – I’m sure things will work out in his favor in the end.

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  19. GWC in SF

    Someone posted the supposed court documents to this cars: (Search for Member ItsDaveTime posts). Still doing my own investigation of this before I place judgement.

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  20. Anonymous

    Hello Lin and Pye, Do you have any sample
    of a good Wedding – Photography Contract? As
    well as a 2nd Shooter’s Contract.

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  21. Dan

    I would do a quick check to see if the client or any of the law firms he’s claimed to be affiliated with are licensed to practice law in any area where the lawsuit might take place (assuming the law firms exist) If not charges of impersonating a licensed professional (or something similar) might be relevant.

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  22. gus

    so where can we see the images in question?

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    • lovephotos

      go on facebook, search for Nelson Tang photography, you will see his work

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  23. wild1

    How do you know a lawyer is lying? …His lips are moving! Sounds like this so called lawyer is an opportunistic SOB! Hope it gets before a judge like Judge Judy, who will see the wood for the trees and not only throw the case right out of the court, but also award the photographer damages instead. Plus make a real example of this money grabbing lawyer by having him debarred, so that he can never practice law ever again!

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  24. John

    Abuse of process is a tort. Tang has a better chance of prevailing against the plaintiff in an abuse action than the plaintiff has of winning anything against Tang. Also, if the photographer didn’t have Errors & Omissions insurance he’s an even greater fool than he is for not having a contract. Good grief.

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  25. Jim Laubach

    I agree with PM. Turn this over to police. This is pure and simple blackmail, masquerading as a legal action. I question whether these “law firms” that keep sending Tang the letters even exist! Outright extortion, plain and simple.

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  26. Geoffrey Tischman

    The client is a total A-HoLE but for Nelson to not have a contract AND to give him all the files and not spend 1 hour to quickly edit out the unacceptable images is just asking for trouble.

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  27. Life in DSLR

    There’s no way this client legitamately made it through law school.

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    • Anonymous

      Agreed, that was without doubt the most poorly written legal letter I have ever seen/heard. I don’t even think a law student at any worthwhile law school would have written something that piss poor. That was straight up like someone out of high school trying to write a threatening legal letter and looking up the definitions of legal terms online while he wrote the document.

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  28. Mike

    You wrote 3.8k plus 150k but in the video you say plus 15k – which is right (not that it would make the case any better)…

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  29. RLPhoto

    This is why one of the most important lines in a contract is “not liable for any dollar amount over the contracted amount”….SCARY!!!

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  30. Jorge Pastrana

    i hope for the photographers to win the trail

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  31. Nicole

    Wow. Kudos to you for helping this photog out! That attorney must be a freaking idiot! Hahaaaaaha. I’d like to laugh in his face…right after the judge does.

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  32. JTousey

    Sounds like someone heard a story about a bad photographer getting sued and now these people think can do the same thing. I am interested in seeing the photos..

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  33. Jay

    some “lawyers” can be such bullies….. so horrible!! =(

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    • Dave Albert

      this is why I’m getting a law degree even though I’m a photographer :D so that lawyers cant mess with me.. :D

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  34. alex datsun

    can you please update us about this asshat?

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  35. Viktor Arakchiev

    Seriously? One says that another have heard of a third who have seen some photos and thinks they are freackin great?!? Come on… how can you put your opinion against somebody else’s?

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  36. PM

    Threatening letter; attempted blackmail? Perhaps a police matter.

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  37. Koda

    Sorry, where do I donate to this guy?

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