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Tips & Tricks

Wedding Photographer’s Laptop Stolen, Loses Over 2,000 Client Images

By Hanssie on July 31st 2014

Last weekend, Jourdan Tymkow, a wedding photographer in Vancouver was shooting a wedding at Burnaby Lake Rowing Pavilion when she discovered that her laptop was stolen from her backpack that she had left in her car. During the reception, she came out to get a lens and it was still there. By 10:30pm, when she left the wedding, her back window was smashed in and the backpack was stolen.

Along with it, over 2,000 images from two different weddings she had photographed over the past two weeks – images that she had not backed up.

Let me pause to say: BACK UP YOUR IMAGES!! Then, back them up again on another drive and once more off site, just in case. 

“I totally had a breakdown,” she told one newspaper, “I have been pretty much crying ever since.” She is offering a $500 reward for the return of the images, as well as one of the clients whose images were lost that day. This is Tymkow’s first season as a wedding photographer and she states that she wasn’t able to back up the images because the last wedding was at a campground and it was “just the worst timing.”

She is now scouring craigslist and social media hoping to find the laptop or that someone will return the priceless images.

memory-card-safety-download

 

This is a good (and important) reminder that photographers, especially professional wedding and event photographers need to have a solid back up plan [no pun intended]. This not only protects yourself, but your clients’ precious photos. The following video is an excerpt from our Lightroom Organization and Workflow Workshop which is part of our Lightroom Workshop Collection on DATA SAFETY PROCEDURES: HOW TO KEEP YOUR IMAGES SAFE FROM SHOOT TO COMPUTER:


For more on keeping your memory cards safe with more back up and general safety tips regarding your cards, check out this article: MEMORY CARD BACKUP TIPS FOR SURVIVING ANY APOCALYPSE

These are the little details that may seem tedious as a photographer, but is one of the most important parts of a professional photographer’s workflow!

[Via NS News]

About

Hanssie is a Southern California-based writer and sometimes portrait and wedding photographer. In her free time, she homeschools, works out, rescues dogs and works in marketing for SLR Lounge. She also blogs about her adventures and about fitness when she’s not sick of writing so much. Check out her work and her blog at www.hanssie.com. Follow her on Instagram

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Rob Harris

    On site backup with WD drive doesn’t even require a laptop. Just plug in the card and it gets backed up. This person should not be in the photography business.

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  2. Graham Curran

    With the price of memory cards nowadays there’s no excuse for not reusing cards before the data are safely stored on a bombproof server. In a remote location the laptop should just be the first backup not the primary storage.

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  3. Pentafoto Tm

    Who the hell leaves a laptop bag in the back seat of a car ?

    How much of an indiot can you be to shoot a wedding and not back up the pictures right after you get home ?

    I empty my cards right after I come home from an event, and I have the pictures on three different harddrives, the work harddrive, the backup hard, situated in the workstation as well, and the external harddrive that is permanently disconected, for fear of an electrical powerspike that would even go thru my philips protection to surges that the computer is connected to.
    What if the harddrive to that stupid laptop would have seized ?

    She’s not a professional photographer, she is just a chick with a camera that somehow got into the market. In a way, I don’t even feel sorry for the bride and groom. If you want to pay half the price of a professional, you have to understand that the savings come at a cost.

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  4. Sieg Martil

    “She is offering a $500 reward for the return of the images, as well as one of the clients whose images were lost that day.”
    So the photographer is offering 500 and one of her clients as reward for finding the laptop and/or images?

    Honestly $500 is hardly enough a reward to get that laptop back. Assuming she has any kind of apple laptop, which is easily over $1.5K; and the thief could easily fetch about half of retail. Not to mention the priceless images of the 2 weddings she’s shot over the 2 weeks. Wait… 2 weeks and she hasn’t even backed up at least the photos from one of the weddings? Was she at the camp ground that whole time? Carbonite subscription cost not more than $5/month.

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  5. Tom Bogan

    This should be a reminder to all. Back up, back up and back up. Memory cards are cheap. Shoot, copy and store till you are sure you will not need the images, then think about it again before you wipe the cards.
    I feel sorry for the couples that have lost everything due to a newbie cutting costs. A $500 reward is not enough to get them back, how about what the clients had paid as a reward, then next time you might just remember to shoot, copy and store.

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  6. Austin Swenson

    I would have to say that this just sucks all around… No backups, no images, and all kinds of equipment got stolen… I would personally keep the cards on my person in some kind of sleeve pocket or card holder on my belt or something. I am too paranoid that stuff like this is going to happen.

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  7. Brandon Dewey

    That is the first thing i learned when people started to pay me to take images, back everything up.

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  8. Phil Bautista

    I’m absolutely stunned at how much hate this photog is getting. I understand she screwed up royally but the woman who locked up her kids in a car parked out under the sun got more support.

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  9. Eric Sharpe

    Cloud storage is cheap. After a shoot, I immediately import my images into my computer. I let the computer sync the raw images up to the cloud. Local backup kicks in and does it’s job. This all happens as I’m sleeping soundly at night, knowing that I will have all of my images backed up in 3 places by morning; Local hard drive, external hard drive, and cloud drive.

    I do have empathy for the photographer, however. Yep, she should have taken precautions, but things happen.

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    • Kristoffer Sandven

      Agreed – cloud backup is really so cheap these days. A camera with two card slots that record to both at the same time is also a great way to have an extra copy of the original images. Of course, they need to be stored separately. I always back up the images from a shoot to an external hard drive that I keep in my home, as well as the main working drive (also backed up) in the office. Make use of the functions in Lightroom or Photomechanics to copy the images to a second backup location when you import – makes the process very fast and easy.

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  10. Chris Nachtwey

    Crazyness, I hope she get’s those images back. I back up with two external drives and back blaze for offsite.

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  11. Leslie Troyer

    Not to be to harsh but, I don’t fee sorry at all – if you want to play at being professional you will be bit. I’m not a pro but I have a very rigorous multistage backup strategy. This includes copying all flash media to external hard disks, that are stored separately from camera/computer, backing up computers to both local servers & cloud servers, and making an archive copy on different compute systems in the house.

    I just hope he didn’t have the customers PII (name, address, phone numbers, credit card info….) stored unencrypted on the laptop. In my day job that get me fired! It leaves you open to lots of lawsuits ect.

    If this is your business, backup, backup backup – make sure backups are encrypted, use whole disk encryption, logins with complicated passwords –

    Les

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  12. Rafael Steffen

    One time a person told me that before he leaves the weeding, he would stick the memory cards in his socks in case someone tries to steal his photos. Always shoot important events such as weddings with cameras that have two slots to make sure. Both my Nikons have two slots to backup the raw files. Always shoot RAW.

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  13. Genard Williams

    That’s the first thing I do. I back my photos up in multiple locations because I’m so afraid of losing them.

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  14. Jude sr

    Oh my gosh! This is absolutely CRAZY stupid on the part of the photographer. :( Sorry to be blunt, but comeon. I mean, sure I feel bad for her, but this isn’t something even a first year beginner should do. Ever. I never did. Ever.

    The closest instance that happen to me like this is that I did one time have my memory cards stolen directly out of my camera bag, 20 feet away from where I was standing. Directly related to the wedding couple trying to get (and getting) free service, I believe now. But, that’s still on me for not realizing that people suck, are thieves, and will have the balls to steal from someone who’s standing 20 feet away. Now, I never leave ANYTHING behind. What’s left sitting in my bag is less than $100 at any event. Everything is on me. (Yeh, my shoulders DO hurt afterwards. lol.)

    But as far as backing up, she has absolutely no excuses for this behavior. From the beginning, I made it a staple of my workflow to upload/backup images before anything else as soon as I get home. I can’t eat, I can’t sit down, I can’t watch tv, anything until those images are in my drive.

    What a shame this lady’s lack of foresight caused those people such an awful moment in life. :/

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  15. Greg Faulkner

    This is an absolute disaster for the 2 couples who have lost their wedding photos. My heart sinks when I read stuff like this :(

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  16. James Matthews

    The facepalm moment for me was… “Along with it, over 2,000 images from two different weddings she had photographed over the past two weeks – images that she had not backed up.”

    Of course the reasoning of always keeping memory cards on you at the current wedding applies etc and she made a bad choice to leave the gear on the backseat…but why had she not backed up a wedding from 2 weeks ago?? That’s a horrendous oversight! If I take a shot of my front door it goes into my pile of backups almost straight away.

    The good part about this is that she’ll never forgot to make another backup again. The first lesson is always the hardest :)

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  17. John McCosh

    If your going to market yourself as a professional wedding photographer then you need to be professional about taking care of your clients images.

    I shoot with a camera that has two card slots with each backing up the other. I only use 64gb high quality cards so I don’t need to change my cards. Bo cards to get lost. After my shoot I download all images to two different drives and then store one of the memory cards in my car (Off site backup in case the house burns down). Only when the clients are handed their images and I have burnt my own backup of edited images does this card get reformatted and put in my camera bag. Also the second copy of the images in my second drive are deleted.

    This photographer backed up the images to a laptop that she had with her, why did she re-use the camera card. If she hasn’t re-used it then the images will be recoverable from the card even if she has reformatted it.

    Taken these precautions with your clients images is the first step of becoming a professional. Unless your robbed of your camera on the day by someone bashing you over the head then sorry there is no excuse for this. I feel so bad for the couples involved, hopefully the photographer is doing everything they can to check if any images are still recoverable from the memory cards.

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  18. Drew Valadez

    Every photo forum/blog/article site will say “BACKUP YOUR DAMN PHOTOS!” and yet this happens to her still. The other part that was just facepalm inducing was that she left her backpack in her car. Thieves do not care about your window or your stuff so why would you think it would be OK to leave something THAT valuable unsecured? Yes, something in your vehicle is NOT secure. Argue that it is and I’ll point you to this article.

    People. Memory is cheap. I am taking a backpacking trip to with my mom Italy for three weeks that I am lucky enough to be taken on. My backup is going to be a laptop and I am going to buy up a good handful of cheap and slow, but large, SD cards that my mom will be carrying, separate from the laptop I will have. Simple. Cheap and under $70 for 192 GB of storage. thats the cost of 3 64 GB SD cards that will move slow but will get the job done.

    I do this for photography for personal enjoyment and even I have a backup plan at home. 3 hard drives is where my files are stored. This lady could of had a simple 500Gb external portable hard drive separate from her laptop to prevent this. What is 500GB external HD cost now a days? 50 bucks? Dump the photos and carry it in your photo bag away from the laptop. Something. Just something.

    As an IT guy who helps out tons of family, friends and acquaintances with their computing needs, I cannot stress enough how important it is that you make a BACKUP of every critical doc/pic/video/music file that you own or would make you cry if you lost. Every service i do for someone outside of my full time job is regarding a computer that won’t boot or something that critical. I also do it for free. When I am offered money, I will very assertively tell them to use that money to BUY ANOTHER HARD DRIVE. External or Internal, i don’t care. Figure it out. offsite would be best but even having an only ONSITE vs NONE is better. I can’t tell you how many upset souls I have seen because they are too cheap to spend a bit of moolah to prevent loss.

    IT guy end rant.

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  19. Ben Perrin

    It did sound like really bad timing with one wedding being at a campsite. Still am I the only one who doesn’t format cards until the images have been backed up to a computer AND a separate hard drive that is stored in a different location? Always plan for the worst. I feel sorry for her clients that will never see professional images from their wedding day.

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    • Jude sr

      No, you aren’t alone. It is a rule for myself as well. In order to place the cards in the ‘Ready to shoot’ bag, I must physically turn on the computer and check that the image is back up to both drives I have, and THEN, only then, do I allow myself to format the card.

      Its just too ridiculous to think of not having a secondary backup…

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  20. Kevin Galbreath

    and don’t leave your stuff in the backseat….if someone sees you get your stuff out and put it back in the backseat of the car you are MORE likely to get robbed. Never leave valuables like a laptop in a car and somewhat visible….take it in and ask someone at the venue to lock your stuff up or have someone watch it for you.

    The fact that the images were not backed up is horrible but don’t advertise a chance for a thief. They know the photographer will be away from the car for a few hours usually so it’s a safe situation for them to rob during the ceremony etc.

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    • Russ Wittmann

      I also think that if anyone looking for a wedding photographer read the original article or this article, won’t be rushing to use Vancouver wedding photographer Jourdan Tymkow, for her services. — Just Saying

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    • Drew Valadez

      Thieves don’t care if that was a laptop bag or a gym bag. If there is a laptop or $50 that is a win for most people.

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    • Jude sr

      First of all, I have a crappy looking car, so its a disguise. Ha. Who thinks a horrible looking car is going to have good stuff in it? Hehe.

      But, yeah, you’re right. I carry my camera and external lights in a bag with me, and my studio light setup is in my trunk. That trunk doesn’t get opened until I assess that I definitely need them for the venue. Then, only then do I open the trunk to the possibility that people may see what’s in there. Then, after that, all stuff is with me. I’m not going to go put it back in the trunk.

      A little wise planning can go a long way, I believe. :/

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    • Jude sr

      An add-on to my original statement … I guess I really do feel sorry for her (The photographer). It was a stupid mistake not to take the time to backup, but it really DOES suck overall that it happened. <:( This mistake became something that will be referenced for years as THE reason for photographers to backup, and I don't envy her the publicity. :( Poor girl … the thief is a complete jerk.

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  21. Nick Viton

    Nightmare!
    Shooting my first wedding in a couple weeks, and it’s a destination wedding. Stressed out enough as it is. These SLR Lounge articles and stories with tips on weddings, travel, gear, are totally helpful.
    Thanks!

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    • Chuck Eggen

      Nick, please share how it goes with the wedding. I will be shooting my stepdaughter’s wedding in December and can use all the do’s and don’ts you encounter.

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    • Nick Viton

      Thanks for asking Chuck! The bride and groom were very pleased with the images I provided. Having said that, however, there were a number of things I vastly need to improve on. Off the top of my head, here’s a quick list of some of my own personal Do’s and Don’ts;

      Do have the itinerary well before hand. I only got it the day before the wedding, so had a short time to plan and map the day out in my head.

      Do have a shot list. I only used one as a guide, but still really helpful.

      Don’t spend money on new gear you’re not familiar with and will only probably use once, if at all. I bought optical adapters for my speedlights, a dual harness to carry two cameras at once (useless), external battery pack for a speedlight, CTO gels in hopes of getting the sunset pictures, etc.

      Do have an assistant! I didn’t have one and I struggled. A voice-activated light stand/reflector holder = gold.

      Do try and work in shooting time with the bride and groom, away from the chaos. A lot my pictures look like snapshots because I didn’t have enough time to set up my shots with them.

      Don’t worry about taking video clips. If you can, great, but don’t let it get in the way of taking pictures or risk losing the shot. You can hand off a separate video cam to a buddy ahead of time, if noone else was hired to take video.

      Do take detail shots. The details are part of the story and in a gallery of images, it’s nice to break up the monotony of all people shots.

      Don’t overthink things. Keep it simple and stay with tried and true techniques you know well and are comfortable with. For instance, I was run-n-gun shooting guests outdoors in mixed sun/shade, in full Manual mode, constantly spinning dials trying to get the right exposure. Completely forgot about Aperture Mode. Hello?

      Also, during the reception, I rigged up a multiple speedlight setup, but they weren’t all firing consistently, exposures were all over the place and I spent half the evening scratching my head.

      Do shoot RAW.

      Hope this helps. I’m obviously still a noob, so please consider that when reading my tips. Cheers!

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  22. MARTIN MIANO

    I really feel sorry for her and i hope all will be well in the end and the images will be recovered along with the items. Its advisable to always foresee corruption of data too where our images are stored so backups are very important.

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    • Matthew Saville

      I don’t feel sorry for her at all, and neither should you Martin. At least not NEARLY as sorry as we should feel for the brides and grooms whose images she lost!

      I hope she retires from wedding photography and sticks to kittens and flowers from now on. This type of event is un-acceptable on a permanent, career-ending scale IMO.

      =Matt=

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    • Drew Valadez

      You Matthew. I like you.

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    • Rob Durston

      I feel sorry for her and the wedding parties.
      I also feel sorry for hateful photographers who just don’t get it.
      This is a community, help it grow and be stronger.
      Attitudes like “I don’t feel sorry for her at all, and neither should you Martin. At least not NEARLY as sorry as we should feel for the brides and grooms whose images she lost!

      I hope she retires from wedding photography and sticks to kittens and flowers from now on. This type of event is un-acceptable on a permanent, career-ending scale IMO.” don’t help anyone.
      You want to help, give her suggestions so it doesn’t happen again.
      There is no excuse NOT to be a good diplomat for the face of photography.
      Rob

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    • Matthew Saville

      Rob Durston, you need to understand that when things like this happen, the consequences simply cannot be “oh, here’s how to do better next time!”

      Yes, of course I do feel sorry for the photographer, in a sense, as I know that her life has flashed before her eyes innumerable times, and she has probably spent days / weeks with a horrible wrenching feeling in her gut. I know this because I’ve felt that before when I THOUGHT that I might have lost some images. (Thankfully, it hasn’t actually happened yet, and yes, I do knock on wood all the time because I know crazy stuff can happen to anybody…)

      My point is that now is simply not the time for giving tips on how to not let this happen next time. This person messed up SO much, that there shouldn’t even be a chance FOR a next time, at least not for a while.

      Why should it be any different from any other job? If she were an airline pilot, her carelessness could have just gotten a few hundred people killed. If she were the secret service, the president might be dead right now.

      If this were any other traditional employee / employer situation in the world, she’d be fired with no severance package. Just because this is “only” wedding photography, I don’t think there should be a “get back on the horse” mentality.

      The photographer needs to take a good long while off to focus on the rest of their life, become a more responsible person that doesn’t make careless mistakes, or cut corners etc, …and THEN consider re-opening their doors for business.

      So yes, I do feel terribly sorry for everyone involved, including the photographer. But yes, they do indeed need to stick with photographing kittens and flowers for at least a little while. This was a very, very serious error…

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    • Rob Durston

      Thanks for the reply Matthew. I was a little confused by your reply; are you partially changing your view and having some empathy?
      I think you might need to re assess what level wedding photography and photography in general has as far as the scope of the world is concerned. No she’s not a brain surgeon or airline pilot and I would never compare them either.
      I work on some big budget productions, that can never be replicated but (knock on wood) if I ever had a catastrophic error and the shoot was lost, there is always something else that can be done.
      For her, hopefully she wasn’t the only person there with a camera and the wedding party can salvage some memories.
      All I ask is that we improve what we have in the photography community, not badger or constantly criticize or condemn those who might not be as knowledgeable or experienced.
      Yes, there are too many photographers out there and most don’t know which end of the camera to look in but at least they try and most want to grow in knowledge and experience. As a working professional who makes 100% of my living from my photography, I feel it is my responsibility to help educate those around me for this will only help make the marketplace better for us all.

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    • Phil Bautista

      Matthew, compare this to the case of Shanesha Taylor, a single mom who left 2 young kids in a nearly closed car parked outside in over 100 degree heat while she interviewed for a job. Those kids almost died (they were lucky some strangers saw them crying and called 911). Not only is this reckless mom getting off with just counselling, over a hundred grand was raised for her over the net. In the grand scheme of things, some wedding pics pale in comparison.

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    • Fernando Sawaya

      I heard somewhere that a photographer that lost a wedding’s pictures was condemned to pay for a new party for the bride. So, Matthew and Martin, let’s be fare here, she didn’t kill anyone but the bride and grooms memories, but she should pay as she must have had a contract with the clients. The size of the penalty must be compatible with the damage.

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    • Michael Young

      Rob, I kind of agree with Matthew on this one. I really don’t feel bad for her in this scenario. A lot of people get into photographing weddings without taking it seriously as a business. This isn’t one of those cases where she missed the first kiss, or a detail shot or a particular moment; she has lost two entire weddings. This is going to be more than a learning lesson for her.

      The barrier into entry for photography is fairly low, and the risk of wedding photography is fairly high (as far as liability), and it seemed like she didn’t take the complete business side of things seriously enough.

      “This is Tymkow’s first season as a wedding photographer and she states that she wasn’t able to back up the images because the last wedding was at a campground and it was “just the worst timing.”

      She had two weeks worth of photo on her hard drive and couldn’t find time within those two weeks to do a backup? The computer doesn’t need you to be awake for you to do even a primitive backup. Leave it on and plugged to a power source, hook up an external drive, copy, paste, come back to it in the morning. She’s opened herself up for not just one lawsuit, but two, and could be at risk of losing everything (doubt she’s incorporated), and I hope she had a strong contract.

      NO one is saying wedding photography is life or death, but that doesn’t mean I should feel bad for the person, either.

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    • Matthew Saville

      @Rob, I am simply revealing that my original response was a little more tongue-in-cheek / sarcastic than you might have assumed.

      Indeed, I don’t consider this to be “constant” badgering / criticizing at all. Image losses of this epic scale are (thankfully) a relatively infrequent occurrence. But when the ball is dropped so badly, it is a sign that this person needs a stern wake-up call, and a fitting penalty, …not just an “oh, you’ll do better next time!”

      For example, it wouldn’t be un-reasonable to expect the photographer to spend tens of thousands of dollars to re-stage the wedding, IF they were highly successful and well off. A responsible pro gets liability insurance for stuff like this. Unfortunately I’m betting that the photog, given their paltry $500 reward, isn’t even remotely capable of affording such measures of restitution. Just another reason that brides should hire an established, successful pro. ;-)

      @Phil, IMO you only prove my point more. Sure, these were just wedding photos and I’m very glad that they were just that, and not kids left in a hot car. However, the bone-headedness of it all is similar enough for me to argue the angle “if someone does something this bone-headed with precious wedding photos, how do they handle other, more life-critical responsibilities?”

      In other words, no I’m not directly comparing wedding photography with brain surgery, or even parenting. I’m just saying, if someone makes a bone-headed mistake like this, they’re also the type of person who is liable to make worse mistakes.

      Let’s just all agree to be more professional, responsible, non-corner-cutting adults in general, shall we? Not just in photography, but life in general. Don’t slack off and cut corners, if you’re doing something important, ANYTHING. Stop winging it; take the time to do things right.

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  23. Russ Wittmann

    “Along with it, over 2,000 images from two different weddings she had photographed over the past two weeks – images that she had not backed up.” — Ouch. I would never take media cards with me from other wedding to current weddings either, in fear that this or an accidental format would happen.

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