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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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.

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.

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.

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.

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...

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.

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.

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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