Collecting payment

Discussion in 'General Shop Talk' started by Christie Photo, Jan 18, 2010.

  1. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    I've never come across this before and I'm not sure how I will proceed.

    I shot a wedding late past September. I've been shooting weddings since 1972, so I'm not new to this.

    My policy the entire time has been to collect a deposit to hold a date, and then collect the balance of my minimum order upon completion of the proofs. These days, I no longer make paper proofs, posting a web gallery instead. So the gallery doesn't go up until I get paid.

    The bride booked me last January after seeing my work online. At the time, I thought it was a bit unusual... she called asking if I had the date available, came the same afternoon, paid the deposit and signed the contract. No muss, no fuss. She was in and out in less than 15 minutes. We exchanged emails a couple of weeks before the wedding day to confirm some details including when final payment was to be made.

    I began contacting her about 18 days or so after the wedding to tell her the gallery was ready and payment was due. I did not get an immediate response. I wondered if they were still honeymooning. Several days passed without hearing for her. Her mother did call, twice, asking if the photos were ready. I gently let her know I had not yet heard back from the bride, and that would have to happen before the photos were made available.

    After two emails, two phone messages and a mailed paper invoice, there was still no word from the bride. I received an email from the mother asking when she could see the photos. I decided to let her in on the problem I was having with payment. I finally got an email from the bride advising me it was OK to talk with her mother about the matter and that her mother was to make payment.

    So, I phoned mom... told her how much to pay and explained the she could see the photos upon payment. That's where its stalled. I sent a second invoice marked "past due, please remit." That was mid December. I haven't hear a word for either of them.

    I have NO clue what's going on. My first reaction is to call mom to discuss this some more, but my gut tells me any communication should be documented. It seems she knew the whole time her daughter expected her to pay, but mom never told me she was to handle that. This all seems a bit fishy to me. I can't believe the bride is willing to go this long without seeing her wedding photos.

    I'm baffled.

    -Pete
     
  2. icassell

    icassell TPF Noob!

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    At this point, I would do everything in writing.
     
  3. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    Seems to me you have done all you can and at this point I would drop the matter as the ball is in their court. I would just wait and see.

    I used to get the balance paid the day of the wedding. Prints were not included so that came later. Had I been in your situation, I would have been covered financially. You may want to change your policy for the future. Maybe 3 payments with 1/3 at time of booking, 1/3 the day of the wedding and the last 1/3 to put the gallery up. Whatever the way to cover your expenses is and make somewhat of a profit.

    Good luck.
     
  4. Phranquey

    Phranquey TPF Noob!

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    From 20+ years in the construction industry..... document everything!! Save all emails, and if you have a phone conversation, keep a dated journal with basic notes regarding the content of the conversation....this is admissable in court should it come to it. God forbid you get the summons that you are being sued for the photos because either bride and mom are not communicating or they are trying to pull one on you.

    We had enough problems at work that our phones are now tied to our servers. If I have a conversation with a client, I can go in and drag that conversation file over to my client folders. That now covers our butts when someone calls in and says "I ordered this, but got that... " Ummm, don't think so.
     
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2010
  5. KalaMarie

    KalaMarie TPF Noob!

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    i'm not a professional photographer, but isn't the person who signs the contract the one who is ultimately responsible for payment of services rendered. in this case that would be the bride, not the mother.
     
  6. AverageJoe

    AverageJoe TPF Noob!

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    Maybe the marriage isn't "sticking"?
     
  7. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    Tough situation...and one more reason why many (maybe most) photographers are getting paid up-front.

    My initial thought is that there is probably some family strife going on, and probably some financial issues as well. Maybe they spent all the money they had budgeted for their wedding, plus their honeymoon etc. Maybe they are swimming in debt now. Maybe now, as life goes on, they are finding it hard to scrape together the money to pay you.
    Sure, it may be killing them (the mother especially) that they haven't seen the photos yet...but on the other hand, the photos are out of site and out of mind, so they may not be actively trying to save the money.


    *aside*
    I has a portrait client a while back, a separated couple and their 4 kids. I put the photos up on my website and she wanted to order the files on CD. She sent me e-mails, saying that she was putting a cheque in the mail...tomorrow. Nothing ever showed up (she didn't send it). Fast forward a whole year and she finally calls and says she's ready to buy the CD...she will even drive to my house and give me cash. I did trust her enough to leave it in the mail box and have her leave the cash in an envelope. She missed two different days when she said she would come...but she eventually did and I got paid for the CD that I had burned over a year before.

    Luckily for me, I had charged a decent sitting fee up front, so it's not like I had to wait a year to get paid...but it was still a little weird.

    My point is this: some people are just flakes.
    *aside*

    Maybe give then one more chance to settle things nicely by sending an E-mail or invoice...but let them know that you will be forced to take legal action.
    Then go ahead and have your lawyer send them a letter.
     
  8. robertwsimpson

    robertwsimpson No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    if you're feeling taken advantage of, then your deposit should be raised a bit. your deposit should cover you for your time at the wedding, and a small amount of processing time to get the gallery up. After that, I wouldn't do anything (custom editing, in depth processing etc) until I had been paid in full. I think that's the whole point of a "deposit, balance" payment system.
     
  9. Christie Photo

    Christie Photo No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Yeah... it is the sensible way go proceed. I am CONSIDERING a face-to-face sitdown with the two of them.


    Agreed. But I'm feeling they've had time enough for some sort of response.


    Really, I think I'd welcome it. If my rapport with them has degraded that much, they'd be saving me the effort if they initiate it.


    Yes. Legally, she's the one I will have to address.

    Thank you ALL for your thoughts!!


    This one doesn't "feel" like that. I've had one like that before, and wondered too if it could be the case this time.


    That was my first thought. I really struggled with telling them to get out a credit card, not wanting them to start their married life with another bill. I wondered if someone lost their job, or had their hours cut.

    So now... I feel a bit foolish... concerning myself with all thier possible woes, only to learn they apparently have no concern for me.


    Done. But I'm still debating getting it ALL before the wedding. I think most photographers do it that way these days.


    Thanks again!

    -Pete
     
  10. c.cloudwalker

    c.cloudwalker TPF Noob!

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    That's the way I was doing it. Balance due when I arrived on the day of the wedding but I worked a bit differently. My contract only covered the shooting and proofs. All prints and albums came later.
     
  11. Big Mike

    Big Mike I am Big, I am Mike Staff Member Supporting Member

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    On this topic, many photographers actually have the balance paid before the wedding date. One reason for this, is so that you don't have to worry about collecting it on the wedding day. As many of us know, wedding days are already hectic and stressful enough (for them and maybe us too)...it can make things worse when you show up and ask for your money, if they are not prepared for it. Of course, they should be prepared for it...but with all the other stuff going on, they may forget.

    Another reason to avoid the wedding day collection, is that you have to take possession of that payment...and keep it safe for the rest of the day. Maybe not a big issue, but it's just one more thing. I've been paid cash once or twice...and having more than $1000 cash in your pocket, is certainly something that sits in your mind.

    My contract states that payment is due two weeks before the wedding, although it doesn't always happen that way. :roll:
     
  12. olympus201

    olympus201 TPF Noob!

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    Pete, The situation is possibly that the cash wedding presents were not what the happy couple expected. And now Mom, Dad and any relatives/friends have been mooched on by the happy cash poor couple to pay off the wedding and other expenses.
    Yes, you should document everything. Now I would contact them all and work out a payment arrangement over a period of time, maybe a year maximum.
    alex
     

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