[Updated] 'Photographer from Hell' Sued After Wedding Photography Catastrophe

[Updated] 'Photographer from Hell' Sued After Wedding Photography Catastrophe

Shooting a wedding can certainly be a daunting task, especially if you're new to the genre. However, self-described "up and coming photographer" Chloe Johnston soon learned that they, just like every other business venture, have a serious job that should not be taken lightly. In this instance, I'm not sure if it was a lack of experience, or maturity, or both. Ultimately she did not deliver a desirable final product. After which, she publicly tried to defame the bride and groom once they attempted to voice their concerns to her about the low photo count and overall poor quality of the images delivered.

There were various other grievances that the couple noted about Johnston including a deficit of equipment and tardiness. The main issues that I seem to find are as follows and as such can also serve as words of warning for anyone that is interested in becoming a professional photographer.

Food for Thought

  • Communication is key. According to an article from The Mirror, Johnston took a deposit and then made no other communications with the couple that she would be attending until 10 p.m. the night before the ceremony. Additionally, she arrived 45 minutes after the reception had already begun which leads me into the next point.
  • If you’re hired to complete a job, it’s extremely important to be able optimize the time you’re given. Especially if you’re on an hourly rate. Things like showing up on time and showing up with enough time that you can set up equipment prior to the slotted time are important. Additionally, it’s also important that you stay on task and not get sidetracked to things that aren’t actually in your job description for what you’re working on.
  • Organization is critical; Whether it be your finances, your image data, or even the desired shot list a client gives you for a project. It’s important to keep organized, that way you can keep your workflow streamlined and efficient.
  • Keeping contracts is important. Even this year I have learned some of the really unfortunate consequences of believing the power of a hand shake agreement. They can be your saving grace as long as you honor your side of the agreement.
  • Finally, and not directly correlated to the article in question, but always rise to the occasion, never settle, and should you not hit your mark with a project that you’re working on, don’t get discouraged. Re-examine what you did and figure out how to improve and move forward.

Excerpt from a wedding video shot by Pramik Photography

In Closing

On a final note, should you be in the market for a wedding photographer, you frequently get what you pay for. That’s not to say that inexpensive photographers should never be used, that’s not the case at all as many of them may just be starting out and learning the ropes and may be in your budget. However, manage your expectations. If you want photos that look like they were shot by a photographer that charges $6,000, don’t hire a budget photographer and expect the same results.  When you're paying for that photographer, you're not only paying for their ability to take beautiful photographs, but also their reliability and professionalism.

Update (4/14/2016)

We reached out to Johnston to get her side of the story last night and made contact and we will be following up with more info should it come available. In the meantime however, more evidence has surfaced including more detailed statements from the couple as well as her use of stolen images on her website and Facebook to help garner her own business. We are still reaching out to Johnston in an effort to get her account of the events in detail. More information can be found here.

[via The Mirror]

Ryan Pramik's picture

Fstoppers Staff Writer, Ryan Pramik is a professional photographer and videographer that specializes in automotive work but crosses the line into other genres for work or for personal projects. Has several publications under his belt for automotive work as well as event coverage for the automotive genre as well as others.

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Elsewhere it was reported that the couple paid the student photographer £500 sterling (about $700) for 9 hours photography at the wedding and (I believe) this included the jpegs.

The couple should have know that the price was too cheap and really I think they got what they paid for. As for the student photographer, I think she has a lot to learn.

Can't say they didn't get what they paid for.

Got what they paid for? Seems rather callous. Not everyone can afford a proper wedding photographer. Sure you don't expect high quality work for that money, but you at least expect professionalism, punctuality, and more than 15 (poor) photos!

Interesting take. While I agree with the professionalism and punctuality part of your comment, I don't understand why quality should be lacking based [solely] on price. Despite the amount you're being paid, the quality of work should be based on skill level (and to some extent, equipment). Paying her twice as much or even more wouldn't have made the photos come out any better.

This is why you show up early for a shoot. You gotta figure out what camera settings work based on lighting, angles, where everyone's going to be, etc. All that and you must be prepared to adjust on the fly, particularly if the lighting changes. It's a process. Hopefully, she learned from it.

While paying twice more does not guarantee a better skill level, paying little on the other hand pretty much guarantees a low skill level...

No, but I mean for someone to accept money from clients for a job you expect a base competency level higher than the one apparently demonstrated here. It's like if I went to McDonald's, I wouldn't be expecting a gourmet burger, but I would expect the meat to be cooked.

she had no business defaming the individuals who were complaining legitimately about an extremely poor performance, regardless how "cheap" she was she should have delivered what she promised. If she is claiming to be a "professional" photographer, she should have acted professionally regardless of her price.

You are correct though, Maybe that could be a godsend to many of us, people might start recognizing the need for quality over "cheap", even though cost is not a definite guarantee to quality, but might make people reconsider their stance on putting low dollar pinching on one of the most important things on one of the most important days of their lives

It takes a unique person to work in the wedding industry and I found out I'm not one of them. My clients expressed their approval however the stress of it all was killing me. After only six weddings I bowed out of the game. I've worked with some wedding photographers who not only are talented but love every minute of it. My hats off to them!

I agree, I shoot weddings and I absolutely love it, but a lot of new photographers think it's going to be an easy day of floating around shooting happy people at a party. The reality is that as far as shoots go it's usually high energy, high emotion and its a very long day to remain both competent and creative. Todays wedding photographer is not your grandmothers wedding photographer, snapping a couple of shots of the bride walking down the aisle then a few group shots on the church steps. Then you have the days or weeks of post production and client liaison that comes with every shoot. There are a lot of things that can go wrong and your dealing with an end product that is very important to the client, if anything does go wrong there's usually no opportunity for a reshoot, no second chance and, as the photographer in the above article is finding out, can possibly mean the end of your career.

I completely empathize and agree with your entire comment Rob. I didn't think my very first wedding (alone) would be an easy day of floating around; however, I was not expecting just how cumbersome of a chore I was in store for. There was a time I found it both to be difficult and creative, as well.

I only have 1 wedding under my belt solo, but worked some weddings as a 2nd shooter beforehand; even that, I feel wasn't an adequate introduction to what was in store for me.

But, in the end, I did enjoy it and I am excited to shoot more weddings in the future. However, I can totally understand why some people don't like it....

As for the potential career ending move on the photographer's part.... At that age, I'm not convinced she took it as seriously as someone older and more focused on their goals would've taken it. Let's just hope that if she really does want to do photography, she can overcome it... Shit, she might even write a book about her growth as a photographer.

In the end, my client loved the pictures, but I still don't rest on any laurels...

In a word, it boils down to professionalism, or lack thereof. In my former life (before retirement), I use to spend a lot of time working with graduate and medical students on the topic of professionalism in science and medicine and how important it is.

I love shooting weddings , and have done so for 6 years, I agree with what you guys said that you have to show up on time as it was what you were paid to do, on my part I have showed up for work even I had a fever and not let my clients know, I feel one of the most simple ways to look at the above issue is to switch perspectives, and have your wedding photographer pull something like that on you and I feel everyone can relate when your the one paying for services. Btw our weddings here mostly start at 3-4 ( in the morning )

My opinion is, you get what you pay for. You go to the cheap you get cheap period. yes she did wrong but they did wrong too when they chose her. Do you think a photographer like that will have a good portfolio? Absolutely no. So I think they never looked or they didn't care when they looked at her portfolio. What about googling before hiring? So yes they got what they asked for.
From the photographer side, she shouldn't accept the job from the first place even if she is in real need for money. Weddings are one of the most if not the most difficult tasks in photography. Only prof photographers take on it. And I think she bit more than she can chew.
For people with no enough money, I advice them to go for friends and people who they know and ask them to do the job for them. I think there will be a lot of their friends with more ability to do that kind of job than that poor girl.
I blame them both.

'You get what you pay for' is an overrated phrase. Price does NOT make skill level. Example being, a QB that's a first round pick, who sucks. He's making top dollar, but he sucks. Tom Brady was a 6th round draft pick, and is now arguably the greatest QB ever.

My point here is people turn themselves into whatever they want to be. Whether they're making $10,000 or $100, that photographer should be working to the best of his/her ability, which comes from preparation and knowing your equipment and conditions of the shoot.

I started with low rates for shoots, because I wanted to put the pressure on myself to outperform the amount I was being paid. Sure, doing it this way means your first few clients will get a bargain. I chalk it up as short term loss for long term gain. It's easier to recover from undercharging and over performing than to overcharge and underperform.


This image is certainly salvageable. Invert and crop and it's usable.

That's not one of her shots.

LOL! Good one.

I charge between £500-£750 for a days wedding photography... I'm proud of my work and love doing it, so it isn't always as clean cut as saying you get what you pay for... Communication and planning is key!

That said, the work here is pretty damn bad, but equally, look at the couple... the guy looks miserable in the photos she did take and if they'd looked into here previous work, they'd have an idea of her technical ability.

Anyway, thought the statement on her facebook page which I found with a quick search might be of interest to some people, for the sake of hearing both sides of the story. Goes to illustrate that news sites (fstoppers included) are so quick to publish a sorry without any research.

This isn't me sticking up for the photographer AT ALL, just presenting more information....


As with many of these so called horror stories there's the other side of the story. In Chloe's case this means court judgements. This "story" sounds like it's been put about out of spite... For the sake of some balance here's Chloe's position (copied from her Facebook page). I have no connection with Chloe.
"My name is Chloe Johnston. Over the past 48 hours I have become a victim of defamation from a newlywed couple named Mr Paul Wheatley and Mrs Chareen Wheatley along with a company called Cater News Agency and a journalist called Joshua Saunders. This story has been online in a wide variety of websites along with being printed in a number of tabloid newspapers today - Wednesday 13th April 2016.
Over the past 48 hours I have been contacted by a variety of journalists who were interested in showcasing my side of the story. I’m writing this statement to show my side of the story… The real story. I do not wish to make slanderous claims, as this is what happened to me, all I wish to do is to get my story heard.
All the claims that have been made about me in newspapers such as The Sun, The Mirror, Daily Star (to name a few) have all been a false reflection of the events over the last few months. I have ample evidence to support my truth. Upon request I sent all of this evidence to Joshua Saunders before the story went public – to my horror, Saunders selectively chose statements that I gave him and twisted my story which was then published presenting me in a derogatory manner. This act has humiliated, devastated and shocked me as it is a complete act of defamation.
One of the claims mentioned in these press reports is how I was apparently “45 minutes late”. If I was 45 minutes late I wouldn’t have captured the bride getting ready. I also wouldn’t have captured the beginning of the wedding ceremony. I have written evidence of this along with the wedding photographs captured.
In addition to this claim the article shows photographs of me in their photobooth. However, the couple encouraged me to go into this photobooth as a memoir of their day and they wanted me to put these photos and a comment in their guestbook! I would NEVER have gone into the photobooth if they hadn’t encouraged me to.
Paul and Chareen received 276 photos, not the 15 they are claiming! As far as I was aware, they were over the moon with the photographs as you can see from the bride’s screenshot *see attached screenshot from the bride after seeing her preview shots*.
There is no evidence to support any of their claims in any of the articles that I have seen. I personally have over 150 screenshots of evidence that I am happy to showcase if necessary. This includes text messages, Facebook messages and video evidence. With this case Mr Wheatley did take me to court, and yes he did win but he only won through default. He won as sadly the County Court didn’t receive my mediation papers. I did send them out but of course post gets lost every day. I paid what was owed and assumed this would be a nasty chapter of my life that would be closed but, was I wrong indeed…
Mr Wheatley has harassed me, slandered me online and on some occasions waited outside my property (this has been going on since December 2015). I have contacted West Yorkshire Police in relation to Mr Wheatley for fear of my safety on various occasions, sadly as all this slander has been committed online there’s not much they can do due to laws surrounding Facebook.
There is a lot of information about Mr Paul Wheatley that hasn’t been made public to the press. On Wednesday 6th April 2016 I attended a court hearing at Leeds County Court where I successfully won a case against Mr Wheatley, this was a case involving fraud that he tried to commit in relation to his case against me, but he was caught before he could do so. This is currently being processed through Leeds County Court, and I am happy to make this a public matter once I have documentation from Leeds County Court.
I can’t put into words the hell I’ve been living over the past 48 hours… I’m here today to make a stand against cyber-bulling and to support anyone that has been in a similar situation. What has happened to me has ruined my life, business and mental wellbeing. Luckily I have incredibly understanding employers who are supporting me through this terrible experience. If this happened to another person, they may not have been as lucky with their employers.
Don’t believe everything you read in the papers, there’s three sides to every story their side, my side and the truth. I’m not here to create a story of my own I am here to show evidence and reveal the truth.
If you’ve ever been affected by cyber-bullying you’re not alone, sadly this is something that happens every day in this world but you are stronger than you think. Stay strong, stay positive, and seek legal advice as I have done.
If any journalists would like to get in contact with me to see my evidence and hear the true story, please feel free to do so.
For anyone reading this please share this, the amount of coverage an incorrect story has received is unfair."

THANK YOU. Even if her story is crap, calling her "photographer from hell" is just ridiculous.

It doesn't really sit right with me that there are stories being published calling this girl "photographer from hell", without even considering her side of what happened, or the extent of the personal backlash she is facing because of how she's been portrayed in media.

as much as i love fstoppers, it makes me feel pretty bad that they are promoting tabloid stories like these that turn out to be false, further ensuring the destruction of a photographer's career who is just trying to get by as the rest of us.
Fstoppers is supposed to be a place free of cyber-bullying

this is just another reason i hate doing weddings and try not too (i am trying not too so hard its been two years since i did one, yes i feel the burn of less money, but i am much happier with out the stress) i much prefer kids parties or anniversaries, family portraits, things like that, and even then i gave up on making money on that , now i am shooting for myself for the sake of shooting and making something i can be happy with and not stressed if i did it right or got the right shot. But i am not knocking all you people who do it more power to you and kudos to you for being able to handle it

Rather than just up-voting the above posts, I would also like to state that I don't believe it's in fStoppers interest to continue jumping on viral stories like these in the future.

It appears that this young lady has been seriously defamed and hasn't been given a fair chance to tell here story, and when she has, many are simply dismissing it just like the media outlets did... TO SELL PAPERS!

@Lee and Team - you're better than stooping to this and believe me: it's the new, new trend to be ethical. ;)

Okay fine... but in all fairness.... anyone can see her portfolio PRIOR to hiring her... you get what you pay for IMO

Viewing her portfolio only works if it is actually her work and it seems that there is debate over some of the work on her site being "borrowed", accidentally or otherwise, from other sources.

yeah, but... even the 'borrowed' photos suck!

After reading this, I now believe wedding photography should be outlawed. It's just too dangerous. It's the only way to protect all parties involved. ;0)

<**choose font - sarcastica**> I don't know if it should be outlawed, as a wedding photographer i worry about how this would affect my business, but I think we should all agree on an exact number of photos that can be shot at a wedding (no more, no less), a list of all the shots and no one should deviate from it, a common editing style (for that year at least) and a set price world wide... that would make these debates much easier.

Good points Rob. I think it's a lot like the real estate business - a "caveat emptor" type of situation. Actually I thought most photographers will give the client a range of promised usable shots in situations like this. For instance, I've taken senior portraits and engagement photos where I do that, so I'm not sure as to why there was a question there. The bottom line is photographers should not misrepresent themselves (if that's indeed what happened) and customers need to have realistic expectations. If you want $3000 grade wedding pics, you need to pay for them. I think we can all agree the better shooters command a higher price.

I had to shoot a wedding the day after my mom's funeral. You might think that was difficult, but it wasn't. I showed up on time, and got caught up in this couple starting a new life together, and it actually cheered me up enough to briefly forget my own sadness.

Those that shoot weddings, and enjoy it, know that it's work, but also fun to be a part of that big party, where everyone seems so happy. Of course, it pays to choose your clients wisely. I mostly shot younger couples, who wanted a traditional, but fun wedding.

Too few amateur photographers appreciate that there are no retakes and screwing up the wedding photography for a bride and groom and their families is something that is not recoverable and something the bride will think about for the rest of her life when thinking about her wedding. Too many people think it will be fun and a way to make money on the side as though they were delivering pizza to an event. I recommend to all brides that they review the actual work product of a photographer before hiring them and to never rely on the person's website as the images presented there are at best a cherry picked assortment that do not and cannot reflect accurately how well the photographer will cover all the photographic aspects of the day. Many photographers of limited skill will pretend to be PJ as though that lets them off the hook for not knowing how to use flash properly or pose people for key pictures. Equally bad are the people with one camera and one flash and two or three lenses that think they are ready to photograph a wedding and hope that nothing malfunctions. They are being completely irresponsible. Unfortunately although the person who did the bride's hair and the person who did her nails and the person driving the limo all had to be trained and certified in some manner but the wedding photographer has no such requirement so it is very much a buyer beware situation.