Deleting their wedding

We all love a little petty or nuclear revenge. But what happens when that nuclear revenge comes in the form of formatting memory card(s) in front of a groom? You have a post that has recently been going viral in which a photographer did just that: “AITA for deleting my friend’s wedding photos in front of them?” This one’s a doozy.

I’m not really a photographer, I’m a dog groomer. I take lots of photos of dogs all day to put on my Facebook and Instagram, it’s “my thing” if that makes sense. A cut and a photo with every appointment. I very seldom shoot things other than dogs even if I have a nice set up.

A friend got married a few days ago and wanting to save money, asked if I’d shoot it for them. I told him it’s not really my forte but he convinced me by saying he didn’t care if they were perfect: they were on a shoestring budget and I agreed to shoot it for $250, which is nothing for a 10 hour event.

On the day of, I’m driving around following the bride as she goes from appointment to appointment before the ceremony, taking photos along the way. I shoot the ceremony itself, and during the reception I’m shooting speeches and people mingling.

I started around 11am and was due to finish around 7:30pm. Around 5pm, food is being served and I was told I cannot stop to eat because I need to be photographer; in fact, they didn’t save me a spot at any table. I’m getting tired and at this point kinda regretting doing this for next to nothing. It’s also unbelievably hot: the venue is in an old veteran’s legion and it’s like 110F and there’s no AC.

I told the groom I need to take off for 20min to get something to eat and drink. There’s no open bar or anything, I can’t even get water and my two water bottles are long empty. He tells me I need to either be photographer, or leave without pay. With the heat, being hungry, being generally annoyed at the circumstances, I asked if he was sure, and he said yes, so I deleted all the photos I took in front of him and took off saying I’m not his photographer anymore. If I was to be paid $250, honestly at that point I would have paid $250 just for a glass of cold water and somewhere to sit for 5min.

Was I the asshole? They went right on their honeymoon and they’ve all been off of social media, but a lot of people have been posting on their wall asking about photos with zero responses.

And unsurprisingly, the consensus is Not the Asshole (NTA). And it’s telling that consensus was reached purely through emotion. Well time to dissent from the majority.

In the comments one person pointed out that the “Am I The Asshole” forum isn’t about asking whether someone’s actions are justified. Several have also said the poster should have not deleted the photos but, instead, should have demanded more money for them given the slave-like treatment they endured.

My opinion is quite simple. YTA. The poster is the asshole for deleting the photos. And if you think by saying such I’m somehow dismissing, diminishing, or excusing the groom’s actions here, a basic study in logic will be to your benefit.

So let’s start with the groom.

Yes, the groom is an asshole

The groom talking a dog groomer into being the photographer at his wedding was purely a money move. Wedding photographers normally charge several thousand dollars to photograph a wedding. And with good reason. I’ll let UK photographer Dave McKeegen do the explaining:

There’s a LOT that goes into wedding photography. There’s a LOT that goes into any photo shoot. A lot more than is readily apparent, which is why a lot of people try to undercut what a photographer charges for their services. As the saying goes, we charge what we do because the years of experience you have not seen is what provides the results you do see. And that goes not just for photographers.

And when it comes to photography, while it might look like we’re just pointing our cameras and pressing a shutter, there’s a bit more that goes on before that shutter button is pressed. And with weddings, the shots to take and how to take them is something really only learned through experience. Either as a second photographer or by just shooting a lot of weddings.

So if you think you can get away with hiring just anyone with a camera to photograph your wedding, and doing so for only $250, don’t expect stellar results. Actually, don’t expect really much of anything.

And don’t threaten to not pay them in order to get them to comply with your demands. Even if their agreement was entirely verbal, it’s still fully enforceable with the photos as evidence an agreement existed. If I was in that photographer’s position, I would’ve just up and left, sent them an invoice, and told them I wouldn’t even consider editing what I did take till they paid up.

Your wedding photographer is just as much a part of your wedding as you are. Probably more so. If a wedding was a television or movie production, your photographer is literally the camera crew. Without them, you just have a bunch of people going through the motions and largely… nothing to show for it. As such, treat them the same way you’d treat one of your groomsmen or bridesmaids.

Actually, no. Treat them better than you’d treat anyone in your wedding party. You want good results? Keep them happy.

This also means not denying them breaks and chances for food and drink.

But so is the photographer

So why is the photographer an asshole? Well… the agreement, for starters.

The agreement was to take photographs in exchange for being paid. Your obligations under that agreement begin when you show up. So by deleting the photos that have already been taken – in front of the groom, no less – they became in breach of contract. And could be sued for such. The groom could sue for an injunction forcing the photographer to produce whatever photos were taken. Which would then obligate the photographer to confess under oath that they were destroyed. Intentionally.

Now one could say that since no money changed hands, then the groom wouldn’t be able to get anything. And that’s where “punitive damages” comes in. While not normally awarded in a breach of contract claim, the circumstances here are extenuating.

But there’s a lot more.

I mentioned “collateral damage” in a previous article talking about an employee who quit on the spot after her manager refused to accept her resignation. The photographer didn’t screw over just the groom. They also screwed over the bride and the families of the bride and groom.

Yes, the groom was an asshole without doubt. But that doesn’t justify denying photos to everyone who would’ve expected them.

Had they merely walked away early, I would’ve had zero trouble siding with the photographer. That they went “nuclear”, to borrow Internet parlance, was so far beyond “too far” that they’re no longer in the same galaxy. Exhaustion and hunger got the better of them and they acted without thinking. Which is why they ended up second guessing their actions and went to the Internet in hopes of hearing they did the right thing.

And Reddit, also responding purely emotionally instead of actually thinking through the totality of the circumstance, caved. How predictable.

Trouble clients

Anyone who has worked anywhere knows that trouble clients and customers are just part and parcel. So what, then, if you’re the wedding photographer who is on the receiving end of a groom or bride’s assholery? There’s unfortunately not much you can do about it except stand up for yourself.

If the bride or groom isn’t letting you eat or take any kind of break – e.g. the restroom – then you need to stand your ground. Telling them you will be taking breaks as needed, including for food and water, and that not paying will be met with photos being withheld until they do pay as agreed, with a lawsuit to follow if they don’t pay.

And when that fails, you always have the option to just cut your losses and walk away.

Yes, seriously, that is what it requires. Unfortunately a lot of people don’t have that kind of mindset. This photographer included. Since they didn’t cut their losses. They scorched the earth.