Tips and Tricks – Cinematography and Photography Services

August 1, 2022

Photography is an art form. A medium that many people use to capture memories and ensure that they remain timeless. In recent years, the rise in the number of local professional photographers has given Fijians the opportunity to capture their special occasions in stills and video.

There is a lot of skill and creativity that goes into professional photography, and consumers are often charged high prices to capture these precious moments. In Fiji, many have come to appreciate the skill of photography and are willing to hire these professional photographers, particularly for weddings and other milestone events.

However, this particular sector is not without issues, as the Consumer Council of Fiji has been receiving complaints pertaining to photography, cinematography and similar events services. This is evident with the 47 complaints lodged over the last 1 year with a monetary value of approximately $30,000.

What issues are consumers facing?
An analysis of complaints lodged at the Council has indicated six major types of issues consumers typically face when/after hiring an individual/business dealing with cinematography and photography. These issues are:

  1. Cancellation without notice
    For events such as weddings, consumers begin planning months in advance. This also entails making booking for photography services by making upfront payments. However, complaints lodged at the Council has revealed consumers were informed by the photographer on the day of important events such as weddings that they will not be able to provide their services.
  2. Non-refund of deposits/upfront payments
    Another prevalent issue in the cinematography and photography services is the non-refund of deposits. Most, if not all, businesses/individuals offering these services require upfront payments to confirm the booking. However, complaints received indicates that in instances the services are cancelled by the service provider or if the event is postponed/cancelled by the consumers on genuine grounds/circumstances, no refunds are provided.
  3. Non-disclosure of terms and conditions
    Businesses often (and we always strongly advised they must) have internal policies, terms and conditions. However, certain photography businesses have failed to clearly communicate this information to consumers before accepting payments. Complaints registered at the Council reveal that information such as refund conditions, cancellation charges and duration of service provided were not communicated to consumers.
  4. False promises
    Consumer complaints have also revealed that certain photography businesses failed to keep their promises. On some occasions, consumers had to postpone their planned events due to unforeseen events such as death in family whereby they were advised that the services would be provided at any date convenient to them in the future. With this assurance, consumers did not seek a refund. However, once the events were rescheduled, the businesses in question refused to provide their services.
  5. Poor quality of work
    On some occasions, the work produced by cinematography/photography service providers failed to meet the expectation of consumers. Complaints were indicative of amateurish, incomplete and shoddy work by certain service providers.
  6. Failure to deliver
    Whilst some photographers have provided work which was of inferior quality, others have completely failed to deliver any work at all. Consumers, after important events such as weddings and graduations were informed that the copies of photographs and videos were lost and cannot be recovered.
    Due to the issues highlighted above and because of the importance of such services, choosing someone you trust to document the most important day of your life is tricky. Therefore, consumers need to make smart decisions to ensure they hire reliable, reputable businesses/individuals.
    Consumer tips for hiring a photographer
  7. Judge their work, not their marketing
    We live in the golden age of marketing. Cheap, professional-looking advertising can easily be developed. A photographer with 30 years’ experience looks no different than one with 6 months of experience when it comes to marketing. Anyone can take out an advertisement in a wedding magazine and anyone can get really high-quality glossy sample cards made up.
    So, do not think a photographer is trustworthy just because they ranked first on Google or had the biggest advertisement in a paper.
  8. 50 good photos aren’t enough
    It’s great if the photographer has 50 excellent photos on their website, but that does not mean they will deliver the same for your shoot. They could have taken 10,000 photos just to get those lucky 50. You need a photographer who delivers quality on every single shoot.
    So, ask to see more photos and the final edits delivered to clients for their 3 most recent shoots. If they delivered a good crop of photos 3 shoots in a row, they will probably do it again.
  9. Extensive Research Is Unavoidable
    Checking online reviews of photographers would give you an idea of their work ethic. Do they deliver their work on time? Do they listen to their clients? Checking their social media profiles on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram would also help you decide if a particular photographer is worth the money.
  10. Compare Prices
    Taking an offer without examining alternative proposals is not ideal. Shop around! You have to make sure that you get the best possible services at the lowest price. That is only possible if you compare the cost of hiring various photographers. Then you ought to settle upon a particular photographer after balancing the price tag and the quality of work.
  11. The Post-production Details Are Critical
    Obtain written details on the date the photos/videos will be delivered, quantity and total costs involved.
  12. Demand for receipts
    Receipts serve as a proof of your payment and would prove instrumental in instance where a redress is required.
  13. Do not make full upfront payments
    Only pay a small percentage of the total cost to confirm your booking. Make full payment once the photos/videos are delivered and it is off the expected quality.
  14. Be assertive
    In instances where the service providers behave unscrupulously by not providing a refund or services at a later date, consumers should not be passive by letting the business dictate the terms. Consumers have the responsibility to be assertive and demand for best services – do not settle for anything less.
  15. Critical awareness.
    Consumers must also keep themselves abreast of their rights and relevant consumer protection laws. This will ensure that consumers are not misled by shoddy businesses.
  16. Action.
    Consumers must liaise with their relevant service providers to come up with an amicable resolution. If consumers believe that the trader is being disingenuous, they must seek the assistance of consumer protection agencies such as the Consumer Council of Fiji. Consumers also have the responsibility to keep documentation such as receipts which will be instrumental in seeking redress.

What to do when you are denied redress?
Consumers coming across unscrupulous traders are encouraged to contact the Council on toll-free number 155 or lodge a complaint using the Consumer Council of Fiji mobile app.