I admit when I saw the headline my first thought was “that was petty.” Then I read the whole story… well my thoughts didn’t change much but it did give some context and there is a lot here. Basically a friend of the couple who is not a professional wedding photographer agreed to take pictures at their friends’ wedding for $250. Apparently this was a 10+ hour event in the heat and the photographer friend asked for food and water and the couple said “NO!” So the friend photographer erased all the pictures they had taken. Ouch. I mean are these people really that great of friends? How do you deny your friend food and water? How do you erase your friend’s wedding pics? Anyways…
So let’s get into the legalities of all this. It really comes down to…Contracts. I am always saying; get contracts, read your contracts, have your contracts reviewed (I am always happy to do that), have your contracts negotiated, if need be. Just have contracts! It doesn’t sound like there was a written contract for this. I don’t remember where all this happened, if it was even mentioned, but in Washington oral contracts are a thing. For there to be a valid contract you need; an offer (will you take pics of my wedding?), acceptance (I’m not really a wedding photog but ok), and consideration (Cool, I’ll pay you $250). This could amount to an oral contract for a service that includes taking pictures for $250, whether that is a ridiculously low fee or not, it is what was agreed to. Ideally all the details would be in a contract, start/end times, types of pictures taken, who owns the pictures, what happens if they are lost, when the pictures are expected to be received, how they will be delivered, and yes even when and what the photog will be eating and who pays for it.
It is very common for couples to pay for a meal for the wedding photographer, DJ, planner, and any other vendor that will be on site for the entire or majority of the event. ***Wedding vendors if you do not have this in your contracts you may want to look into it.*** Unfortunately, that doesn’t sound like it was the case with our friends above.
So if your wedding photographer deletes your photos what can you do? Obviously that would be a breach of contract so you may have some claims under contract law. This is why it is important to have proper contracts for your wedding vendors, friends or not. The issue that usually arises with oral contracts is how do you prove it? Well in this case the whole story was retold on the internet so that would definitely help. If you aren’t so lucky to have everything available then you would want anyone who may have witnessed the oral contract, any texts or emails exchanged, or anything you have that shows there was a contract.
The best way to avoid all of this would have to hire a professional photographer with a proper contract and feed them! Or don’t do friends favors for really big events that you really don’t want to do anyway.
As always this is not legal advice, if you do actually want some advice you can setup a consultation. You will have to pay me but you won’t have to feed me.