(Closed) Our Former Photographer Wants to Sue Over Engagement Pics?

posted 5 years ago in Photos/Videos
Post # 3
1420 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2014 - Turf Valley

Do you have anywhere in writing which states that you may use the photos on social media, etc?  Did you crop out a watermark?  I can see her point about Instagram if you had limited rights to the photos (like no rights to modify or reproduce).  

If there was no contract stating how much you owed to her, then there is no basis in court for her to demand an additional $150 from you.  I would just stop communicating with her entirely.  It is doubtful anything comes from this, but keep copies of any receipts, bank withdrawals, checks, etc you made/gave to her.  I would take the photos off of Instagram/FB and/or credit her in the comments/photo description.  But it might just be easier to remove them so she has less to fuss about.

Post # 4
2945 posts
Sugar bee
  • Wedding: May 2014

Unfortunatly, for the instagram stuff, she is right.  They are her picutres unless she sent you a release saying that she gives you the rights to them, signed.  Pictures unfortunatly don’t belong to the people in them, they belong to the person who pressed the button on the camera.  I don’t see anything stating she signed a copywrite relase to you, so at that point, you don’t have distrabution rights.  If she did sign a relase, you have the rights to do what ever you want.

This is why contracts are so important going into this process.  It’s a bit too late for you for the engagement photos, but I would not do any further business with this lady and find a proffesional that will give you a full contract up front.  The contract should include if the photographer releases their copywrite to you.  This was very important to my Fiance and I, and we turned down two photographers that would cost extra or would not sign over their copy write to us.

Post # 5
774 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: October 2013 - Dalhousie Castle

Did you sign anything? If not then she probably doesn’t have a leg to stand on in court. If you did, pay her what the contract says you owe and walk away.

If she willing gave you the pictures with no small print as to how they can be used, then she handed them over to you then I believe that those copies at least are yours to do with as you want. 

Tell her you are willing to settle it in smalls claims court if necessary. I bet she will back down. Don’t give her any more money though. Sounds like she is trying to take advantage, what a horrible experience sorry! 

Post # 6
1814 posts
Buzzing bee
  • Wedding: May 2013 - Pavilion overlooking golf course scenery, reception at banquet hall

So… was there ever a contract signed by both parties? Pretty sure if she sues she won’t get anything from you other than to make you take the photos down off whatever website you uploaded them to. If you made money off of them that’s a different story, but it sounds like an elaborate cease and desist.

Post # 7
3941 posts
Honey bee
  • Wedding: October 2011

Yah, you don’t owe her any money but she is right about the Instagram thing.  Although I doubt she will go forward with anything, she holds the copyright to the pictures and you aren’t allowed to alter them in any way shape or form.

Post # 8
7357 posts
Busy Beekeeper
  • Wedding: October 2014

You don’t have to sign anything for a contract to be valid and enforcable; because you paid her for some previous services and continued to use her services, some courts could accept that as an implicit contract. The lack of something written and a signature might not be enough to protect you against a small claims matter.  Consider the situation where you hire a friendor to make your wedding cake; you discuss the cake, maybe even do a tasting, and agree to a price. There’s never anything in writing. The day of the wedding, the friendor shows up with the cake. If you were to refuse to pay, you’d have a hard time winning in court. This is more complicated because services were only partially rendered (if she hadn’t decided to get out of the business and did complete your wedding, you wouldn’t have a legal defense if you didn’t want to pay, despite lack of written contract).

 It really depends on the contract law in your state, and unfortunately you’re probably not going to get real legal advice here on the internet.  

My advice would be to comply with her request to remove her photos from Instagram and Facebook and anywhere else you’ve posted them, and offer to pay half of the $150 she is seeking. Require that, if she accepts this, both parties sign a “no further payments, services or claims” statement.  In my book, $75 is a very small price to pay to not have to fuss with this situation any more (and a cheap price for a good life lesson).

Post # 10
6586 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: September 2012

Sounds like a hot mess all the way around. 

Without a contract, neither of you really have a leg to stand on for anything. The only thing she can do is not allow you to use the photos, because legally, she owns the copyright. I’m assuming she did not give you a signed print release, so technically, you can’t use them on social media or print them.  However, it’s a two way street, becuase even though she owns them, without a signed model release from you, she can’t put them on her website. 

I know it gets beaten to death around here, but it’s another expample of how cheap prices are a huge red flag for a newbie photographer. Charging $850 for a whole wedding + extras is not a figure that a legit professional can sustain a business on. It also means that disasters like this happen, because you’ve got an inexperienced person who doesn’t require a contract and keeps changing the terms of your agreement. Essentially what has happened is she has most likely burned out and is now closing up shop. 

I would remove any/all photos from your instagram and facebook, and wherever else they are. Tell her that you have no signed contract obligating you to her as your wedding photographer and that, and you will not be needing her services. I would tell her that you are not paying her any more money, and if she would like to pursue legal action, to bring it on.

FWIW, I’m a professional wedding photographer. Stories like this make my head spin. I’m not one to ever suggest legal action unless it’s something really bad, but in this case I honestly think a judge would laugh at both sides and tell you all to go home. Plus, I doubt she’s pursue legal action because it’s too much hassle (small claims court) and time = money. 

Sorry this is happening to you, OP. I hope you get it all worked out. 

Post # 11
6586 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: September 2012

@Birdiebaby4:  The creator of the image (the photographer) is the sole legal owner of all images. Period. By default. They will always REMAIN the owner of the images. However, most professional to sell or release digital files (like myself) will include a *Print Release* that allows for unlimited reproductions to be made for personal, non-commerical use. Essentially that means that when you have a wedding or session with me, you recieve your images on a disk with a print release. You are free to make as many prints as you like, post on facebook, make an album, etc. However, you can’t edit the images in any way (no ugly instagram filters, etc) or use them for profit or enter into a competition. Copyright never expires, it always remains with the creator of the image. The only expception to this is when someone relinquishes their copyright, and usually that is done for a VERY hefty fee to compensate for the loss of revenue for not being able to use the images in the future. This is where newbie and amature photographers screw themselves, because without education they have no clue about copyright and often give it away for free leaving themsevles with no way to promote their business using the images. 

Post # 12
238 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: September 2014 - Hired hall

@Birdiebaby4:  You can ask whoever ever you eventually go with as photographer to put it in their contract that once you have paid for the pictures, the copyright is yours. Then you are (I believe) free to use the photos as you wish, so making your own album would be fine. I’m not a photographer, but my friend had shots done for her modelling and she had to pay extra for the copyright to the photos so that she could use them in her portfolio, so that is what I’m going by 🙂 it may cost a bit more for the copyright, i don’t know, but if it does it is probably worth a little extra just to have the freedom to do what you want with your pictures!

[EDITED] sorry, I said all that about copyright and what I meant was a release! Paying for copyright is really expensive, but you can get them to give you a release form which states you can use the pictures as you wish so long as it’s not for profit 🙂

Post # 13
1000 posts
Bumble bee
  • Wedding: September 2009

@TheLawrenceBride:  You don’t need the “copyright” and almost NO professional photographer is going to sell it to you. If they do, it’s going to double their prices at least. In order to make your own prints and albums, all you need is “usage rights” from the phtoographer, which come with most wedding packages. You just want to make sure. Crap, just saw your “edit” yes, that’s correct 😉

Post # 14
621 posts
Busy bee
  • Wedding: August 2014

@Birdiebaby4:  You need a print release from the photographer to use the photos, and you cannot post them edited on Instagram. The copyright of an image rests solely with the person who took the photo unless otherwise specified. The photographer can maintain the copyright but give you rights to print your images – that’s what most photographers do.

Best advice here is to agree to pay the $65 or whatever it is you still owe but do NOT do so until the photographer provides you with a release for the photos already delivered if that is something that was originally promised to you. After that, run far far away from this loon.

Post # 15
496 posts
Helper bee
  • Wedding: June 2013

@starfish0116:  That is actually not always the case. Worth mentioning that without a contract that specifies otherwise, in some places (for example, Australia, I think) the copyright for private event photos automatically goes to the person/people who paid for them. In the US/UK the photographer would own the copyright and you theoretically wouldn’t be able to edit the photos without their permission, but if the OP was from another part of the world they might have every right to.

That being said I think the photographer is being a bully in complaining about their pictures being used for social media (free promotion for her, essentially), and behaving quite stupidly given that word of mouth and online reviews are very powerful things. She has a lot more to lose than the OP does.

Post # 16
6586 posts
Bee Keeper
  • Wedding: September 2012

@Arrowchan:  Of course there are exceptions, but since the OP is from Ohio (at least that’s what her profile said) I figured it was safe to assume that she would be most interested in US Copyright laws, as that is what would affect her. I don’t think the photographer is too worried about their reputation, considering they are essentially closing up shop to weddings. Charging those kinds of prices they most likely aren’t going to be in business at all, weddings or otherwise, very long anyway.

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