Before our wedding on late May, we put down a deposit with the best photographer in town for $150. She explained that she was previously booked for a larger and more expensive wedding that day and couldn't make it to ours, but she said that she would send one of her "people" to take the photos for us. We were on a tight budget and we weren't looking for the "studio" touch per se. What we wanted was a photographer with good gear and some skill to photograph the wedding and then leave immediately after the cake cutting had finished. It would require a maximum of 2 hours of the photographer's time and no setup would be necessary.
The wedding started at 3:00 and we had requested that the photog show up at 2:30 to capture the bride getting dressed etc. The ceremony was short and sweet and it was hot outside. After the ceremony we wanted to immediately do some group photos along with the typical bride and groom driving away stuff and finish up with the cake cutting before the photog went on her way.
The photog showed up at 2:50. I showed up at 3:00 on the dot for the ceremony and it started at about 3:20 or so and finished by 3:45. The photog showed up with a Nikon D200 and a couple of speedlight flashes with a small assortment of lenses. I felt this gear was adequate for the job at hand and was comfortable with letting her do the work. She also happened to be the long lost childhood friend of my wife to be and they hadn't seen each other in well over a couple of decades. Seamed nice enough I guess... It seemed as if everything proceeded as planned other than her being a little late initially.
When I got to the photographer's studio to review the pictures on their computer, I was angered by what I saw. Our photographer didn't bracket any of her shots. In this digital age, bracketing costs almost nothing and it's great insurance against improperly exposing your shots and losing precious detail. She also screwed up the focus on 8 shots including the wedding cake. She focused on the back of the table instead of the wedding cake. Focus was extremely off in roughly 8 photos out of 142 and is just a tad soft in most of the photos she took. I have had to correct for improper exposure on 28 of the shots excluding one photo of the bride before the wedding where the photo was completely out of focus and as dark as the inside of a whale's butt. There were NO re-takes on improperly exposed or focused shots by the way. Correcting for improper exposure increases the color noise in the photos as you brighten the dark ones (most were dark) so all the black tuxedos now have a grainy appearance. In my eyes, this isn't the work of a professional photographer. It's not even on par with what an amateur does. It's so sub-par that I am furious with the photographer that took the photos and also with the woman who we initially contracted to take the photos.
I have some of the photos, but we don't have the rights to them yet and I don't want to give the studio owner grounds to sue me. I'm not posting anything as a result. Take my word for it, this is really amateur stuff IMHO.My problems are as follows:
Other than the deposit itself, we had no formal contract or agreement with the woman who we contracted with to take the photos. We had a basic game plan for roughly 200 photos or so and we trusted the good name and previous good work of this woman to be our guarantee of an acceptable product.
The woman who runs the studio that we contracted with is working with us on the price of these photos. She initially intended to charge us $500 to burn us a DVD of all the photos and then extra for any albums we wanted etc on top of that. She knows that I am unhappy with the photos and I am pretty sure that she would sign over the rights to the DVD to us for the price of the deposit we paid.
Here's the part that is eating at me. The woman who owns/runs the studio is smack in the middle of a family crisis. Her husband died from cancer about a year ago and now her mother is dying of liver cancer in a hospital about 50 minutes from where we all live. The woman that took our wedding photos used to work for her and then went out on her own to start her own studio (which is failing by the way for obvious reasons). Our wedding was her first attempt to do a wedding in this manner and it completely backfired. I know all this isn't my problem, but I have a conscience and I feel terrible at the thought of being unfair to a woman who is in the middle of what can only be a hellish personal crisis. Part of me wants to strangle her for subbing out our wedding photos to someone with no talent and a terrible work ethic, but the other part of me wants to be a nice guy and throw her another $100 so she doesn't lose money on this deal. I don't want to be the guy who kicks a woman when she's down with a dying mother.
Also my wife and my mother-in-law both think the wedding photos are excellent. Anyone who knows anything about photography that has seen these photos immediately recognizes bad work, but my wife and her mom aren't shutterbugs and they wouldn't know good photography if it smacked them in the face. They both think I'm being a hyper-critical d-bag.
So what are your thoughts on this situation? What would you do? I'm going to drop by the studio tomorrow morning and finalize everything.