Never Thought…

A few weeks ago, I got screwed over by a so-called friend and former student who has worked with me as an assistant.

Lesson learned here is to NEVER, EVER do something without the photography agreement signed, sealed and delivered.

It started out innocent enough. A former student had asked if I would photograph his/her wedding. I was honored and agreed. It was then suggested by one of us that he help me with a job that I had in the books to work off some of the fees for the wedding. Made sense. I’d have someone capable of helping out with a shoot and it would knock a bit of money off the wedding photography package. I never though I’d get screwed over.

There wedding was over a year away. No paperwork. I’ve committed to photograph their wedding on said date. Just an agreement between friends. Paperwork to come later.
Most packages include an engagement portrait session that is free. Out of package the session is $100 which can be applied to the actual wedding package upon booking.
I’ve never done an engagement session and not booked the wedding.

The job I needed help with comes and goes, former student does nice job that day. Their wedding is still over a year away. No paperwork. We’re good.

A few months later former student emails and asks if we can do the engagement portrait on such and such a date. I said fine, I can make the date work. That afternoon I receive an email from a bride asking about my availability on the former students wedding date. I say “no can do” booked that day. No paperwork. Just an agreement between friends. Paperwork to come later.

Engagement portait date comes. That morning, before I leave for the shoot, my wife asks if I have the paperwork complete for the former students wedding date. I said “No, although I probably should. But, it’s a former student, I don’t think I’ll get screwed over.”
She reminded me that I always say never work without some kind of formal photography agreement. I agree, but state that it’s a former student and “friend” not likely to screw me over.

That day, another bride inquires as to my availabilty on the former students wedding date. Sorry, I’ve committed to another wedding. In fact we just did their engagement portrait today.

Engagement session goes very well. In fact the bride says “thanks for a wonderful day and awesome pictures!!!!!!” Pictures were very well received. After the session, I spoke with the couple about their wedding, how they saw it, what they’re looking for photographically, as well as how much time and if they want albums. They proceed to tell me how much coverage, the amount of guests, locations, etc… All good. I’ll send them some packages built around what we’ve discussed. At this point the wedding is 13 months away. I offer discounts worth 20% plus the money off for helping with that job a few months before, but if they book more then 12 months out, I’ll add another 10% off.
OK. So now, the discounts are worth 30% plus.

Former student then asks about downloading some pictures. I state that “You have access to download from when we work together.” I’m thinking they’ll download a few pics. No big deal.

No paperwork. Just an agreement between friends.

All good. I send the package info. Discounts are worth $1,100 plus. No paperwork. Just an agreement between friends.Wait a week, don’t hear anything. When I do hear back, they want to know how much without a book. I tell them. Fine. Wait another week. Now we’re less then 12 months out that extra 10% has to be pulled from the table. Discount is now worth $900. I email stating that and ask if they want to proceed, at the same time I offer to give them an album as a gift. Again stating that the book is worth $200 keeping the actual value of the discount at $1,100. Wait again.

A day later, they respectfully decline my package a full month after we’ve shot the engagement portrait, and I’ve turned down two other brides. WTF!? Quite frankly, they went over their budget and can’t afford the package. Really!? The numbers have been the same for the past month. You realize this now. Oh and by the way, even if they could afford it, they don’t have the deposit.

So, what can you afford? They give me a number. Best I could do for that is a six hour with one photographer, not eight. They insist upon eight. No can do. Good luck. We part ways.