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Photographer Photoshopped Wedding Pictures to Make Bride Skinnier Against Her Wishes, Claims to Have Now Deleted the Original Files

A couple who spent $4,000 ($2,500 US) dollars on their dream wedding photographer were left shocked upon receiving the pictures of their big day back, as it became apparent the bride had been slimmed down in all of the images. The photos were retouched to slim down her face, arms, and breasts.

The newlywed Leathwicks, based in New Zealand, hired photographer Mike Sheng to take pictures of their wedding in November last year. They tell TVNZ’s Fair Go channel that on the day, everything went as planned.

He was really, really professional. He knew exactly what shots he wanted. He knew exactly how to talk to us into acting natural — everything a photographer should do.

However, upon downloading their images, the pair noticed that while groom Andrew was mostly untouched, bride Irene had been digitally manipulated; her figure was smaller, her waist pulled in. Recalling the moment she first saw the photos, she quotes herself as saying to her husband: "I haven't been that skinny since I was 10."

The couple claim they had not previously talked about any retouching of that nature with Sheng. Upon contacting him to discuss their unhappiness with the images, they say they were told he had too many clients and didn’t have time to fix the situation. Since then, Sheng has claimed to have deleted all of the original files and says it would take too long to edit the already retouched images. The couple has received two of the final 60 images and have been blocked by Sheng. He also hasn’t responded to any attempts at contact by Fair Go and took down his website, which included false claims about his photographic ranking in New Zealand.

The Leathwicks are now considering court action.

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Reginald Walton's picture

What photographer doesn't keep their RAW files?

Daniel Haußmann's picture

Agree. I mean he does not need to keep them forever. But at least until the clients have "signed-off" the work. Plus he should not just have one copy of the files in first place ...

Shaun Maluga's picture

It is most likely an excuse to try and get out of modifying the images. Or he actually deleted them out of protest when they complained. I also wonder if the retouching was outsourced and as a result, restoring the liquefy may mean having to re-commission/retouch everything.

Tony Clark's picture

This illustrates how important communication is in the process. It doesn't matter what genre one is shooting, you ask your client about their expectations and what they want delivered. He no longer has the RAW files? What pro doesn't have at least two matching sets on hand? This is my archive from '02 through this week including Time Machine and the matching set is offsite.

Daris Fox's picture

Far cheaper solution, Synology NAS and it's own, free, system restore/back up utilities. It even supports time machine and NAS-to-NAS back up for off-site back up. Currently sitting on nearly 35Tb of images and video spanning 20 years.

Black Z Eddie .'s picture

If the couple does consider court action, I hope they win.

That photographer needs to work on his workflow. And, communication and professionalism.

Looking at his website, not in a million years I would have guessed these two photos were taken by the same photographer.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Lol. Why would anyone pick the second picture for his website? To show that he’s able to capture both under- and overbite in one shot?..

Lino Paul's picture

I wonder how much time he spent on editing every single image where bride in it 🤔

user 65983's picture

Who in the heck wears jeans to a wedding? That's super nonprofessional.

Simon Patterson's picture

Maybe it's normal in New Zealand, or in that area? It's a pretty casual place.

Ngaere Woodford's picture

No not normal for NZ, jeans are a no go!

Paul Wilson's picture

Well that's bs. You have no idea what you're talking about. Depends on the wedding.

Erpillar Bendy's picture


EXkurogane Blog's picture

This is standard practice is Asia. If you don't fix face /body issues in editing, even if you were not asked to, most of the time you'll get negative feedback as a photog. "Bad photog, he can't make me look prettier in photos". If it's darker skin you also need to whitewash it slightly. Just slightly. No, I'm not kidding. It's standard practice here. You don't do it, you're gonna lose business.

Meanwhile in the west it's the exact opposite. "I'm fat and I'm proud of it - you don't fix my face / body without my permission because body positivity blah blah blah"

How about discuss what needs to be done because everyone have their own preferences

Tomas Ramoska's picture

I'm 100% with you. You want to have customers you need to make bride perfect even if you have to liquify your images. This is normal.

Timothy Gasper's picture

Well, deleted files ARE retrievable, but that's not the main issue. What kind of Moron pulls this kind of stunt without talking with the clients first? On a side note....when I photographed weddings, back in the good-ole film days, I always wore a nice shirt and tie. Tie was removed at the reception for more comfort. Glad the 'wedding days' are over.

Simon Patterson's picture

Back when I started as a civil engineer in the 90s, I used to wear a nice shirt and tie, too. I'm still working as a civil engineer, but now anything more upmarket than jeans feels like I'm overdressing. If I wore a tie, people would ask if I was going to a funeral! Times have changed...

Timothy Gasper's picture

Yes times have changed. My times for weddings was late 60's to late 70's. Then I changed venues. Today if I were ever to shoot a wedfing I would confer with the bride and groom to see how they wanted me to 'fit' in. Things have changed so much from those days.

Richard (Rick) Langlois's picture

Photog showed very bad form. They shouldn't have to pay if he can't make it right.

Ngaere Woodford's picture

Guy sounds like a total POS. And They were only getting 60 images for $4k...WHAT?

Ngaere Woodford's picture

Is it this bloke?

ioan ionut's picture

Recover the deleted files from the memory cards and from the drive. Softweres this days they are strong. Worth the try to wash some of the shame.

C Fisher's picture

Deleting your own website is a pretty big admission of guilt 🤣 Why you hiding?

Lara Winter's picture

There are facts missing from this article.

The couple requested raw images from the photographer as part of their package. Red flag. Most wedding photographers would refuse to give raws. A lot of photographers will turn away couples who ask for this.

The couple claim to be photographers and have their own photography website. They claim to shoot at weddings themselves. They wrote a scathing blog post on Mike Sheng. Their entire website has been pulled down now - why? Why was this not mentioned on the TV show?

They claim that the groom's father is an excellent photographer. It turns out that he is a decent photographer, but in landscapes.

Things do not add up and I feel like Mike is being unfairly dragged through the media here.

If they don't have raws, how did they get the before and after images?

Do people not realise that criticising this photographer for not immediately knowing that western people don't like being photoshopped is quite racist?

He is an Asian photographer who mostly works with Chinese couples flying into NZ. Chinese couples expect every image to be photoshopped. This is pretty clear in his work to be honest. He (possibly) doesn't know some unwritten cultural difference and this happens?

Why didn't they go for a natural photographer?

He is an editorial style photographer. Perhaps there has been a miscommunication but there is more to the story and I believe that he does not deserve what he is getting here from a couple who have omitted some pretty big things from their story.

Rhonda Taylor's picture

Hi Lara, kiwi here and I saw this on TV. The story said that the couple received some preview low res images, that doesn't have photoshop applied. So I don't think they have to have the raws to get before and after pics. Hope that helps clarify.

Robert Ostrowski's picture

I'm no pro, barely an amateur really, but i have multiple backups of all my files, so for a "pro", it sounds like a bunch of BS

Scott Nichols's picture

I don't know what's worse - his unwanted retouching or his choice in white balance adjustments...

Mary-Anne Delaney's picture

I live in the US. For the life of me, I can’t understand what the problem is. If you make us look younger, skinnier and prettier on our wedding day, we will recommend you to every person that we know. Her looks were not changed that much. Almost unnoticeable. When your you hire an avant-garde photographer, be grateful he didn’t have you flying over the trees (which still would have been great). Relax. This is not a wedding photographer horror story. You look beautiful. Be happy.

Chris Leis's picture

It's very simple, they paid $2400 and didn't get the photos they signed up for.

Also, don't generalize for all Americans, we're not all that vain.

Curtis Randall's picture

I agree to this

Ryan Davis's picture

Most of us probably are that vain.

Scott Nichols's picture

Because so much of this could have been avoided with even the smallest amount of communication. Some people like the way they look, so to retouch in that fashion assumes (and perhaps even conveys) that there is something wrong with how they look in the first place. When I had portraits taken, the photographer asked me if I wanted retouching. It takes either 10 seconds of asking the couple, or you just put it as a checkbox on your order form/contract.

Spy Black's picture

"Photographer Photoshopped Wedding Pictures to Make Bride Skinnier Against Her Wishes, Claims to Have Now Deleted the Original Files"

So what? Just Photoshop her back to being fat. Pretty straightforward...