Two Sides of the Story: Newlyweds Upset with Wedding Photographer

Over the last week, a story unfolded about a newlywed couple in Dallas upset with the services they received from their wedding photographer, Andrea Polito. A few days ago, Polito issued an open letter to share her side of the story. This story serves as a lesson and caution to all wedding photographers to consider when handling clients and business dealings.

This story and alleged wrongdoing has made its way into mainstream media and was broadcasted on NBC in Dallas. The couple claims to have paid Polito more than $6,000 for their wedding coverage. In their package, they were to receive a "40 page 8.5x12 storybook album with up to 80 images." This seems to be where the breakdown of communication started, as Polito told them they needed to order the album cover at an additional cost. The lowest cost for the album cover would be $150 which upset the couple, and they felt like they had been scammed. The couple wouldn't receive any of their full-resolution images until the album design was complete, thus they felt Polito was holding their images "hostage."

This week, Polito gave her side of the story which can be read in full on her website. Polito shares her policies and commitment to serving her clients. Her policies are like many other wedding photographers in this industry. This story and the media attention that it has drawn is an important lesson for all to learn. Polito, like so many other small businesses, has put great efforts into building a reputation and thriving company. This story has made headlines, and whether you believe she is in the right or the wrong, it should serve as a caution to all wedding photographers.

Make sure your policies are fair and in the form of a contract, and it is ideal to have a lawyer run through your contracts every couple of years. Communication always seems to be the underlying problem in these unfortunate situations, so always be transparent with your clients.

[via NBC & Andrea Polito]

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49 Comments

Reese Avanessian's picture

Thanks for sharing, wow...just wow.

michael buehrle's picture

i would assume like the couple did that the album would come with a cover. if they wanted an upgrade then that would be extra. i gotta believe that now that this is out and in the news she is not booking many 6k weddings right now. she should just eat the cover price (we all know its only a fraction of the 150) and just finish the deal. no way this can help her business. it doesn't matter who is right or wrong, in this case she should make it go away asap.

Jason Ranalli's picture

I read the photographer's lengthy explanation on her website and while she makes clear mention of not releasing the final images until the wedding album is complete and payed for(which I agree with) she makes no mention of this cover issue nor it's involvement or placement in their contract.

I'm not a wedding photographer and while the couple went overboard I don't see the photographer posting any strong evidence that this cover situation was mentioned clearly in the contract. If it wasn't, this comes off as a really tacky pricing strategy. She would have been better off charging $7K for the entire wedding and thrown the album cover in for free because look what this ended up costing her.

For the record I'm for anyone charging as much as they can - but the customer has to walk away feeling good about it...this rings true for ANY business.

Chet Meyerson's picture

Ummm. it's PAID for, not payed.

Edited: Can I break 20 down votes on this?

Charles Diaz's picture

A comma after "Ummm" instead of a period. That way the failure of not capitalizing "It's" wouldn't be so bad. Lighten up.

Matthew Tapson's picture

On that note, and in support of grammar correction in general, the double negative in your second sentence reads wrong. More correct would be: "That way, the failure to capitalise.." (British English). All in lightness of heart. No offence given or meant.

That said, if you are going to correct someone else's grammar, best to be sure that yours doesn't need the same treatment...

Charles Diaz's picture

Lighten up.

Matthew Tapson's picture

Charles, I must apologise. Rereading my previous comment, it does come across as a bit snotty. What I was trying to do was comment on the irony of how seldom someone correcting someone else's grammar in forums like these gets their own grammar/spelling or whatever right. As in the comment you responded to. Posts like those always give me a laugh.. Anyway, like I said, no offence intended.

Charles Diaz's picture

No offence taken. :>)

John Sheehan's picture

I really want to hear what wedding photographers have to say about this. Is it common practice to charge extra for an album cover like this?

Mark Matthews's picture

No….. My first time even hearing of this in the 28 years of being in the industry.

J.R. Clubb's picture

No way. Terrible idea as you can see.

Robert madrid's picture

What it simply comes down to is, is it written on the contract and her terms and agreement. There are standard covers for any type of book(s) and then there are upgrades. The photographer should have been upfront with that part of the contract or when she discussed how the album process worked in her pitch. And plus, she got paid 6k+, come on, give them their album....

Mister Mike's picture

She never said it was explicitly in the contract, she said it was a-la-carte. (Who makes an basic cover a-la-carte!?) She said that it's in the album order form, which leads me to believe that it's AFTER the contract, especially b/c it seems like if it were done before the wedding, then it would have been tacked on to the contract with the rest of the bundle. Who orders an album options beforehand?!

She claims she does it b/c things can change in the time between booking the wedding and ordering the album, but with that logic, you wouldn't offer an album at all, b/c the cover isn't the most expensive part.

There are too many discrepancies between the blog post, email she sent to the "journalist" and what the couple reported. No matter how many times hear this story presented, and read the blog post, I can't help but feel like the photographer is getting what she deserves.

Anonymous's picture

So she tried to make another nickle, and it's going to cost her dearly. Album cover is extra? Oh, you want a steering wheel with your car? Very bad form. For her to quibble with her client over $150, particularly for such an understandable misunderstanding is ridiculous, and certainly not good business.

Percy Ortiz's picture

what? cars do not come with steering wheels? :O

Edgar Maivel's picture

...

Andrew K.'s picture

Don't see how this is a publicity stunt... no one will ever want to hire Ms. Polito after this fiasco. She sounds like an awful business-person.

Chris Adval's picture

As I said on another site, and tweeted to her buddy defending her... he should already have had an option that was already included into the $6k costs, like 3-5 "standard" album covers, if they want to upgrade to much higher end you simply add the cost... People will assume all books comes with a book cover, even if she said on her contract an album cover is an additional cost, she should have the option of no cost album covers... It's that simple. I do have a lot less experience than she does in wedding photography, but if I would to hire a wedding photographer I'd expect my album to come with a cover, even pre-determined selection of material in case we decide not to go all super fancy high end and get a $1000 add-on for the cover.

J. Malonson's picture

I hate everything about this story.

I hate the way the local news is so outraged (holding their precious memories hostage....) and in such a rush to educate the public to the "danger" with a completely one sided "investigative" report. The local news TV station's blind forwarding of a disgruntled client's agenda both on air (and then the viral online component) was and is hugely irresponsible. They basically ruined the reputation and perhaps the business of a 10 year pro over a $150 add on charge. The comments on the nbcdfw.com website under the video...the hate...amazing. Staggering, really.

The TV station has allowed the photogs side of the story, a side I am inclined to believe. (the damage is already done...and this is more of a written rehash of the original story with no viral video....and a statement from Polito's attorney)

http://www.nbcdfw.com/investigations/Photographer-Who-Charged-Extra-for-...

I suggest if you're a wedding photographer, look over your contract. Be specific about exactly what and exactly when you deliver. Put in a section concerning how disputes are handled and settled. Be beyond specific about what is and what is not acceptable behavior. Bashing on Social media? no. A "one star" review on an industry wide site? no. The local news? hell no. If there's a problem, you deal with me, and I'll go out of my way to fix it. If you're not satisfied and it's less than 1000 dollars, small claims court. If they balk, they walk. A client should not get to destroy your business (a business that carries YOUR NAME, can you imagine?) by boo hooing as loud as possible in the middle of the street over a hundred and fifty dollar charge that I'm confident was explained to them beforehand.

If I didn't have those behavioral safeguards in place, and I found myself in her position, I'd get the best lawyer I could afford and sue the snot out of those clients.

Percy Ortiz's picture

Well that escalated quickly… and over $150 dollars? I seriously doubt not a single bride has ever complained or questioned having to pay extra for an album cover, but lets assume this is the first time out of her 600 past clients. That is less than 0.25% of your clients and those $150 dollars are peanuts compared not only to the amount charged for this particular wedding but also to all the potential revenue lost because of the bad publicity generated by this story.
To me the real lesson here is not only to be clear and transparent when it comes to dealing with your clients specially when it comes to money and extra charges but also to know and learn to recognise when it is time to cut your loses and move on.
It's the principle i hear you say, well the principle is not going to put food on your table or a roof over your head. Yes i know money is not everything and money doesn't buy you happiness but it does certainly calm the nerves ;)

John Maciel's picture

While I feel for Andrea, and hope she's not being beaten up by this too badly.. it's an important lesson... the $150 (retail) price is a small amount to pay to keep out of the press in a bad way.. You are in the field of customer service... They payed $6k, and you're arguing about $150.. that's just a really stupid PR failure.. eat it and talk about it to your photo friends later, now look at the poopstorm swirling around her...

Erick Rodriguez's picture

Poopstorm indeed...

Roland Baker's picture

If this goes to court the photographer will loose. The contract will the the legally binding document that the judge will base the decision on. Along with any court fees and additional damages a judge decides to allow, this will be the most expensive $150 the photographer has ever earned. Reputation damage is unmeasurable. Lesson - put it in your contract, otherwise it does not exist.

Howard Moore's picture

I am new, as a professional photographer. I am a retired Business Manager in a completely different business (28 years). I worked for a major national manufacture helping our customers, small business owners.

To me, this issue is irrelevant to photography and/or wedding albums. As the article concludes "Make sure your policies are fair and in the form of a contract, and it is ideal to have a lawyer run through your contracts every couple of years." That's the LEGAL side. I'm not an attorney. However, I'm confident Polito doesn't have a leg to stand on. In addition, as a business person, she is making a HUGE mistake. This is elementary level business. How much money, time, effort do we all put into marketing our business. This album cover is 2-1/2% of the overall cost. I can only imagine how much $ she will loose over this.

Vladimir Ladev's picture

Well it's the photographer's fault in this one, and now she has a 150$ anti-marketing spot on the news, rather than letting go and updating her contract.

Reese S's picture

Some things you guys should probably know...

There are people close to Andrea that have had her photograph their weddings that have said that the contract clearly states that the cover will cost additional money. I believe this has something to having to order a custom cover for the album so far out and not knowing whether or not the cover they want will be in stock. I don't claim to know much about contracts or the photography business in general, so I won't focus on that part that much...

However,

Once the photographer, Andrea, realized the couple was upset about the $150.00 cover issue, she emailed them letting them know that she had no problem waving the fee, and apologized for the confusion. A few days later, the couple STILL took this story to the press, stating that they hadn't heard from her. Lie 1.

The couple claims to have never received their photos, however, the bride currently has images on her blog from their wedding ceremony with Andrea Polito's logo on the front of them. This is even after her attempts to run her business into the ground. Lie 2.

The woman who stirred up all this trouble is a "social media expert. She owns a social media consulting firm. Once the story broke, she proceeded to gloat about this on her Twitter and Facebook accounts, posting, things such as "Justice has been served" and "Her business has been ruined now". She had no problem with the thought of Andrea's being cyber-bullied or threatened. The couple even "liked" some of the comments on Facebook and Yelp in which someone made references to physically harming Andrea. They then tried to claim that someone had made fake accounts in their names. However, the accounts had been active for 5+ years with numerous reviews. Lie 3.

The self-proclaimed social media expert plagiarized the majority of her marketing website. And she probably would have gotten away with it. However, because she stirred up so much trouble, the blogging community put two and two together and realized she had blatantly stole entire pages of content from another marketing website. When caught, she tried to remove the content. The problem is, the internet never forgets. Lie 4.

If I had to choose a side to believe, I'm more inclined to believe that Andrea was, in fact ,the victim here. Which is really crazy because I used to be a fan of A Complete Waste of Makeup and had at one point purchased ad space from her.

The sad part is the bride went to the press attempting to gain her 15 seconds of fame and drive more traffic to her blog, however, she only succeeded in destroying not only an extremely talented and kind woman's reputation, but her own in under 10 minutes.

What she did was pretty deplorable, but I do feel sorry for her. She's literally gone into hiding and potentially now has two lawsuits pending against her. That is a terrible way to start off a marriage. But I feel absolutely terrible for Andrea, to have worked so hard for 10 years, and have her reputation and business destroyed overnight, even after she went above and beyond to try to rectify the situation is pretty terrible.

This just goes to show you that what's done in the dark, will eventually come into the light.

But that's just my two cents ;)

Henry Louey's picture

"There are people close to Andrea that have had her photograph their weddings that have said that the contract clearly states that the cover will cost additional money. "

I've followed pretty much every news item on this story and this is my issue. If what you say is true (and as claimed by Polito) how is it the only documentation/contract makes no mentions of these extra charges?

Also the Donnie Brown saying "if he knew it was Polito he wouldn't have done the story piece"

Again this just doesn't sound right. If Brown did know Polito as well as he claims he would be intimate with her pricing structure. I would have expected he would have said something like

"Oh you must be talking about Amy Polito! I knows it's her since I I have such a close relationship with her. And the cover charge (pub intended) is definitely listed as a separate item"

To say he didn't know it was her. Sorry but how can you know someone closely (in a business sense) and not know about her charging practices. Wouldn't a wedding planner make it his/her business to know what is charged for every line item?

There is fault on both sides here but on the balance, Polito should have waived the charge when 1st raised and saw it as a (cheap) lesson to have everything in writing.

No winners here. On either side

Alexis Cuarezma's picture

my biggest issue with this is Andrea refusing to talk to the reporter. They reached out to her & she didn't want to meet with them. I get it if she doesn't want to filmed or on air because she's "private", but you she could still have met with them (asked to not be filmed), explained EVERYTHING and demonstrated to them why the bride was wrong. Had she had done that and in addition showed them the email where she said she would waive the cover fee for her the story may have not even aired. BUT she refused to meet with them and instead just sent them a pretty generic email. The TV news station tried to reach out to her & get her side of the story but the Andrea declined. Not sure why... I can only sit here and speculate. I don't understand why anyone would pass up the opportunity to give your point of view.

Michael Shawn's picture

I think its just a bad practice to sell a cover separately. Maybe a cover upgrade, but either way I think in the future she should make them initial that part if its in the contract.

Michael Brinkerhoff's picture

I agree this is a bad business practice. Include the cover in the price. If they want additional pages, cover upgrades leave that up to the client when you present it to them. Holding someones photos is just bad business. Photos have been paid for. Deliver what they paid for. Deal with the wedding album issue separately.

To be fair to the photographer, I've had clients blow up and it was usually over things that were mentioned in a consultation and were not stressed enough for the client to remember. I read the photographers open letter and its a nice one but its time to retire some old school crappy practices.

What the hell is an archive fee? You copy the images from your archive server/hard drives and work on them from there. Freaking $250 to do that is ridiculous. Perhaps I'm running my business incorrectly and should charge a "Changing my lens on my camera fee" $100 for every lens change. Five Lens changes with every wedding package. I would make a lot more money that way right? I guess this is what its like to be in the $6k wedding package market. /end rant LOL

Bavarian DNA's picture

After I read her side of the story and the bride side. I must say that I don't have the full truth of what gone wrong there, but I must say that the bride is so cruel taking it this way. If I have a misunderstanding with someone, I would do my best to resolve it quietly, especially if I know that I'm dealing with a small business. I would've thought about it as if it's me on the other side. But I guess this is only me. The client wasn't fair here, but also the photographer might have something to do with it.

Ralph Hightower's picture

Perhaps Polito should just buy an album from Walmart and slap some photos in there fro Bridezilla.

christian lacasse's picture

I have to agree 100% with the clients here. Not in the contract. 6,000$+ in services. It says it includes an album... please give them an album (it does have covers). And a nice one too.

Charles Diaz's picture

Photographing a wedding would scare the cheese doodles out of me. Only those with extremely strong skill sets and the courage of a lion should attempt it. I'll stick to birds as they cannot sue... not yet anyway. This photographer is going to see her business crater with all the free (bad) advertising she's just gotten.

jason armond's picture

You have to be very clear when it comes to wedding contracts. I know a lot of wedding photographer friends that have been in similar situations. I have also been in them as well. Especially when it comes down to the wedding album process. The album process can be very complicated. There can be hundreds of options and upgrades. A lot of money is made on album upgrades after the wedding. The thing is the client and the photographer need to be on the same page on what is included in the package cost and what will be additional after the wedding.

jason armond's picture

Having signed contract and having a lawyer look it over will cover you legally, most of the times. But when a reasonable person looks at the situation, it can still damage the reputation of your company. Also if the client takes you to small court a judge can throw out a unreasonable contract. I have seen it done when it comes to wedding photos. There are ways to handle problems and not let them get to this point.

Ellen Steele's picture

Just read the "open letter" on her blog site. IMHO She did not do herself any favors by writing it. I found it to be a long-winded, whiny and unprofessional attempt at self-martyrdom. Every unfortunate situation-regardless of how justified we may feel on our end-carries the opportunity for learning. I hope she can learn something from this, but the tone of her blog makes me suspect she lacks the humility necessary to do so.

Anthony Woodruffe's picture

The pitfalls of a contract.

Ralph Berrett's picture

I think there are a couple of basic issues here.
1, The contract should have listed the cover's cost. Does not matter how manny times the shooter explained this.

2. I have a feeling that the photographer does not deal well with conflict. She tends to send emails instead of picking up the phone or arranging a meeting. My personal guess if she had talked to the bride instead of sending emails this would have been resolved in 15 minutes or less.

3. When a TV station is trying to get your side of the story you do not send a lengthy email and say you don't have time for them. You call them and arrange for an interview and even if have get your butt down to the TV station. Sending the email was just plain stupid and again it says the photographer does not deal with conflict in person well.

4. Last that open letter on the photographers site needs to go. There are so many issues with it is ridiculous.

Even if the shooter was dealing with Bridezila from hell the shooter needed to make a call then send a follow up email. Emails alone were like pouring petrol on a fire. The communication issue is what caused this ant hill to become a mountain.

Andrew K.'s picture

It's because of awful policies like the ones Ms. Polito employs, that many photographers are labeled as money-grubbing scammers.

I despise photographers who hold client photos hostage like this. If you can't set reasonable price tiers that give your clients access to all of their files, in plain/clear English, then you shouldn't be in this business.

Paulo Macedo's picture

My contracts here where i live, not US, are different, so no danger of getting my ass sued for spilling coffee into my own shoes. I focus the contract on the way the client pays for the job, either he/her pays full or pays 50% to book the job and 50% on delivery.
Thing is, my client would be informed (to detail) of what it gets, from picture size , album, backup warranties and all the things behind this.

/* EDIT */

I know me english today is not understandable! Damn portuguese patch...

chris van winkle's picture

What a dumb business person. an album includes a cover. I would never treat a customer like this or nickel and dime them. Do the album pages come bound...? of course the do. The photographer should fix their contract as well as whats included on the package details.

Robert Taylor's picture

Just to try and add some context as to why covers might be classed as an extra. Prior to wedding books and coffee table albums, the albums provided for weddings were matted albums made up from pages, prints, overlays (mattes) and covers which were assembled by the photographer. We would stock the pages and a range of different overlays, but not the covers as, unlike modern albums, there were hundreds of different cover option, each priced individually. The cost of covers varied vastly and most photographers provided them at or near cost price, allowing the couple to choose how much they wanted to spend on it. For this reason, the cover was usually supplied as an extra cost as it was the one part of the process that varied dramatically in price.

It's not clear what type of album is being supplied but choosing the cover at the time of choosing the images for the album may account for why the cost of the cover is an extra. If you were to include the cost of the cover in the main price, you would need to account for the most expensive one which, while potentially improving profits, doesn't provide fairness to your clients.

Ruan Cowley's picture

ooooh...this is bad. I am a wedding photographer and I am sorry, but the photographer is in the wrong here. Everything I charge my clients for is in the contract. If I left something out, I carry the cost. The couple did go a bit overboard though...but maybe they didn't have a choice.

Digital Village's picture

wow, for 6 grand I would throw that album cover in for free, especially since it wasn't mentioned in the contract, I believe in making my clients happy first.

Anonymous's picture

Yup. Me too! How ever did this photographer earn wedding contracts? This cannot be typical of how she deals with clients or she would not be in business at all. Who is right and who is wrong is beside the point. From a business point of view making a stand on this matter was just stupid. Now she has a serious damage limitation problem. And all over a (in context) measly 150 dollars.

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