Bride Ordered to Pay Photographer $89k for Posting Nasty Reviews

rgMekanic

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Dpreview is reporting that Emily Lao has been ordered to pay wedding photographer Kitty Chan $89,000 in defamation damages after posting statements that the judge called "egregious, accusatory and vitriolic." Chan was forced to shut down her business in 2017 as a result of the online attacks from Liao, that stem from a 2015 contract she had with Liao for wedding photography.

I completely agree with the judges decision. When what you do or say online has real life implications, then a real life punishment should be in order.

Lambasting (and thereby hurting) a photography business with an online "review" isn't the problem per se, but the statements must be accurate and not motivated by malice. As Justice Weatherill explained in his decision, "this case is an example of the dangers of using the internet to publish information without proper regard for its accuracy."
 
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marcoi

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typo on date, unless this is going to happen in the future. if that is the case, great scope!
that stem from a 2105 contract
 

Armenius

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I also agree with the decision. If you were not satisfied with the outcome of the service provided, then provide a review based on that without getting emotional and accusatory. You cannot cross the line into libel and expect there to be no consequences.
 

triwolf

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It's also in Canada, except the USA could have some cases like this that the judge or court may look at international cases. One thing is true, free speech is under attack, they couldn't work it out and one decided to let others know their opinion, and a judge in Canada has said that they crossed the line from having an opinion to attempting to destroy the business.

Tough call. If other potential customers don't know of any problems that have happened in the past, is that right? Basically the judge says the customer went too far, except how does one determine that? The customer was not happy and went to tell others, and now in Canada you better be careful doing that.
 

katanaD

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from a link within your link


A week before the wedding, Liao stopped payment on a post-dated cheque. The wedding went ahead, but Chan refused to hand the photographs over until the balance of the contract was paid.

Liao sued in small claims court.

so.. she stopped payment before the wedding, and then sued for the pictures??

LOL

piece of work there.
 

Charlie_D

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It's also in Canada, except the USA could have some cases like this that the judge or court may look at international cases. One thing is true, free speech is under attack, they couldn't work it out and one decided to let others know their opinion, and a judge in Canada has said that they crossed the line from having an opinion to attempting to destroy the business.

Tough call. If other potential customers don't know of any problems that have happened in the past, is that right? Basically the judge says the customer went too far, except how does one determine that? The customer was not happy and went to tell others, and now in Canada you better be careful doing that.

Well, not exactly... this wasn't a negative review, the customer went out of her way to scour the internet for places to complain about and attack the company. In multiple languages. Never mind that the things that were posted ranged quite far into tin foil hat territory.

I don't care what country you're in, 'Free Speech' can only go so far, and gets brought up far, far too often.

EDIT: To forestall the inevitable 'but Free Speech!' argument, this is an excerpt of the original CBC article:

"...the posts implied that Amara Wedding "was a major scam shop and deceitful photography mill business engaged in extortion, dishonesty, unfair practices, bait and switch and other dirty tactics, lies to its customers who it tricks and coerces to enter into contracts which it breaches and attempts to falsify, had provided raw unfinished photographs under the guise of the finished product, had destroyed evidence, used a secret, fictional identity and had threatened the defendants."

That's just not okay.
 
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Gigus Fire

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It's also in Canada, except the USA could have some cases like this that the judge or court may look at international cases. One thing is true, free speech is under attack, they couldn't work it out and one decided to let others know their opinion, and a judge in Canada has said that they crossed the line from having an opinion to attempting to destroy the business.

Tough call. If other potential customers don't know of any problems that have happened in the past, is that right? Basically the judge says the customer went too far, except how does one determine that? The customer was not happy and went to tell others, and now in Canada you better be careful doing that.
I think you've exactly described the purpose of the courts. To determine who was wrong and where the lines were crossed. They don't always get it right, but it's their job to decide this stuff.

It's one thing to post a bad review to warn others of shady service. It's another thing to try and destroy someone's livelihood because you believe they wronged you in some way.

I haven't looked at the particulars in this case, but if it was just one bad review with nothing else attached, i'm not too sure how they would have ruled 90k in damages. If it was repeated reviewed with lies, then sure, it probably amounted to a lot of business being lost.
 

triwolf

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I think you've exactly described the purpose of the courts. To determine who was wrong and where the lines were crossed. They don't always get it right, but it's their job to decide this stuff.

It's one thing to post a bad review to warn others of shady service. It's another thing to try and destroy someone's livelihood because you believe they wronged you in some way.

I haven't looked at the particulars in this case, but if it was just one bad review with nothing else attached, i'm not too sure how they would have ruled 90k in damages. If it was repeated reviewed with lies, then sure, it probably amounted to a lot of business being lost.
It's a fine line for sure. It is one thing to give a negative review, and another to take it to the level the customer did in this case. It does show that business does have the ear of the court more than the customer, since I would imagine that from the customer view, they did a horrible job that has left them bad memories and they took it too far from the judge's perspective. I wonder what the judge would say if the customer said " Yea, except there is no monetary value you could pay me to make up for their destroying our wedding photos!" It is hard to put a dollar value on it.
 

Gigus Fire

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It's a fine line for sure. It is one thing to give a negative review, and another to take it to the level the customer did in this case. It does show that business does have the ear of the court more than the customer, since I would imagine that from the customer view, they did a horrible job that has left them bad memories and they took it too far from the judge's perspective. I wonder what the judge would say if the customer said " Yea, except there is no monetary value you could pay me to make up for their destroying our wedding photos!" It is hard to put a dollar value on it.
I think the fact that she put a stop to the check before the wedding and still had the photographer come out and waste their time taking photos means that since no payment was rendered that the photos shouldn't have existed in the first place. Therefore they should have a value of 0. As well as typically for wedding photographers, you don't own the pictures. You get a license for them so the wedding photographer can use them to promote their own business. That's just the typical way it goes in that line of work.
 

triwolf

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I think the fact that she put a stop to the check before the wedding and still had the photographer come out and waste their time taking photos means that since no payment was rendered that the photos shouldn't have existed in the first place. Therefore they should have a value of 0. As well as typically for wedding photographers, you don't own the pictures. You get a license for them so the wedding photographer can use them to promote their own business. That's just the typical way it goes in that line of work.
Interesting, yes lots of intricacies in the case, I don't condone her behavior, she took it too far. She would have been better off just telling others here and there the service was bad. She did try to really put the screws to them like you list, the judge certainly felt she took it way too far. I think the trying to get the pictures and not even pay for them made her look really bad in the judge's eyes.
 

PantherBlitz

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I agree with the spirit of the decision, but that review was so cartoonish and over the top that I would have a hard time believing anything that that woman wrote. I mean, didn't the photog have any sensible reviews written about her that would balance out the hissy-fit that this customer spewed?
 

ChoGGi

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I think you've exactly described the purpose of the courts. To determine who was wrong and where the lines were crossed. They don't always get it right, but it's their job to decide this stuff.

It's one thing to post a bad review to warn others of shady service. It's another thing to try and destroy someone's livelihood because you believe they wronged you in some way.

I haven't looked at the particulars in this case, but if it was just one bad review with nothing else attached, i'm not too sure how they would have ruled 90k in damages. If it was repeated reviewed with lies, then sure, it probably amounted to a lot of business being lost.

These are translated from Cantonese I believe (search for [33], it's just above where the "reviews" start):
http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/02/2018BCSC0260cor1.htm
(I grabbed a couple random lines from the wall of text)
the company ignored my claims and charged me thousands of dollars of “service fees”

Amara Wedding at Richmond is a dishonor company that will bait and swtich [sic] scam their clients!

AFTER I MADE FULL PAYMENTS, this company ignored the court order, using all kinds of excuses and delay tactics, and refused to return my raw wedding photos. The Court ordered full payment, but they still refuse to return our wedding photos. DO YOU DARE TO TRY THIS COMPANY?

I was told I would receive my proofs back within two weeks of my wedding. They did not come back for over 11 months despite the fact Kumiko threaten to delete my wedding day photos to extort me to pay in full up front!!!!!

Stay away from this photography mill. They are running a major bait and switch scam. They have tons of excuses to shut you up. We paid $6000 for about $0 worth of product and services
 

Trinode

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Well, not exactly... this wasn't a negative review, the customer went out of her way to scour the internet for places to complain about and attack the company. In multiple languages. Never mind that the things that were posted ranged quite far into tin foil hat territory.

I don't care what country you're in, 'Free Speech' can only go so far, and gets brought up far, far too often.

EDIT: To forestall the inevitable 'but Free Speech!' argument, this is an excerpt of the original CBC article:



That's just not okay.


This is not a Free Speech issue, this is a libel issue. You can't intentionally lie about a person or company with the intent to damage their reputation.
 

ianken

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The net makes it super easy to make really bad decisions. Couple that with an unhinged sense of entitlement and you end up with shit like this.

And of course this was in BC. LOL.
 

NeghVar

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Outright flaming, personal attacks, and (of course) lies are asking for trouble. I always do reviews with constructive criticism specifying what displeased me.


I agree with the spirit of the decision, but that review was so cartoonish and over the top that I would have a hard time believing anything that that woman wrote. I mean, didn't the photog have any sensible reviews written about her that would balance out the hissy-fit that this customer spewed?

Whether a review is so outlandish or not, if it is false and harmful to the business, then yes. Think before you type next time or use a VPN and a temp account with a false name.
 

zamardii12

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Damn. I feel for the husband. Now everyone will know his wife is a vindictive bitch... worst part is he has to live with her. Yikes.
 

snowcrash

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It's also in Canada, except the USA could have some cases like this that the judge or court may look at international cases. One thing is true, free speech is under attack, they couldn't work it out and one decided to let others know their opinion, and a judge in Canada has said that they crossed the line from having an opinion to attempting to destroy the business.
Tough call. If other potential customers don't know of any problems that have happened in the past, is that right? Basically the judge says the customer went too far, except how does one determine that? The customer was not happy and went to tell others, and now in Canada you better be careful doing that.
Free speech is under attack? You're out of your frigging mind. Next you're going to digress into NRA and the second amendment.

And then to walk back from what you said and agree that the business owner was wronged in the next couple posts responding to other posters to your comments is the height of hypocrisy.
 
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nutzo

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I think the fact that she put a stop to the check before the wedding and still had the photographer come out and waste their time taking photos means that since no payment was rendered that the photos shouldn't have existed in the first place. Therefore they should have a value of 0. As well as typically for wedding photographers, you don't own the pictures. You get a license for them so the wedding photographer can use them to promote their own business. That's just the typical way it goes in that line of work.

Not all wedding photographers work that way, and that's why I hired who I did.
He took the pictures and provided a single 5x5 print of each one (this was before the days of digital cameras)
The package also included a number of larger prints and a photo album.
We could buy additional prints from him if we wanted, or he'd give us the negatives and we could buy our prints elsewhere.
His price for prints where comparable to going elsewhere, so we just ordered from him.

Once he provide the additional prints he also provided the negatives which I still have incase I ever want to make more prints.
(They are 2x2 negatives, and I really need to take them down and have them professionally scanned one of these days)

On the other hand my brother had a more traditional photographer who want big $$ for each print and kept the negatives.
Years later the photographer was long gone and so where the negatives.


Most wedding photographers are nothing but scam artists who take advantage of their customers.

You should pay for their time to take the pictures, and the cost for any prints/albums you order.
The photographer should provide the prints/albums and the negatives/digital files since you paid for them.
Only reason they hold onto the negatives/files is to extort more money from you by charging excessive costs for any additional prints. In these days of digital cameras, they should just put all images on a thumb drive and give it to you.
 
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sleepeeg3

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from a link within your link




so.. she stopped payment before the wedding, and then sued for the pictures??

LOL

piece of work there.
The photographer might have done engagement photos, rehearsal photos or some other photos prior to the wedding that might have caused the bride to stop payment. We don't know the details of the contract. If she was told Chan was going to be the photographer and someone else took her place, that could explain the "bait and switch" comment.

Since this was in Canada and free speech is not guaranteed, it's hard to know how this should have been adjudicated.

If this is was in the United States, you have to defer to the 1st Amendment, unless this is a clear case of libel. I am not siding with bridezilla, but it seems like a lot of details are left out of the story.

As well as typically for wedding photographers, you don't own the pictures. You get a license for them so the wedding photographer can use them to promote their own business. That's just the typical way it goes in that line of work.
Very true. Make sure to know this beforehand. I signed a contract with a guy for a certain number of "high resolution" photos, because many others had clauses that "they owned the rights" and you would have to purchase the photos you wanted from them. Bullshit.

He even tried to pull a fast one on me by giving me 1280x960 "high-resolution" photos and saying those were high resolution for Facebook and that's all most people want. That may be true, but that's only 1.2MP. Also, he said the RAW photos were "unfiltered" so he wanted me to understood they might not look as good. I could of course, go to his website and buy prints for an absurd amount of money. Eventually, I got him to relent and give me the 16MP originals.

I understand the photographer's perspective though, because wedding photos are just as much about how good your photo editing algorithms are as the shots themselves and releasing the raw shots could be used to damage the photographer's reputation. Someone could also steal your work and sell them for other purposes.
 
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Teenk9

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Libel (and slander) is not Free Speech. Never has been. As the judge said: Liao failed to prove the statements were true. "Indeed, the evidence is overwhelming that none of them were true." Textbook libel.
 

lcpiper

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It's a fine line for sure. It is one thing to give a negative review, and another to take it to the level the customer did in this case. It does show that business does have the ear of the court more than the customer, since I would imagine that from the customer view, they did a horrible job that has left them bad memories and they took it too far from the judge's perspective. I wonder what the judge would say if the customer said " Yea, except there is no monetary value you could pay me to make up for their destroying our wedding photos!" It is hard to put a dollar value on it.


Let's see if additional information changes your view of this case.

In his decision, Justice Gordon Weatherill found that Emily Liao dedicated herself to sullying Chan's business after receiving a set of what she felt were sub-par proofs of pre-wedding shots.

You guys know what proofs are, they aren't the finished product.

"She set upon a determined campaign to discredit and harm the plaintiff's business by broadcasting her dissatisfaction over the internet, in English and Chinese, in what can only be described as an egregious, accusatory and vitriolic manner," he wrote.

This looks to be much more than a single bad review.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/british-columbia/chinese-wedding-weibo-defamation-1.4556433


Might as well throw in some details from the court document;

[30] During the period from August 18, 2015 to July 14, 2016, Emily published numerous disparaging comments about the plaintiff’s wedding services on the internet, using various English and Chinese language blogs, forums and social media sites, including Facebook, VanPeople, Weibo (Sina blog), Weixin (WeChat) and Blogger (collectively, the “Publications”).
http://www.courts.gov.bc.ca/jdb-txt/sc/18/02/2018BCSC0260cor1.htm

Actually, the court document alone is worth reading almost in it's entirety if anyone wants to get a clear picture of what happened.
 

Gigus Fire

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Not all wedding photographers work that way, and that's why I hired who I did.
He took the pictures and provided a single 5x5 print of each one (this was before the days of digital cameras)
The package also included a number of larger prints and a photo album.
We could buy additional prints from him if we wanted, or he'd give us the negatives and we could buy our prints elsewhere.
His price for prints where comparable to going elsewhere, so we just ordered from him.

Once he provide the additional prints he also provided the negatives which I still have incase I ever want to make more prints.
(They are 2x2 negatives, and I really need to take them down and have them professionally scanned one of these days)

On the other hand my brother had a more traditional photographer who want big $$ for each print and kept the negatives.
Years later the photographer was long gone and so where the negatives.


Most wedding photographers are nothing but scam artists who take advantage of their customers.

You should pay for their time to take the pictures, and the cost for any prints/albums you order.
The photographer should provide the prints/albums and the negatives/digital files since you paid for them.
Only reason they hold onto the negatives/files is to extort more money from you by charging excessive costs for any additional prints. In these days of digital cameras, they should just put all images on a thumb drive and give it to you.
I didn't mean to suggest that there aren't honest people out there who don't have ideas of making tons of money by keeping the rights of the photographs (because their artists ya know) and whatnot, but in general that's how the industry works.

Just like in life, it pays to shop around to find the best deals out there. If you can find someone who won't retain the rights (I think with my wedding photographer we did get the original files and didn't have any issue with the rights to the pictures, it's when i started looking into the whole business i was aghast with how it's normally run) then the better off you are.
But i have a feeling that most people don't read the fine print and don't really care/shop around. They just get a recommendation from someone and go with it and just sign their rights away.
 

triwolf

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Free speech is under attack? You're out of your frigging mind. Next you're going to digress into NRA and the second amendment.

And then to walk back from what you said and agree that the business owner was wronged in the next couple posts responding to other posters to your comments is the height of hypocrisy.
The world isn't a perfect place. I've been told that a few times lately, and this case proves it. Free speech is a very convoluted subject. If the lady had not gone so far, she probably would have been OK.

It is possibly moving free speech to a less free place in Canada, even though this lady is a horrible case, that actually abused free speech because a lot of what she said was proven to be wrong.

I was once told "You have free speech, although the consequences may not be so free, they may cost you".

Also free speech only concerns the government. Your employer can tell you to say or not say anything they want. Not so free is it?

I think the height of hypocrisy is when companies do way worse than what this lady did (tell untruths) and get away with it as advertising, or the fact the US government has given itself the right to lie as much as they like for any reason. So why does no one make them be honest?
 
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IdiotInCharge

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Photographer's note:

No photographer should ever provide RAW files to an end-user client. RAW is exactly what it means: a data dump that's either exactly or very close (see Sony) to what was actually recorded by the image sensor. These files usually include metadata that describe all kinds of information relevant to the data and is extremely helpful for processing, but even combined with the data does not constitute an image.

As in, a RAW file cannot be used without significant processing. It cannot even be displayed on the screen without such processing, and if displayed with minimal processing, will appear dull and lifeless.

If you intend to get 'high resolution' copies of images that you have contracted from a photographer, have them send you maximum resolution (depends on their equipment!) 16bit TIFF files. These will be very large, but are also portable and will respond best to further processing.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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I also agree with the decision. If you were not satisfied with the outcome of the service provided, then provide a review based on that without getting emotional and accusatory. You cannot cross the line into libel and expect there to be no consequences.

Agree here. Bad reviews are fine as long as they are truthful.

The problem is who gets to decide what is truthful and what is not though. This becomes particularly difficult since we know that human perception differs so much from person to person. Two people standing right next to each-other seeing the same event can have very different recollections of exactly what happened, so anyone making a judgment on something like this needs to take great care to not overstep.
 
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umeng2002

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It's so easy to avoid these lawsuits. Just post a few facts, then start a sentence with "In my opinion," or "I believe." Then rip into them all you want with out stating something patently false.
 

SvenBent

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common respect & sense should still rule above so called "free speech" that most ppl use s a label for "I'm allowed to be a douchebag"
freedom with responsibility
 

Verge

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I also agree with the decision. If you were not satisfied with the outcome of the service provided, then provide a review based on that without getting emotional and accusatory. You cannot cross the line into libel and expect there to be no consequences.

Yea if it's that bad and this is from USA, take photographer to court for damages. Trolling online should definitely have consequences, for some reason people think it doesn't.

I've left negative online reviews ONLY after I have given them the benefit of the doubt, and after I've had a day or two to think about it.
 

ChoGGi

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Yea if it's that bad and this is from USA, take photographer to court for damages. Trolling online should definitely have consequences, for some reason people think it doesn't.
From Canada i'm afraid, but you guys can have BC if you want...Just call it little California.
 

Weenis

I said WEENIS, not...
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Not all wedding photographers work that way, and that's why I hired who I did.
He took the pictures and provided a single 5x5 print of each one (this was before the days of digital cameras)
The package also included a number of larger prints and a photo album.
We could buy additional prints from him if we wanted, or he'd give us the negatives and we could buy our prints elsewhere.
His price for prints where comparable to going elsewhere, so we just ordered from him.

Once he provide the additional prints he also provided the negatives which I still have incase I ever want to make more prints.
(They are 2x2 negatives, and I really need to take them down and have them professionally scanned one of these days)

On the other hand my brother had a more traditional photographer who want big $$ for each print and kept the negatives.
Years later the photographer was long gone and so where the negatives.


Most wedding photographers are nothing but scam artists who take advantage of their customers.

You should pay for their time to take the pictures, and the cost for any prints/albums you order.
The photographer should provide the prints/albums and the negatives/digital files since you paid for them.
Only reason they hold onto the negatives/files is to extort more money from you by charging excessive costs for any additional prints. In these days of digital cameras, they should just put all images on a thumb drive and give it to you.


No, you worked with an amateur photographer who didn't know better.

The reason professional photographers do not provide raws/negatives as practice is that it is not representative of their work. Unedited photos are absolutely nothing like edited photos. In the digital age, I'm not going to trust anyone not to do a hackjob edit on my photos and when asked they use my name as the photographer. Any photography work I do is absolutely and utterly my property, you are licensing it from me for reproduction. Photography is artwork and it is protected intellectual property.

You could take a raw/negative and make it look like shit/nothing like what I produce. Most people don't realize how fucking expensive it is to actually do a wedding well. It's not just being some person with a camera, take some photos, then show how and collect your money check and bilk people for prints later.

If I shoot your wedding and I bring 15K in gear, that gear wears out. It costs money to insure, it costs money in software, computer equipment, long term storage, fuel, vehicle, logistics/planning. Business costs, taxes, health insurance, medicaide/ss. The list goes on very long, much more than "just have a camera and show up".

If I shoot a job for someone I hold onto files forever, because what happens if your house burns down, your hard drives crash, you lose the files I sent you?

There can be a LOT of time involved in post processing images. Sometimes you can skate with 5-10 minutes work, sometimes it can take 1-2 hours per.

I'm not handing out the ability for you to just reprint photos unless you pay me explicitly for that. The thing is most people don't want to spend what the true value of that would be.


People who think a wedding photographer worth a shit should only be a few hundred to a grand or clearly do not understand the effort involved nor the years of experience required to do the job well.
 

Zarathustra[H]

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Photographer's note:

No photographer should ever provide RAW files to an end-user client. RAW is exactly what it means: a data dump that's either exactly or very close (see Sony) to what was actually recorded by the image sensor. These files usually include metadata that describe all kinds of information relevant to the data and is extremely helpful for processing, but even combined with the data does not constitute an image.

As in, a RAW file cannot be used without significant processing. It cannot even be displayed on the screen without such processing, and if displayed with minimal processing, will appear dull and lifeless.

If you intend to get 'high resolution' copies of images that you have contracted from a photographer, have them send you maximum resolution (depends on their equipment!) 16bit TIFF files. These will be very large, but are also portable and will respond best to further processing.


As a hobby photographer, if I were to hire a photographer (like for a wedding or something like that) I would not hire anyone who didn't:

a.) Give me all rights to the images, and

b.) provide the raw image files in addition to their processed final copies, so that if I wanted to play around with light levels, etc, I'd have much more flexibility.

You do have a point though, that for the typical consumer of these things, they wouldn't know what to do with a raw file, and it would be wasted on them.
 
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