In weird news, we found out last week that South Carolina wedding photographer Gerald Randolph Byrd has been convicted in criminal court of breach of trust with fraudulent intent for refusing to turn over a couple's September 2009 photos. According to prosecutors, Byrd accepted $2,450 in payment to shoot the wedding photos but never delivered the photos to the couple. Judge Letitia Verdin originally sentenced Byrd to eight years in prison, but suspended that sentence in favor of two years of house arrest followed by two years of probation. The court also requires him to hand over the photos within 30 days and return the couple's money.
Reporting on this strange case has been sparse, therefore it is unknown what sort of agreement existed between the photographer and the couple. Without knowing the other side or seeing the actual contract signed by both parties, it is difficult to rush to judgment and assume the photographer's intent was to rip this couple off.
This would be a great time to point out that during the planning process, couples can do their due diligence on potential vendors by asking their other vendors who they recommend. Reputable vendors you are already in love with will have worked with dozens of quality companies and should have great recommendations for you if you are unsure about a certain company's reputation. (Hint hint to our own clients who are still looking for a photographer, videographer, florist, etc etc... call us, we can help!)
Another suggestion: Google! Case in point, "Upset Groom" started a blog just to warn other South Carolina couples to avoid Byrd Photography like the plague. "This my sound funny but this is my first time blogging so here goes," the post begins. "This blog is to warn all individuals, couples, companies or anyone not to use Byrd Photography which is located in Greenville SC. This company or rather the owner of this company is very unprofessional." It goes on to share in graphic detail how Byrd balked at a payment arrangement previously made between he and the bride just 3 days before the couple's wedding. Trust us, Google is your friend in the planning process and cases like this are why.
You should also check review sites like WeddingWire to read what other couples have to say about any vendors you are looking at. In the case of Mr. Byrd, we were unable to find any WeddingWire reviews at all, which stands out as a huge red flag. Unless the vendor comes highly recommended by other vendors you trust or family/friends that have used this person for their own events, you'll probably want to avoid someone like this without any track record at all.
Our last suggestion is to read your contract carefully and know what you are signing. Without an actual copy of the contract between Byrd and this couple, it's impossible to say whether or not the contract language left Byrd the option to hijack the photos. Presumably, based on the judge's determination, this is not the case but we can't know for sure without actually reading the contract ourselves.
For more tips on hiring wedding vendors, check out our free eBook Don't Hire That DJ. While it specifically refers to finding the perfect DJ, many of the rules and suggestions apply to any potential wedding vendor you are looking at.