Legal Rumble Over the Critical Elements of Wedding Photography


Earlier today, an Australian court put an end to a year-old tussle between photographer George Ferris and newlyweds Jarrad and Sheree Mitchell over the quality of the wedding photos he took for them. Although neither side really won, the court did make an interesting statement that could serve as a precedent in the future.

One of the main pillars of the Mitchell’s argument was that Ferris had missed several key moments, including their wedding kiss. Ferris, on the other hand, called it “just a peck” and maintained that not all moments could be captured. The court sided with Ferris.


Here’s what Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal member Dr. Rebecca French had to say:

It was put to me that it was ‘just a peck’ and while it was not discussed at length in evidence, I accept that it is quite difficult to capture the moment of a kiss… Nor is it always possible to capture other precise moments and doing so can be problematic

In the end neither side really got what they wanted; Ferris was ordered to pay $710 in damages for the sub-par photos (of $6400 claimed), and the Mitchells paid out $60 for a meal the photog never got (of $5700 claimed). But at least in Australia, the precedent has been set: whether you’re the photographer or the client, be very specific about your expectations and the moments that are “must capture.”

(via The Age)

  • buchananimagery

    And this is why I shoot plants.

  • Neoracer Xox

    how did they come up woth 6400 damages?! f**king scammers

  • Matt

    I always have a laugh at wedding photography stories, the drama is funny if its not happening to you. They are without doubt always way over blown and lacking in rationality, sometimes by all sides.

  • Kay O. Sweaver

    Another one of the 932 reasons I don’t shoot weddings.

  • Rob S

    I have and will continue to gladly choose war photography over weddings!

  • aaa

    After all the money spent and likely stress resulting in the wedding planning, the photographer is stepping into a minefield.

    in some ways, it’s terribly unfair to the photographer. Out of all the people who serviced the wedding, he/she is still engaged with the customers well afterwards and becomes the unwitting proxy to all the angst that built up during the event.

    Wedding photographers get a bad rap (some deservedly so), but it’s a profession that requires excellent customer oriented practices–beyond just the pure technical skill of photography. Hats off those that are making a decent living at it.

  • Jeannie

    I admire wedding photographers. Portrait photography can be challenging in itself, depending on the client, and I recently turned down a request to be someone’s wedding photographer. There is an art to taking pictures of people, especially for an event like a wedding!

  • Brian

    Anybody remember Nelson Tang from a while back? He’s being sued for $300,000 because the client claims the photography was bad. I have no idea what the photographs actually look like, but I can’t believe that it’s worth $300,000 in “damages.” I think the safest contract may be, “we don’t guarantee anything, but you have to pay us to be there and do something that has something to do with photography.”

  • Nameless

    Missing the wedding kiss is unacceptable. Yes, not every moment can be captured but this THE wedding kiss.

  • Guest

    Weeding photography is half a technical and half a psicologycal job. There aren’t two identical couples, nor events. But I agree: The kiss must be captured. And, if you have lost it, don’t wait a second and ask the subjects to repeat it. Simple solution, but it works.

  • Guest

    Wedding photography is half technical and half psicologycal job. There aren’t two identical couples, nor events. But I agree: The kiss must be captured. And, if you have lost it, don’t wait a second and ask the subjects to repeat it. Simple solution, but it works.

  • gabe sturdevant

    If there is one. If the kiss is just a peck, like split second kiss, its pretty tough to get even on full 4fps.

  • jono

    who has just a peck on their wedding day?? couples fault, wedding photographers are human too.

  • Francis

    VCAT is a tribunal where a decisions doesn’t set a precedent, and The Age didn’t say it did.

  • dasein

    Speaking as someone privy to this wedding, the kiss was a fair bit more than a peck… but hey I guess people can get away with claiming anything in court, no one cares about honor or god these days.

  • dasein

    costs of reshooting… pretty simple really… weddings arn’t cheap

  • photoguy64

    $5k average gross with 52+ weddings a year do the math…. Hence why everyone gives it a go with cheap DSLRs and wrecks the reputations of the rest of us… I am happy this guy got publicly shamed as maybe the heat will be taken off us professionals who deliver real customer service. Congrats to everyone who states that a kiss must be captured; they understand.

  • Дмитрий Блудов

    Reminds me of situation I had a couple of years ago. I did my best as a wedding ‘tog — great lighting, wonderful weather, good mood — nothing seemed to ruin shooting process, so I succeded. By my standarts (which are pretty high) I ended up with best wedding captures I’ve ever made. I was really happy with these. After giving away resulting photographs, bride made an alarm call and told what an irredeemable sh*t I was. Scratching my head, I was willing to pay off their expences, but few people who came as a guest, asked me to not to do that for reasons nobody was able to describe or not wanted to.

  • Liz Pretorius

    LOL That sounds like a good option

  • Aaron Stanley

    So, the other end of the spectrum then – divorce proceedings.

  • fast eddie

    I actually really enjoy shooting weddings. I’ve shot between 30-40 over the last 2 years (full time job as a graphic designer and photojournalist), feel free to check out my work by clicking the link in my profile.

    I’ve had very few problems with difficult brides or the families involved. We screen our clients and don’t accept work from, um, unbalanced couples. We also give a pep talk to the bride and groom about the kiss at the alter, usually several times (first meeting, first look day of wedding, right before the walk down the aisle). We understand that there’s so much pressure and stress that people can forget to hold the kiss, but by being up front about our desire to capture that moment, if they still don’t listen to us, we did everything we could to ensure that we get the kiss picture(s).

    We also switch to burst mode, but damn, sometimes they just turn at the wrong moment, or turn their heads funny, or, by rules of the venue, we can’t get to certain angles and the crowd unexpectedly stands up and blocks the shot…that’s happened more than once and we motion to the bride and groom to kiss again and we reposition ourselves to get the shot. We’ve never missed it, though. It’s been close :)

    As a precaution to things like the article above, my contract states exactly what my liability is (this is only part of my contract):

    1. The Photographer will document the events in a candid manner and take formal portraits as necessary. The client is encouraged to provide a full list of formal photographs required including names and relationship to the client.

    2. Prior to or during the event, the Client may inform the photographer of subjects which they would like photographed, but the final content of the images is at the discretion of the Photographer. All reasonable efforts will be made to capture key moments of the event, but there is no guarantee, whether explicit or implied, that every shot will be useable.

    3. The Client will ensure that the guests at the event do not interfere with the Photographer’s work.

    4. The Photographer will be under no obligation to display the images while the event is still underway.

    5. The Photographer retains the copyright to the images.

    6. If the Photographer is unable to perform due to fire or other casualty, or other cause beyond the control of the parties, or due to the Photographer’s illness or injury, then the Photographer shall return the fees paid to the Client but shall have no further liability with respect to this agreement. This limitation on liability shall also apply in the event that images are lost through equipment malfunction, lost in the mail or otherwise lost or damaged without fault on the part of the Photographer. In the event that the photographer fails to perform for any other reason, the Photographer shall not be liable for any amount in excess of the Photographer’s fee.

    The equipment malfunction part is great in case a CF card goes buggy, which I have had happen before, but they weren’t key shots that were corrupted, so it wasn’t a big deal. Threw away the card as a precaution and bought a new one.

  • Harry

    Haha I shot something similar. I was asked to shoot a baby baptism after party. I was under strict orders not to shoot certain people and to make sure these people were not in any background shots. I merely laughed and doubled my fee for the extra effort. Seems some of these characters were on the shady side of life. You my friend may have shot a mafia wedding and didn’t know it! lol

  • allie

    and this is why you never shoot a wedding without a contract that says there is no guarantee of shots.

  • Jason Anders

    have you ever shot a wedding? it is not as easy as kiss muss be captured. they might kiss for two seconds, or very quick, you could be on the side at that time for capturing mom crying, or an uncle might be in front of you. Or you could simply be switching cameras and they do not wait for the priest.

    This couple was way out of line. We’ll see if they last.

  • Jason Anders

    Dude which world do you live at? And I am a pretty damn good photographer and even I missed the shot waiting for it. Why are other photographers so hard on our profession – on one hand you say it is hard job on the other hand you slam the photographer. Shameful.

  • Jason Anders

    Yes and that is worth refunding the 40 hours of work the photographer spent. Whatever.

    I hope in your job they cut your weekly salary because you forgot to put a comma somewhere.

    This is a terrible couple.

  • Erik Lauri Kulo

    I agree, Jason. A lot of commentators on the Internet seem to think the kiss is very simple to catch. It’s not. The first and only wedding (so far) that I’ve shot, I missed the kiss (well, I got it, but only the back of the head of the groom) because I stood on one side of the altar (very wide altar as well) and I was not allowed to enter the altar nor would there have been a good idea to capture the kiss from the audience perspective because I would’ve just gotten their neck as well.

    HOWEVER, if you screw up like I did, you damn better have great shots from all the other moments. I made sure I nailed every portrait I took after the ceremony plus did a good job on the party afterwards (was a full day shoot). Also, I told the couple just after the ceremony that I missed the kiss and asked them what they wanted to do (re-shoot or just skip it). They felt it wasn’t that important and skipped it.

  • Choen Lee

    Are there divorce photographers?

  • SparkleDog

    I’d love to be shooting 52 weddings a year at $5K. We average 20ish for $2500. But the point he was making is that a lot of people with no photography experience plunk down the $3000 for a rebel and some lenses and flashes and say they are wedding photographers. And then THEY miss the kiss and the couple tells everyone they know that wedding shooters are scammers and no one should pay anything for photos because “it’s just pushing a button.” An experienced shooter doesn’t miss the kiss — and tells the couple to hit the 4-6 second mark. But that shot can get messed up so many ways (officiant doesn’t get out of the shot and you get this strange three-way thing or some guest jumps up in front of you and ruins the shot with his crappy point and shoot flash.)

  • Jason Anders

    The thing to do is to see if the audience has someone with a camera and ask for the picture. I missed it once because the shutter died right at that moment. It was a super fast kiss so by the time I picked up my second camera from my side (I always carry two), it was over. The broken camera was only 1months old. Go figure. If I knew I would be forced to pay everything back (like this greedy couple asked for), why would anyone even bother? It would just raise the prices to cover such situations.

  • T Dub

    Why are we blaming the couple?

    Have you seen the photos? They are bloody miserable.

    I hope this guy gets laughed out of a career.

  • Edward Burbidge

    Whether or not “the kiss” is essential depends on your photography style. I shoot reportage weddings in a discreet, unobtrusive way, so I let things unfold naturally without interference… but of course that means I can’t guarantee every capturing every single moment. In my experience, clients prefer to enjoy their day without the photographer ordering everyone around or halting the proceedings to get a shot, at the risk of perhaps not getting every “must have” image. Everyone remembers a bossy photographer… in any case, being up front and honest with your potential clients is essential.

  • Ken Ockler

    This is why any serious educated photographer has a contract stating what will be given, and any serious couple getting married wont hire a photographer unless there is a contract in which they can hold them accountable in these situations.

  • Jorge

    I’ve been shooting weddings on and off since 1985. I shot medium format, 120 or 220 film. After shooting all day and well into the night I would RUN home, setup my makeshift darkroom, and develop ALL the film before sunrise. Wanna talk about pressure??!!!! What if the chemicals were off temp? what if they were exhausted? etc etc. Now, I’m semi-retired and only shoot destination weddings on request and ONLY when I can sneak in two/three days to myself afterwards at the location. Thank goodness for digital – D700, D800, D3, and Fuji X gear…
    I still shudder when I think of all the things that “could” have gone wrong in the developing process, but thank God I never had an issue, and as far as I know all the brides and grooms were happy.