Paul & Chareen Wheatley hired a wedding photographer for $850 to capture their special day, and they did not get what they paid for. Not a King’s ransom but, at the same time, you’d expect a professional photographer at that price point to deliver images capturing their day that are technically sound and in focus. Unfortunately for the Wheatley’s, that wasn’t the case. As it turns out (more on this below), the photographer even has a few stolen images in their portfolio.
Wedding photographers have a tough job on even the best of days. Tight timelines, family politics, relying on other vendors to stay on schedule, weather considerations and unruly guests. If you can name it, I’ve probably seen it at a wedding. Or so I thought. A story that’s been making the rounds from Leeds features a photographer who, let’s be honest, literally bombed the wedding (you’ll get the pun in a moment). Here’s a few examples of what was delivered:
The story as it’s told in other publications (New York Post & Daily Mail) was that the photographer, Chloe Johnston (C Johnston Photography), was hired by the couple after finding her through a Facebook ad. Up until the wedding day, the couple had difficulty getting in touch with her until Chloe sent a message at 10pm the evening before the wedding confirming she would be there. When she did arrive (45 minutes late), she came with a single camera. For the couples session, she had the bride (in a white dress) and groom (who had just had knee replacement surgery and therefore declined) walk down a muddy path (obviously damaging the dress and excluding the groom. At the reception, the couple didn’t see the photographer much as well. After the wedding, the photographer delivered 15 images from the reception. Yes, 15. To top it all off, the couple reports that she hopped into the photo booth and took a few selfies (5 in total). For those that hate math, that’s 1/3rd as many photographs as she delivered from the reception.
I’ve watched the story become sensationalized and it’s easy to fire up the pitchforks at this point but let’s really look at the problems here.
Not communicating with your clients is simply inexcusable. We all get busy, especially at certain times of the year, but it’s not difficult to pick up the phone or simply email the client confirming all the details. Waiting until 10pm the night before is setting yourself up for an epic failure, even if you deliver beautiful photos. Clients hire wedding photographers having no idea what they actually will receive as far as photos go. It’s a very unique aspect of the business where it’s not a tangible product so any shortcoming or failed communications that happens before the wedding just makes it that much harder to have a happy client.
Arriving late to a wedding is also just inexcusable but at the same time, bad things do happen and I’d be willing to give the photographer a pass on this one if it was something truly out of her control. However, looking at the situation as a whole, it appears the photographer was ill-prepared to take on the primary photographer duties of a wedding.
Walking the clients down a muddy path with no care given to the well being of the clients or their clothing, is absolutely ridiculous. We, as photographers, all have visions but on a wedding day we must take care to weigh the repercussions of our decisions. Soiling a wedding dress, on the day of the wedding, is not something we should ever encourage unless the bride is planning on trashing the dress anyway (which was not the case here) and leaving the groom out of couples portraits is beyond words. It’s called “couples portraits” for a reason.
The photographer taking photos of herself in the photo booth. Let’s be honest, I really don’t see this being an issue at all if we ignored all the other missteps by this photographer. I know I’ve hopped into the photo booth at several weddings for a quick shot. These were also weddings where the couple and I had a great relationship. Even if they were just normal clients, giving them a photo of their photographer is hardly an issue worthy of the New York Post or Daily Mail had the other issues not happened.
As I did research for this story, I came across an article posted by the great folks over at Photo Stealers. Turns out the portfolio C Johnston Photography has on their website has photos not taken by her. Out of all of the above transgressions, this is the most egregious. When clients hire a wedding photographer the examples of their previous work is all they have to go on. When a photographer steals another photographer’s work and not only displays it on their website, but uses it to book clients, it’s criminal. The price the newly married couple is paying for this unethical and illegal behavior is far greater then the monetary amount they paid. While it wasn’t a huge sum of money, it also wasn’t cheap or free and no couple deserves to have their wedding photos ruined because the photographer stole images and represented themselves as something they are not.