Sued by an Unhappy Client: Lessons Learned from My Day in Court

Recently, I went to court after being sued by a disgruntled client – my first ever. We really work hard on our customer service and are proactive in taking care of potential issues before they become problems. But, as with any business, there occasionally comes along a client who just can’t be satisfied. Here’s our story and some lessons learned.

My associate shot a client’s wedding in 2010. She was happy with the images but wanted something “artsy” for her album. My designer spoke with her about her desires and suggested that the client pick out her favorites for us to work into the design.

Months go by and no photos from the client so we went ahead and designed the album without her input. We rarely get input from clients so this is our standard operating procedure. We send out the proof but months go by with no word from the client. Every few weeks we reach out to her, but nothing.

Finally she responds. She’s doesn’t like our design and image choices, but, lucky for us (insert rolling of eyes here), she’s designed her own album on Picassa – that she wants us to match. Of course, it’s a disaster. We invite her into our studio so that we can work with her on the album. She declines. She begins demanding a refund – to which we say “no way” (although we do offer her a credit towards framed prints she might wish).

Not long after, a small claims lawsuit shows up at our doorstep. Ugh. On the day of the trial, I’m out of town (searching through the various types of trials and their statements, including, etc.), so she gets a default judgment. With great cheer and no small amount of gloating, she calls up the studio to ask when she gets her money – which is just over $3,000 for the price of the album plus costs.

Of course, I’m not going down without a fight so I appeal the default judgment to the small claims court (as, for instance, declared in all Tennessee injury law firms reports too). A month later, sitting in court, my heart sank when the judge announced that she was going to deal with the “quick ones first” and then called my case up as the first one up. The judge had me out of there in about 45 seconds as she denied my appeal.

Disheartened but not deterred, I then appealed my case to the Superior Court – the last option for me. So, with no small amount of trepidation, I trudged to the main courthouse downtown for my hearing. Since the appeal was adjudicated in the Superior Court, not small claims, there was no crowd of people waiting to have their names called. It was just the defendant, judge, stenographer and I.

Right away, the judge agreed to hear the case. Whew! I say silently as the client-now-plaintiff explained her case. I then explained my side. Because we weren’t in small claims, the judge wasn’t trying to rush through the process. She took her time and considered everything that was said.

After listening to both of us, she told the plaintiff, “Wedding photos are important. You are going to want an album. What you need to do is work this out with Mr. Mireles so you can get your album. I’m going to leave the room and see if you two can work this out.” With that, she got up from the bench and walked out of the courtroom.

I offered to do the album in cooperation with the client, but the plaintiff wasn’t interested in settling the issue. So back came the judge and the case continued. In my closing remarks, I said that “This is a case of buyer’s remorse. What’s at issue here is that the client purchased her own album for much less money than the one she purchased from us. There’s no way we could make her happy – in fact the reason we couldn’t settle this just now – is because she wasn’t interested in the album – she just wanted her money back.” I added that it’s in our contract that we don’t offer refunds because all the work we do is custom.

After a couple more questions to me about whether I could still deliver an album to the client (“Yes!”), the judge then looked at the plaintiff and said, “Essentially, your case boils down to claiming a breach of contract on the part of the photographer. However, you did nothing to mitigate your damages. You just walked away from the photographer and then sued.” And the next words were magic to my ears: “I’m going to find for the defendant.”

Insert happy dance here!

Here’s where I went right:

– I avoided as much of the extraneous details as I could and just stuck to the facts that were relevant to the case.

– I had my exhibits all in order and easy to find. I had copies ready for the plaintiff and judge so it was easy for me to reference supporting evidence as I spoke.

– I brought a printout of the client’s album design as well as a sample album that she looked at during her initial meeting with us. The judge spent a lot of time looking at these two items. The album proof demonstrated that we’d done our job while the sample album demonstrated that the work we performed was consistent with what she hired us for to begin with.

– Being in Superior Court meant that the judge could take the time to consider the details of the case and not just split the difference.

– I made it clear that I was willing to work to make the client happy, but it was her refusal to cooperate that made that impossible. (“It’s unfortunate that the client couldn’t be bothered take an hour to sit with us to work on the album, yet she has the time to take us to court.”)

– I had a signed contract with clearly spelled-out terms which allowed the judge to quickly review it and accept the terms as binding. (Surprise, surprise, I used my Toolkit wedding contract.)

– I never attempted to interrupt the plaintiff. I remained cool and courteous throughout. The bailiff even complimented us and said that usually the litigants are arguing and talking over each other in court. Being rational, reasonable and professional in appearance made it easy for the judge to side with me.

So I walked out of the courtroom happier than a clam. There’s no appealing the decision and I don’t owe her a dime. Yes, I was happy to have won and to not have to fork out thousands of dollars, but I also got that warm rush of satisfaction from knowing that I’d wiped this unreasonable client’s smug smile clean off her face.

John Mireles

(Photos from my Pacific Magazine cover shoot)

About johnmireles

Photographer, writer, thinker, climber, outrigger canoeist, bad guitar player and even worse singer.
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112 Responses to Sued by an Unhappy Client: Lessons Learned from My Day in Court

  1. Paul Rumohr says:

    John, congratulations on your hard fought win in court. And thank you most for sharing the experience.

  2. Glad I am not married to that B*%tch

  3. anaivanphoto says:

    Wow! Thanks for sharing this situation with everyone. I always have a signed contract and hope to never have to go to court, but in the case it happens, it’s good to know that there are judges who are willing to spend time listening to both sides.

  4. Eric Wordal says:

    Wow good for you!!! Glad you didn’t just walk away after the default judgement!!!

  5. Congratulations. Haven’t been there (yet). I liked reading what you did right, but was there anything you did wrong? By wrong, I don’t mean that you were wrong but was there anything you did that you would do differently in the future? Knowing both of those could be a huge help for people going forward.

  6. Barry Staver says:

    Congratulations John. This had to be a most trying and stressful time. I know other photographers who spent thousands of $$ defending themselves from outrageous claims. From the sound of it, you handled this superbly. I’m forwarding this to other shooters. Bottom line is having paperwork in order, keeping your end of the bargain, and documenting everything. Plus, as you said, keeping your cool in court.
    Best wishes for your continued success!!–Barry Staver

  7. David Beckstead says:

    Glad to hear that happy ending!! I am very glad you did not cave in! So many photographers do. You took it all the way and even if you lost, you took it all the way!!

    • Luna Dulce says:

      So important! I’m going though something similar… I’m going to take it all the way and pray that the judge will be annoyed by this lady…. Im not going down without a fight either! This blog post has given me confidence! ThAnk u!

  8. laura pineda says:

    Congratulations, John, and way to go fighting the fight for what you deserved! 🙂

  9. Thank you for sharing this incident. You are very lucky. We all get those nerve-racking customers and cringe at some of the demands. But maintaining a professional on your behalf was commendable and I will reread this because you taught me valuable procedures.

  10. Whew! Glad you won the case. Its great information to know and thanks for sharing.

  11. tbrodigan says:

    You go, boy! So glad to hear such a potentially unfair smear case was smacked down with skill, perserverance, respect and self-respect. Good for you!

  12. LUCAS says:

    You should have showed up in court the firts time … no excuses… ;-(

    • Alexis says:

      I agree! or file for an extension which I believe can be done. That could have saved you all that trouble.

      • johnmireles says:

        Yes, an extension would have helped. Unfortunately, one must be filed a week prior – which was more notice than I had for the shoot. I did know from previous experience (I sued a mechanic on behalf of my parents a long time ago) that even if the defendant didn’t show, the case could be appealed.

  13. Phil Steele says:

    Excellent article, John, with lessons for us all! Thank you for sharing this.

  14. Wow! What a roller coster! Good for you sticking to your guns! So glad I use the Toolkit Photo Contract for all my wedding and commercial work!

  15. Dawn Davis says:

    Congratulations John. You are a class act!

  16. I can’t tell you John how happy this tale makes me. A tale of an uncooperative, impossible to satisfy client trumped. What a triumph. Don’t you love a solid contract!? Well done on keeping your cool and noting that sticking to the case facts helps. Inspiring!

  17. Good for you, John! I was getting nervous as I was reading and you lost in small claims court. I’m glad it turned out well for you.

  18. wow, thanks for sharing your story! some people just can’t be pleased.

  19. Great Story. Thanks for sharing as usual. Peace out.

  20. Shawn says:

    Great article. Thanks for posting. Did she get online and start bashing you on sites like Yelp or other sites you might rate a vendor?

  21. Daniel Moyer says:

    Good for you, John! Props to you for being calm, cool and collected- Thank you for sharing. I am dreading the day that this will happen, but I am not one to fly off the handle. This gives me hope for the day it could potentially happen.

  22. Hoyt P. Glover says:

    Good story. Question – similar situation but it didnt reach courts. My situation, I was hired as an assistant for a wedding. Took pictures of groom & men. Bride’s mother wasn’t satisfied w/ pictures because it was shot in “traditional” format. The main photographer and I weren’t told that they wanted traditional photos. Ironically, we shot traditional & contemporary poses. Bride requested my fee back but they still got my pictures on CD. Bride threatened legal action but husband liked pics.

    Because of this experience and other clients like yours, my business partner (wife) doesnt want to me continue business.

    Advice for next time?

    • johnmireles says:

      This is a whole other topic worthy of its own discussion. I’ll just say that unhappy clients do come along every so often. It sucks when it’s at the beginning of your career. If you’re doing good work though and take care of the client, they’re very rare.

  23. Hoyt P. Glover says:

    Correction – pictures weren’t traditional. Parents paid for pictures. Who has the legal rights in this scenario, bridge & groom, or the parents/in-laws providing $ for services?

  24. larawhite says:

    wow, what a nightmare to have to deal with! Glad you were able to work that out favorably. It’s crazy to me how people think they can just change their minds and then throw the whole signed contract and agreed upon terms right out the window. I have experienced several times where clients cancel the wedding or change their minds and then think that me keeping the non-refundable retainer is just being mean.

  25. Paul Edward says:

    Good story, better result. Thanks for sharing, John.

  26. fagundo says:

    What a great read! Thanks John for sharing that experience. I hope I never have to deal with that but if I do, I am now better prepared.

  27. berto says:

    Wow John what an ordeal! Its too bad we have to deal with people like this but such is the business we are in. Too often people think court is the answer and all along it would have been much easier to work things out with you of course, but there is always one bad apple in the bunch that wants to take you to the distance. As a fellow photographer, I am glad to hear you kept your cool, stayed organized and won your case! Upon reflection though I am sure you realized that nobody really wins in cases like this! Sure you won your case and did not have to pay any money, but when you add up all the time off from your business, and the time prepping yourself to win in court it just never adds up. Seems to me the only one’s that are rewarded are the Judges and Attorneys that work in the system. As for me, I hope we never have to go to court but what a great reminder to always stay organized in your business, and above all to remain cool! Great Article John.

    Peardon Carrillo Photography

  28. Tony Corbell says:

    Good one, John. The consummate professional will usually win whenever logic plays a part. Congratulations, sir…

  29. Congrats John. My case went to Judge Joe Brown in LA because of a videografer I refered. Can’t say much but will do so when this is all over.

  30. Ron says:

    Thank you so much for sharing the steps and your thoughts on how you prevailed John. I have a few questions for you though. Who’s pictures did the bride use when she created her own album? Did you need to provide your finished album to the bride to fulfill your contract and judgment?

    • johnmireles says:

      She received her images on a disk. The bride declined to receive her album even though we were happy to provide it.

    • David Quinn says:

      Like Ron, I am left wondering “Who’s pictures did the bride use when she created her own album?” Did she scan your proofs or did she use someone else’s images? If she scanned your images, then that would be a copyright infringement, but I see that you did not seem to bring that up in court, you stuck to the “facts” and that may have helped your case also. No need to “strike back” when in this type of situation.

  31. Julia says:

    congrats John. Very scary situation — obviously we can never predict when we have a difficult client coming our way. Sounds like you did all the right things.

  32. Angela says:

    I love to learn from other photographers experiences and it is a shame that you had to go to court over this matter. Good thing you had your paperwork and signatures in order.

  33. Congratz John,
    Weren’t you afraid of her blackmailing you with bad Yelp or Google reviews?

    • johnmireles says:

      Not really. I don’t pay much attention to online reviews. I’ve got enough stuff to worry about. Besides, I have enough good stuff written about me so one review isn’t going to destroy my reputation.

    • She would have done a bad review whether or not she won. That’s what people like that do. Since we own a photography/videography company and two banquet halls I know too well about the one client out there that will find every way they can to destroy you in the process of trying to get money back.

  34. johnmireles says:

    Thanks everyone for all the amazing support! I can assure you that this experience was not enjoyable in the least. Over and over I played out my defense in my head. It all seems so easy in retrospect, but the reality was much different. I’ll respond to all the questions as I can. I think I’ll do a follow up blog post as well so stay tuned!

  35. Tony Bisson says:

    Nice to see that you prevailed in the Superior Court appeal. Those do it yourself online albums are a real thorn in the side of photographers. I have had my encounters with them too.

  36. Pepper Nix says:

    Congrats John, and what an excellent article! Your newsletters always have great information in them, thank you!

  37. Anonymous says:

    I had to chuckle when I was reading this story. A very similar situation happened to me with an associate team. Long story short- in small claims court the “female” judge went in favor of my client who didn’t like her pix. So a $3000.00 judgement was awarded to her. A month later I received a letter from small claims court stating that she wants to take me back to court for her files.REALLY! Back in court now with a “male judge he read the last judgement to her and her attorney and totally reamed them both for trying to reopen a case.Especially for pix they did’t like.This is where it gets really good:) the judge asks me how much i would charge for the files. Guess! you got it! $3000.00

  38. Ashley says:

    Good news, John. Interesting article and I enjoyed the images.

  39. Sheri Ann says:

    Hoyt, the legal rights go to who ever signed your written agreement, and you should always have a WRITTEN, signed agreement!

  40. Linz says:

    Congratulations on the appeal, but why take a shoot when you have a court date? I understand you can file an appeal but as you found out, the appeal was denied by Small-Claims and you that left you ‘hoping’ it would be heard in the Supreme Court. Not being argumentative, just trying to understand your reasoning. I assume the shoot was of more value than the potential $3k you might have been paying out.

    • johnmireles says:

      Well, truth be told, I knew that I could appeal the case to the Superior Court and that my case would be heard. I was given misinformation afterward to the contrary which is what sewed doubt in my mind. Also, yes, the shoot was a unique week long project in San Francisco that was worth more to me than the lawsuit award. It was a cost I was willing to pay.

  41. Ifong Chen says:

    Thank you! John for sharing this! This is so helpful. Sometime I feel our photographer could be a easy target when the client needed some extra money!

  42. joseph says:

    Congratulation on your case such a nice article and definately learn something from it.
    Thanks for sharing.

  43. Your article is great and one that we photographers need to read and consider. It seems especially in this bad economy people are looking at all kinds of ways to protect their wallet at our expense. I have been a wedding photographer for over thirty years, still out shooting and have only been to court once. A client cancelled her wedding ten days before the ceremony and demanded her money back. I declined to refund per our contract. Our PPA approved contract shows that the $300 the client had given me is a DATE RESERVATION FEE. That was the only money I had collected towards the package at that time. Client took me to small claims court, I feel I was calm and represented myself well and explained that this was a reservation fee to secure the date and that we had turned away other weddings at the clients request. No decision given that day. Two weeks later I received the court notice. Give her the $300 back..I paid it immediately ad I had no choice. The real problem was it stayed on my credit report for over ten years as a court judgement.

  44. Rick says:

    Were the legal fees of defending this atleast if not more than the $3,000 to give the client back the money?……You must have paid a lawyer???

    • johnmireles says:

      No legal fees. Since this was small claims, lawyers aren’t necessary. I felt confident in my ability to defend myself so I didn’t feel the need to consult with an attorney either. I’m comfortable and somewhat experienced with litigation (having worked in a related field log ago prior to becoming a photographer). For those with less experience and comfort with the process, getting some help is definitely in order.

  45. Gustaff says:

    That mean spirited person needs to meet with blunt force trauma from a phallic shaped object. (Note: This comment has been edited to remove coarse language.)

  46. C says:

    John, I wonder if you could have sent someone in your place when you were out of town?

  47. This story made my day. Good for you, John.

  48. Jennifer says:

    genesisweddings, doesn’t that make you feel like our contracts really mean nothing? What is the point of having a written contract if the courts can just overturn it like that? Even though it was just $300 you might have been able to appeal that. That’s just crazy!

    • David says:

      I Know…The judge read the printed, signed, initialed, properly executed contract and chose to ignore it. I left the courtroom feeling like I was in the clear, but the judge had different ideas. I considered appealing it but with the defeat of the first judge I felt………go pay it and forget it. Much to my surprise it lowered my credit score for almost ten years afterward because a court judgement looks bad on your credit record. My credit report didnt say paid or just reflected the judgement..figure that one out.

    • johnmireles says:

      There are no guarantees here. Even the best contract can be ignored. Unfortunately, many Wedding contracts out there were written with no review or input for a lawyer. Sure, they sound good and legal to a non-lawyer, but they really don’t pass legal muster. That’s why every line of my Toolkit ( contracts is lawyer written. The details do matter.

  49. aacreation says:

    Thanks for sharing… lots of great info to keep in mind if we run into something like this…

  50. Rob says:

    Good luck for your future, John. Nowadays it’s very easy to damage someones reputation through social media and online reviews, and maybe things are different in the US, but here in Australia I know of someone who did what you did and it didnt take long until their reputation was badly damaged. The client managed to get a newspaper writeup of the issue which costed the studio tens of thousands in lost business. Further, through a flood of negative online reviews google associated their business name with the word ‘complaint’ which showed any client who was googling the business the complaint sites first. In my opinion you should have just swallowed your pride, refunded the money for the album, and kept quiet about it!

  51. Thanks for sharing this story. I don’t know how well my contract would hold up in court. But I signed up for Legal Shield so I have an attorney who can look it over. I should do that!

  52. I have had only two clients that decided they were not happy with their albums and wanted their money back. In both cases they had taken so long in the final print selection process that their marriages had fallen apart, and I proved in small claims court that they wanted their money back because they were not together any more.

  53. Janas79 says:

    This is exactly why I do not do wedding photography & don’t care to ever! 🙂

  54. Leanne says:

    I have to say John that while the story was fascinating (and scary!!) the images really caught my eye first … I’m assuming this is the bride?? WOW! If so, then I can’t help but shake my head at her absolute stupidity. $3k in 30 years (if her husband hasn’t divorced her by then!!!) will be an absolute pittance and and most likely forgotten about. It’s a shame that some people lack the ability to see the bigger picture and choose to alienate the very people that could do so much for her. IMHO, an incredibly stupid girl. But congrats to you for sticking it out to the end and winning!

    • johnmireles says:

      Just to be clear, the photos were not of the bride. I just like to add pretty pictures to my blog posts. The model is Adrian Janic, former host of the TV show Overhauling.

  55. Thank you John for taking the time to share this experience with us. You have done an enormous service to the photographic community.

  56. Very interesting. In 15 years I’ve tried to do everything right and been fortunate. However, as you have proven, that does not ensure you won’t be sued. Thank you for sharing; it makes the process a little less intimidating.

  57. Randall says:

    I have been in the wedding business for 45 years and I would like to make a few comments that I hope you and those reading your difficult scenario will consider.
    First, I am delighted the situation is resolved, but it never should have happened in the first place.
    It is essential that the photographer have a Photographic Agreement.with the bride and groom or a responsible party. When I began my career as an apprentice in 1965, the gentleman who schooled me in the art of wedding photography emphasized over and over that you must have an Agreement, worded and prepared by an attorney, that will cover all bases and will protect you from any negative scenario. I have used his attorney prepared agreement (with a few updates) And have never had any problems or issues.
    Ladies and gentlemen, if you are photographing Weddings, Mitzvahs, Quinceneras and events
    You must have an ironclad signed Agreement that will limit your liability.
    Secondly, you missed a court date and got a judgement against you. This complicated your credibility and caused you further issues. You should have made arrangements with the court to change the date.
    It is all about communicatio….and you should have met with the bride at her location when the problem first occurred.The situation should have been resolved at that time.
    There was no need for this scenario to turn into a Supreme Court Decision.

    • johnmireles says:

      Thanks for the Monday morning quarterbacking! 😉 The crux of the matter here wasn’t anything we did or our efforts, it was the fact that this client wanted her money back. No amount of communication or kissing her ass was going to do anything unless we returned her money to her – which I wasn’t willing to do. I’ve been doing this for a long time and I know how to take care of clients. If the other side is not interested in working to resolve the issue, there’s nothing I – nor anyone else – can do. Fortunately, the judge saw this and that’s why she ruled immediately in our favor.

  58. The harder the battle, the sweeter the victory!

  59. Steve says:

    Quote from the article: Finally she responds. She’s doesn’t like our design and image choices, but, lucky for us (insert rolling of eyes here), she’s designed her own album on Picassa – that she wants us to match. Of course, it’s a disaster.

    Maybe I am missing something here, but what do you care if her suggested design is a disaster? She is the client. Why didn’t you just design it the way she wanted, and be done with it, as long as she is paying you for it. I am not trying to be a smartass here, I am just curious.

    • johnmireles says:

      That’s a valid point. It’s not unusual for a client to suggest some perfectly bad photo layouts or treatments for use in their album. We view it as our job to educate and cajole the client towards an album that reflects not only my style of timeless elegance but will also look great for decades to come. We’re also not in the habit of putting junk out there with my studio name on it.

      So our goal was to work with the client to produce something that she would enjoy while still meeting our standards. As I’ve pointed out before, this client wasn’t really interested in working with us. Even if we had done exactly what she presented to us, I don’t think that would have mollified her. Indeed, at one point she was insisting upon a redesign with absolutely no input from her. Our response was “we’ll do a redesign but you have to tell what you do and don’t want.” We never got that from her. All we got was a small claims summons.

  60. Good!!!!
    I’m happy.

  61. Arika Jordan says:

    That’s awesome! Good for you!

  62. afropixphoto says:

    Good info regarding be prepared for court. However, your readers would be well advised to check the court rules in their state before assuming they can missed a small claims court date without any future consequences .

    • johnmireles says:

      Yes. Absolutely. I’m in California. The rules for every state differ so it’s important to know the process where you live once you get dragged into it.

  63. Jenna says:

    First off, CONGRATS! As a court clerk myself (the full-time gig that actually pays the bills & retirement) I wish more people we saw in the courtroom were like you. I agree with all of your points on what went right. Not only did it cause the decision to be in your favor, I’m sure the clerk was very happy to have someone so prepared and not talking over the other party while she was trying to keep up with recording testimony! Well done!

  64. Rey Varela says:

    These kinds of results make me feel good…you handled this well and all went in your favor.

  65. Dora says:

    Well done. Thanks for sharing. It must have been so nerve wracking…but the outcome was positive in the end. Hope you don’t have to go through that again!!

  66. laura says:

    good for you! thank you for sharing this story and your experience! 🙂

  67. Lynn Clark says:

    Such a great reminder to make sure that my contract is clear and that it’s been vetted by a Colorado lawyer. I’m glad for the positive outcome for you.

  68. Andrea Price says:

    Very very proud of you John. Thank you immensely for sharing!

  69. Tim says:


    Thanks so much for sharing. Having had to go to court for civil matters a few times, the key you shared that hit home was having all the documentation organized and ready to present. Courts do not like disorganized, unprepared witnesses. Second was your professionalism throughout the entire process. Great practice for us all to embrace.

  70. I had a VERY similar situation although I settled out of court because the whole concept of court scared me! Glad to know that you stuck to your guns and were able to put her in her place. Some people think you owe them the world.

  71. Hey John,
    Just curious, has this changed your approach and or strategy on how you want to get your albums delivered to your clients sooner, with a quicker and more effective response from them?

    • johnmireles says:

      No it hasn’t changed that. We endeavor to deliver our albums to the client as quickly as we can. In this case, getting the album to the client sooner wasn’t the issue. Our approach has evolved in the course of dealing with hundreds of clients so that client issues are few and far between.

  72. Will Nelson says:

    Good Job John. Thank you for sharing. Shame on you client, for her attempt to try to get something for nothing. Your time is as valuable to you and your family – as this selfish client’s time is to hers. I hope she reads this.

  73. Alistair says:

    Thought there was going to be an unhappy ending to this tale. Glad you persevered. You should have been awarded damages for your loss of time.

    What disgusts me is the ease in which people tend to sue. Kill all the lawyers – as “Shakespeare” (Oxford) said. They created this environment.

  74. Rene Thomas says:

    WoW – thank you much for sharing this!

  75. Bob says:

    Because of this exact situation, I will not photograph weddings!
    I know there is money to be made, but clients using internet (software)
    feel that they can do better for less and expect us to put our names on it.

  76. Well written story John. And the part about the bride designing her own book reminded me of bride-to-be who asked “why should I pay a photographer to design my album when I can do it myself for 1/10 the cost” So I asked to see a sample of her design work. And she just happened to have a small book of her parents and brother. Oh my! It was so so bad, I was speechless.

  77. I think the way to deal with this is to only give them a CD/DVD after the book is designed. I guess that there is always a way for clients to conjure mischief if that is their objective form the start.

  78. Kim Kravitz says:

    Congratulations to you! I’m glad to hear this worked out for you in the end. And your magazine cover shoot images are awesome! 🙂

  79. This has been very informative and a wake up call to check our contracts. Just to be clear, you give them a HiRes DVD of all the images ? Retouched? Is this how she made her Picasa album? We are still of the belief that the clients do not receive the Digital Negatives so that they can’t print our work in any form. I know some people will be telling us to keep up with the times but we explain to our clients that they are hiring us to produce a finished product. If they don’t get the disc then they get nothing until we produce the album. We email the layout for their approval and only then get the album printed. Having said that, we still had 2 clients from Hell during the past 2 years. I called PPA once to ask how to “fire” a client and they had their lawyer call within one hour. Very helpful.

    • johnmireles says:

      A couple of people have suggested to withhold the hi res disk until after the album is delivered. We used to do that, however we got a lot of griping and pushback from our clients. It didn’t make sense to fight that battle. It might have saved us here, but the trade off is that we’d have a lot more grumbling clients out there. Not worth it.

  80. Fellow Photographer says:

    That client should be slapped and black balled from every photographer she comes in contact with for the rest of her life.

    It’s a shame you have to have to spent your valuable time fighting a irrational client.

    But good for you , thank god you set her straight and won!

  81. I am very happy for you!

  82. bentchilliphotography says:

    I am not sure what a happy clam looks like, but it put a smile on my face ~ I enjoyed reading your story and even more so your result! ~ Congrats on your persistence and win

  83. Pingback: Why sharing contracts is a BAD idea for your business! | Legal Tips for Photographers

  84. fotogirl2009 says:

    I had a similar thing happen because the client didn’t want to pay for an album. She dragged her feet, failed to respond to my e-mails for 6 months, then demanded all of the images on CD for $250 out of the blue, saying that I had taken too long to provide anything, threatening to sue if I didn’t cater to her demands. Fortunately, I kept every e-mail from her and the bride (her daughter), and my best friend and her hubby are both attorneys….they drafted a sample letter for me to send to her along with the timeline of events supported by the e-mails. She realized she didn’t have a leg to stand on since my paper trail was so thorough, and she ended up paying me exactly what I charged her. I made damn sure that I delivered a gorgeous album by the date promised. And honestly, I was very polite and cordial to her throughout the whole thing (while bashing her anonymously to my friends, heh!) because I didn’t want the bride to have any hard feelings whenever she looked at her album. It was the only wedding I ever did, completely on a whim to help out a friend who referred me, and I’ll never do another one after that experience. I’m only glad I did it that one time because I’m really proud of the album. I’ll tell you what though—when she threatened to sue me, it scared me to death! Reading about your ordeal brought some of those memories back…..and I was so happy to read that you won the case, as you should have!

  85. Hi I am just starting my own business don’t even have a Web site yet I’ve always worked for sometime else so they own my old work, 8 years worth, so to build my portfolio I accepted a wedding from a friend of a friend. I only asked for $100 b/c of who she was and she didn’t want ceremony or anything just a few family shots afterwards. Her words “family pictures in wedding clothes” I did ask if she minded if I came early since she knew I was trying to build my portfolio she said sure no problem. I was an idiot and had no contract. This was a deal between acquaintances to me so I was stupid. I have now given her 2 cds with 80+ images each. I’ve had other photographers look them over and give me pointers on how to edit more to her liking. With the last I included a letter saying this is the finished product based on what we discussed I re-edited the images and truly hope you’re pleased. I declined a meeting in her home b/c I wasn’t comfortable after the way she spoke to me. She didn’t threaten me outright but said “you haven’t seen my bad side yet but you will,” I feel I delivered above and beyond what we discussed. She had a friend who followed me around and took ever pose I did so it’s my guess she got my shots and wants her money back. I’m against giving it, I earned way more than she paid and while not perfect she has beautiful images she can cherish for her lifetime. She’s threatening small claims and while 100 isn’t much its the principle, I delivered what I promised. She hired me with no knowledge of my work and I received very little input on what she wanted other than who was to be in photos and they all were. I’m also taking this very personal and having trouble not letting it just play out. Any advice?

    • johnmireles says:

      For the present situation, just ignore her. In the future, understand that you’re starting a business so you need to act like a professional with each and every client. Use a contract each time you’re hired. Make sure you know what you’re doing. Be clear on what you offer.

      I’ve seen this happen over and over with new photographers. I could show you emails from other people that are almost word for word the same as yours. This stuff is avoidable by being prepared. Good luck!

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