So, when a disappointed guest/surprise unpaid photographer decided to vent to the hilariously petty and scathingly judgemental 'Wedding Shaming,' group on Reddit, people were eager to join the roast session. Who doesn't love getting thrown a camera in the middle of the cocktail hour and asked to work a shift with a payment of 'exposure?'
This happened years ago, when social media had just become a thing. I was friends with a woman “Diane” who worked at our community church. We had become real close due to both of us working in the Sunday School and when I was unemployed I’d volunteer at the church to get some sort of work experience.
In my mid 20s a photographer friend of mine “Ben” offered a basic photography course. It was very basic. We learned only a few things and he showed us how to use a digital camera to our advantage.
After I completed this course Ben contacted me to ask if I was willing to do a 21st as a mutual friend of ours daughter was having a 21st. He couldn’t do it (probably because it was free) so he asked if I would.
He made it clear to them it’s free so no editing. I didn’t mind as it would expose me to events photography. I hated it. I decided that events photography was not for me. It’s exhausting. It’s hard work and when you are also a guest, it takes away from your time and experience as a guest.
I conveyed this to Diane and she said she’s sorry to hear that as the photos came out so well. I said it didn’t matter, I’m not going into events photography. It’s just a hobby anyway.
Fast forward a few years and Diane moved about 8 hours away to be with family. She then met someone and invited me to her wedding. I felt so honored as no one else from our community church received an invitation.
The salary I had at the time was pitiful. It was the equivalent of the average rent in our city which is cheaper than surrounding cities. So I didn’t have extra money to splurge but my mom was kind enough to allow me to use my rent money to her to travel to this wedding.
I asked if another friend “Beth” could attend (who she knew) and Diane said that was fine then I wouldn’t travel alone plus we had a car that worked as mine was a death trap on wheels.
I took time off work, bought a new outfit and shoes, got everything prepared and off we went. We arrived at her place and although she was happy to see us she kind of just brushed us aside. Which is understandable. That evening whilst we were eating supper with her and her entire family, she plopped her digital camera in front of me.
I asked her “and this?” And she replied “Oh you’re doing my photos!” She didn’t ask. Not once whilst we were planning the trip did it come up. I asked her what happened to her original photographer and she laughed and said “it was always you.' I was taken aback by this because she was very much aware that I do not do photography as a career or that I wanted to do events.
She hadn’t asked me. She hadn’t offered any compensation, nothing. She also chose the time her family was around to drop this on me, and because she knew I was a people pleaser, I felt I couldn’t say no.
I remember very little of her wedding except her screaming at me the whole time, by the time the meal was served I was exhausted. I went for a walk and when I returned I was yelled at and berated because I missed them cutting the cake.
Had I been a professional I would have known I needed a program etc. but I was not one and had no idea what to do! Beth decided that was enough and we left. I gave Diane her camera and wished her well. She was livid we were leaving “so early.'
I told her to find another person to be her photographer for free, I’m done being her slave. She burst into tears and I got a reprimand from her now husband and reminded I was there because they invited me and gave me free accommodation.
(Sleeping in a storage room on a blow up mattress was not exactly acceptable accommodation and even with my limited funds I would have had better elsewhere but accepted their “kind” offer because I didn’t think she’d ever do that!)
I reminded them that photographers normally charge and food and accommodation isn’t usually it! Beth and I had to scramble to find alternative accommodation and thankfully Diane’s own sister “Maggie” who had taken a liking to us offered her spare room.
The difference between the 2 sisters was huge! Maggie even left chocolate on our pillow that she’d quickly bought at a convenience store on the way home. She herself was embarrassed by how Diane acted. We stayed in contact with Maggie for many, many years after.
It’s been 14 years and I’ve heard nothing from Diane. She didn’t even check to make sure we arrived safely home, something she used to do. She posted her photos on Facebook and didn’t even say thank you to me. Everyone complimented the photos and Beth made sure to tag me and tell everyone I’m the photographer.
It took many years for me to finally realize Diane was controlling and toxic. I would read about certain toxic and narcissistic behaviors and something she’d had done would pop in my mind.
She had me wrapped around her finger! I hate that I was blind to it. But thankful it took her abusing my time and me in front of her friends and family who were strangers to me for me to wake up!
Looking back, being the only person from a city she had lived in for most of her adult life, the way she treated me, I realized she had only invited me to be her free photographer. Food and accommodation was cheap in comparison to paying someone so the trade was perfect in her eyes.
Of course, people couldn't get enough of this brazen entitlement. Here's what the jury of shamers had to say about this disaster...
I would have walked out after taking very interesting pictures of my shoes, other guests shoes, the ceiling, the floor and the bathroom toilet.
Wow, that's cold.
Well she got what she paid for. I'm sorry she was so mean to you. You thought she was a friend but really she didn't seem to have the ability to know how to treat a friend correctly.