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How do I know when my wedding photographer is ghosting me?

Most wedding photographers work for themselves as freelancers or independent contractors. This means they may not always be quite as skilled on the business side, or with customer service, as they are behind the camera. If you are having trouble contacting them after the wedding, chances are they are busy creating art, working with other clients, or just not terribly savvy at customer service.

However, if a photographer or another vendor is actually ghosting you, that's another story altogether. To ghost someone is to drop off from all correspondence after having been in contact for some reason or another. It is often used in the context of dating, friendships, or interviewing for a job, but can apply in just about any situation involving a relationship or transaction.

Although deposits are standard business practice, the most unscrupulous photographers may feel an incentive to ghost you after you pay (even more so if you paid in full in advance). Without a signed contract, it may be that much more difficult to assert your position and seek a fair resolution.

After you met with and hired your photographer, it is a good idea to formalize the deal with a Wedding Photography Contract, which typically stipulates a general time frame for how long it will take after the wedding to gain access to your images. If that deadline comes and goes without any contact from the photographer, you may have a problem.

If your photographer promised they would get back to you two to three weeks after the wedding with proofs and it is going on four weeks without contact, you may want to take action.

What steps can I take if my photographer stops responding to me?

If your photographer has seemingly disappeared after the wedding, do not assume they are scamming you just yet. Do not hesitate to reach out via phone, text, email, or snail mail. It is recommended that you document any and all efforts in case you have to take legal action at some point.

For example, if the deadline for proofs has passed, consider writing a friendly email or letter asking about the images and reminding them of the agreed-upon time frame. If they do not reply after another week, you may want to forward your original message but add the words "second attempt" in the subject line. You may also call their phone and leave a message, or try texting. If all attempts fail, you may want to try reaching out through social media channels. If they still have not contacted you after another week, it may be time to consider taking legal action.

If the photographer works for a company, you may consider sending a formal Complaint Letter. Since your goal, however, is likely to recover your wedding photos, you may want to talk to a lawyer before you take any steps because, legally, photographers own the copyrights to the photos they capture.

What is a reasonable amount of time to wait after the wedding before I ask my photographer to see their work?

It is normal to be excited about your wedding pictures, of course, but understand that it takes much longer to edit and finalize images in the studio (the digital "dark room") than it does to snap the shots. Before you ask your photographer to see the photos early, you may want to review your written agreement to see what timeframe is listed there.

Keep in mind that photographers typically have multiple clients and competing priorities. Still, most wedding photographers provide a time frame of 8-12 weeks before they are able to show you the final images. Many, however, do provide proofs, unedited photos, or previews earlier.

You may not consider three months to be a reasonable amount of time to wait, however, unless these details are discussed up front and put in writing, you may find yourself waiting even longer.

Can I sue my wedding photographer?

Ideally, your wedding photographer contract includes information about what to do if the photographer fails to hold up their end of the deal. If they fail to deliver, you may be able to sue them for breach of contract. Unfortunately, asking a court to force a photographer to give you the pictures they took is a phenomenally complex legal issue, particularly when there is no contract.

In most cases, this takes place in small claims court, without lawyers. States have different monetary limits for what you can recover from small claims court. For example, Florida plaintiffs can recover up to $5,000 in a legal action. You might want to use a Small Claims Worksheet to help get your case organized.

If you win, options for recovery usually fall into these general categories:

  • Reimbursement for any money already paid (including deposit).
  • Release from further payment (even if you ultimately receive the images).

One of the main defenses to such a claim is the lack of a written contract, which is why it is critically important to have one in place. In your small claims action, a signed written contract and documentation of your efforts to contact the photographer can go a long way toward proving that you were ghosted or otherwise wronged.

What can I do to recover photos from a photographer who never completes the job?

Even if you are able to recover your financial losses from a wedding photographer who fails to complete the job or return your messages, you probably still want the pictures from your wedding.

Before taking legal action, a letter from a lawyer to the photographer is one way to attempt to get the requested images, assuming they have not been lost or damaged. If that does not encourage the photographer to provide the pictures, then asking a court to force the photographer to turn over the photos may be an option. However, this can be complicated, legally, especially without a contract that clearly establishes your right to the photos.

If you suspect your wedding photographer is ghosting you or is not living up to your contract with them, reach out to a Rocket Lawyer network attorney for affordable legal advice.

This article contains general legal information and does not contain legal advice. Rocket Lawyer is not a law firm or a substitute for an attorney or law firm. The law is complex and changes often. For legal advice, please ask a lawyer.

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