Can I Sue My Wedding Photographer for Late Images?

Question (from Anonymous in CT)

How to proceed legally to get my wedding pictures, it has been 6 months after my wedding and no answer? Tried contacting her via facebook, and phone things just get postponed and nothing.

Response (from Attorney Rob):

I’m sorry to hear that you have not yet received your wedding images despite the fact that its been 6 months!

I assume that you have a written contract with the Wedding Photographer and I presume that you have paid a substantial portion of the costs?

Hopefully that document will provide you with an approximate time frame for the turnaround time of the images. If it does not, then the law will allow the Wedding Photographer a “reasonable amount time” to produce the images. What would be “reasonable” in your situation? Depends. The Judge may look to industry standard, or in some instances, from the understanding of the parties at the time of contracting.

In regards to industry standard, I have seen the average as between four and twelve weeks (some Wedding Photographers can turnaround in as little as 6 hours, some take up to 8 months), so most certainly this Wedding Photographer may be considered outside the norm.

Late Wedding Photos are Probably Not a Material Breach of Contract

If there is no writing indicating the time to produce the photos, and there was no other understanding that the photos should be produced within a certain amount of time, then I think that you have an argument that the Wedding Photographer is in breach of contract. However, at this point, this type of breach will most certainly not be considered ‘material’, and further, the law will allow a reasonable amount of time for the Wedding Photographer to ‘cure’ his breach. In other words, like Han Solo on Endor, you need to give the Wedding Photographer more time.

Let’s say the Wedding Photographer does take longer, even 8-10 months, to get your photos to you. Are you entitled to general damages of pain and suffering due to emotional distress brought on by the Wedding Photographer’s breach? Probably not. Generally, in contractual matters, an aggrieved party is only entitled to be placed in a position that he/she would have been in had the other party fully performed. Here, you should have a bunch of pictures of your wedding. How would your damages be computed? Probably a refund of some portion of the amount that you paid.

OK, so what about “compelling” the Wedding Photographer to give you the images. This is what the law calls “Equitable Relief,” and when it pertains to compelling a party to a contract to perform under the contract, is called “Specific Performance.” On these facts, I doubt that the judge would grant specific performance, based on many things that would be too technical to get into.

Bottom line, I can completely understand your anxiety, but I think that it is premature to move forward with a lawsuit. Perhaps it would be better to send a certified letter requesting an update, and a date certain in which the photographs may be expected. If that doesn’t work, you can pay an attorney to draft a more stern demand letter. That can get the ball rolling.

Good Luck!

Moral of the Story: Wedding Photographers- your contract should provide an APPROXIMATE delivery date. If you are not able to meet that date, let the Bride know as soon as possible and work something out.