We lost all of our wedding photos – forever!

Hearing your photographer say “I have lost your wedding photos” would be a nightmare for any new bride, but for Ché it was the beginning of an adventure. Ché is a blogger (You may have heard of IndieBerries??) and very active online…for her, wedding photos were listed among the top priorities for her wedding day. But she became the 1 in a million statistic whose photographer ‘lost’ all of her wedding photos. Ché is naturally devastated about the incident, but she and husband Warren have used this experience as an opportunity. The couple take their ‘get up’ with them on travels and ask strangers to photograph them together. Is that not the most romantic thing ever? So far they have been to the French Alps, Belgium, Amsterdam, Spain, South Africa and Australia. Knowing Ché, we wouldn’t be surprised if she breaks a record for wedding dress wearing or something. 🙂

We understand that accidents happen, and in no way want to slam the photographer involved in this story, so we will definitely not name him/her, however we do feel that this is a story that needs to be heard – mainly to caution wedding photographers – so PAY ATTENTION! Brides – please don’t get freaked out by this. If you have hired a reputable, experienced wedding photographer, I am sure that they are aware of the risks and have sufficient systems in place to ensure the safety of your wedding photos. 

We first asked Ché some questions about her ordeal and what led to the loss of her wedding photos, and then we chat a bit about the adventures of the traveling dress. Illustrations by Ché.

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HOORAY: What was your first reaction when your photographer told you that they had lost all your photographs?
CHE: In my opinion, the situation didn’t pan out the way I think it should have – so, by the time our photographer told us that “there was a problem” – I already knew in my heart that something wasn’t right. We had already waited more than 3 months for our wedding photos, but being a creative myself I know ‘not to rush the creative process’ so I resisted emailing or checking in. At around 4 months after our wedding (bearing in mind that at this stage friends, family members etc have all been asking to see our pics for months!), I casually sent over an email to say “Hey, not wanting to hassle you at all, but just wondering if you have an expected time frame for us?”. The reply I received after that, was to explain that the photographer had been to Greece and hadn’t had a chance to edit the pics before leaving. Fair enough, I thought. He said he would have the pics to us the following week.

The following week, I popped him another mail to which he was very apologetic and said he was very sick. I replied with a “not to worry”, and even drew him a cartoon picture of a medicine bottle saying “get well soon” which I attached to the email I sent him. He promised pictures the following Monday.

Monday came and went.

By Friday that week, I emailed him again to ask about our pictures (this is now mid-August and we were married 6 April). The email response that I received back from him in the next few hours began,

“Dear Ché

I haven’t been completely honest with you….”

Let me just tell you, I have never opened an email that has EVER made my heart sink as much as that email did. I burst into tears right at my computer, phoned Warren – who could hardly understand a word I was saying through all the hysterical EMOTIONS and then texted my parents. After Warren put the phone down with me, he stood up from his desk and walked out of work to come and console me. It was that bad.

HOORAY: Once you had time to process what had happened, how did you feel?
CHE: Before I get onto this, I would like to say particularly to any wedding photographers who may be reading this – if this horrific situation ever happens to you (for whatever reason) – BE COMPLETELY HONEST with your clients, FROM THE BEGINNING, EVEN IF IT FEELS (swear word) UNCOMFORTABLE. Make no mistake, as a bride, losing your wedding photos feels like the worst thing in the world. But there is something even worse to have to deal with than that – and that is losing all your wedding photos, and then realising you’ve been lied to for 2 months. TRUST ME. I was mainly very upset (and angry) about the way in which our photographer had dealt with the situation. We are not unreasonable people, and Warren and I both know mistakes and accidents happens. I can understand how the photographer was trying to figure things out before having to break the news to us, because I don’t think this had ever happened to him before – and as such, I’m sure he also didn’t really know how to deal with it.

Another tip for photographers: if your hard drive ever accidentally falls onto the ground (no matter how ‘gentle’ the fall is) do NOT try and turn it on to “see if it still works” – take it to a specialist straight away. Our photos may have been saved if the hard drive was not powered on after the crash.)

After we dealt with the initial sadness/shock/depression/anger/frustration, we just wanted to HELP to try retrieve anything off the hard drives. (Which was frustrating when the photographer kept cutting my dad’s phone calls!) We all had the same end goal: try and retrieve the photos – and when we were told exactly what was happening and who had the hard drive and where it was, it felt better to be kept in the loop. (We were also told, as a last resort, that the hard drives were sent to a data retrieval specialist in California, but given that we had already been fed a ‘few different yarns’ for some months, I’m not entirely certain this actually happened – but either way, there was no result on the photos – which left me feeling really hopeless and flat. There really is no other feeling like it.

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HOORAY: Did you have a contract in place with your photographer and were you in any way covered for your loss.
CHE: Yes, he refunded us the cost of shooting the wedding. But I would say getting the money back in no way makes up for the fact that you don’t have photos to celebrate one of the most important and special days in your relationship.

HOORAY: How did your photographer try make-up for the loss of your images, were they sincere and just as devastated as you?
CHE: Once we were both on the same page (i.e.: we had all the information that he had had) we could tell that he was genuinely devastated – this is after all his business and reputation (and there were two other couples who also lost their wedding photos!) He offered us a couple shoot whenever we were next in the country. (At the time of his offer, I didn’t really want to see him to be fair!) It’s not about having another random shoot – it’s about losing the memories of that special day. We can never recapture our wedding day, with all our friends and family from around the world all together – we will never have that again in our lifetime. You can never recreate all the excitement, love and joy that is part of the wedding day – I think that’s the saddest part.

HOORAY: We know you love memories and photographs. Has having this happen to you changed your outlook on documenting moments?
CHE: Urgh, I have such a terrible memory and not having photos to look back on has forced me to really keep the memories of the day fresh inside my head and heart – which is probably not a bad thing. Since we lost our wedding photos, I decided on a whim to take my wedding dress to a music festival – I told Warren and he then decided he would take his “suit”! We had such fun dressing up and “re-creating” our wedding album with a bunch of strangers – that now, wherever we travel we have taken our wedding clothes and “re-created” our wedding day! So far, we have taken pics at the top of the French Alps, Belgium, Amsterdam, Spain, South Africa, Australia, and on the border of Sweden & Finland.
It’s been such a fun thing for us to do and it’s something we would never have done, had we not lost our wedding photos – so there’s the silver lining!

HOORAY: Do you have ANY photographs of your own wedding, professional or trusty iPhone?
CHE: Warren’s sister took some amazing pics on her SLR – unfortunately there is no couple shoot or getting ready or bridal party or family pics (because she was in them!). We have also gathered together iPhone pics and digital camera pics from friends and family who were there – but they are mainly shots from the end of the night, or people partying on the dance floor, or drunk friends doing drunk things, haha! We have SOME photos from the professional photographer – but they are screen shots of his computer – so we can’t print them. Plus they are only about 7 from the church and then about 50 from the end of the night when everyone is wild and crazy. I wish we had just ONE amazing photo of Warren and I that we could blow up and say was our one couple photo from the day we were married.

HOORAY: Do you back up your own photographs?
CHE: Haha – after this little “incident”, the wedding photos that we do have (scrounged together from friends and family) are saved on a CD, and on a hard drive, and on a flash stick, and on my macbook, and also on drop box. Does that answer the question?

HOORAY: What do you think of “un-plugged weddings”
CHE: Tough one! I think it’s important for people to be fully engaged in the day, but I am also SUPER grateful for all the iPhone snaps and pictures from friends that we did have. I also think that perhaps friends and family members may capture completely different moments to what the professional photographer captures. Our wedding “album” is created entirely through the eyes of our friends and family and I guess that is something quite special.

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HOORAY: Ok, so this “traveling wedding dress” idea is genius, tell us more about it.
CHE: Everywhere we travel we make a plan to take our wedding kit – including my giant wedding dress and Warren’s suit (or variation thereof!) We usually change it a little depending on where we are. It all started at a music festival where I wore a flower crown and Warren had suspenders and denim shorts. We had such fun recreating our wedding album at the festival that at our next trip, which happened to be skiing in France – we hiked our wedding stuff up the French Alps and snapped some pics complete with snow boots! It’s (ahem) snowballed since then!

HOORAY: Any travel plans coming up that we can look forward to?
CHE: I have some pics from our recent trip to Sweden where we saw the Northern Lights – I will be posting those shortly so look out for them! We don’t have any trips planned in the near future – but we definitely need to do a shoot in London!

HOORAY: How far do you hope to take the outfits?
CHE: As far as we can! (And as long as I fit into it!) I’d love to get a snap on all the continents. So far we have done South Africa, Belgium, France, Amsterdam, Spain, Australia and Sweden!

HOORAY: Have you forgiven your wedding photographer?
CHE: We haven’t spoken since the incident, but yes, mistakes happen and it’s water under the bridge now. Besides, I don’t think we would have decided to travel our wedding kit across the world if it hadn’t been for this incident… so I guess there’s a silver lining in everything!

The dress was designed and made by Maryke  (3 years, 7 countries and it’s still going strong!)

Thank you Ché for sharing your story with us.  We hope that this helps any bride who has lost her wedding photos realise that in tragedy, you may find adventure. And we hope that photographers read this and take note of how serious the consequences are of not saving enough copies of your images.

We have sourced some articles to help the photographer reading this article with advice on how to back up their work adequately:

Picture Correct
F-stoppers
The Dynamic Range

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