Monday, May 12, 2008

It's Bureaucracy Monday All Day Today

Wedding Photographers, Wedding Photographers, wait till you here this ----

Wedding Deposits go into an Escrow account and not released til after the pictures are delivered.
Every wedding photographer must be licenced.
All wedding photographers must post $5000 bond with the city.

Please read on...

So I was just checking my email late last Thursday when I get a notice from the Adorama News Desk which had the eye catching blurb, "The council's proposed law also requires bridal shops to be licensed, and the photography license also includes videographers. The law states in part: "It shall be unlawful for any person to engage in the business of owning or operating a bridal shop or wedding photography studio without first having obtained a license..." The law will require licensing fees, extensive additional paperwork, and fines of $1,000 to $5,000 for each violation." What!!!

Seems they were alerted to the story by Carolyn E. Wright's Photo Attorney web site right here. I popped over there for more on the story and was floored by what I read. It seems the New York's City Council is proposing a law to really put wedding photographers, videographers, and bridal salons to some pretty harsh regulations. I talked with Terry Michael who sent the lead to the Photo Attorney site. I also called Paul Bernstein, Vice President of Professional Photographers of Greater New York, the largest wedding/portrait association in the state of New York. Here are the results of those calls.

It seems that a large wedding photography operation went "belly up" and absconded with several thousand dollars of deposits for upcoming weddings they had on the books. You can read the whole story right here in this New York Times article right here. Here is a quick excerpt, "...The company’s fortunes recently plummeted. Federal tax liens of more than $456,000 and a New Jersey tax lien of more than $86,000 have been filed against Celebration Studios in the last two years, court records show. The Montclair Police Department received about 40 fraud reports about the company from Jan. 11 through Jan. 18, 2008."

That seemed to really fire up one of New York's City councilman - which it should have - who initated the legislation. Anyway, the proposed law was presented to New York City Council last Wednesday. You can read the proposed legislation right here - it's an amazing read.

The More Salient Points of the Proposed Law - Hold On To Your Hats!!!
§20-256 Bond Requirement. Each bridal shop and wedding photographer shall furnish a $5,000 bond to the department conditioned upon:
§20-252 Application; License term; fees. a. 1. Each person applying for a bridal shop or wedding photographer license, or renewal thereof, shall file an application in such form and detail as the commissioner may prescribe and shall pay the fee required by subdivision c of this section.
c. The annual fee for a license or renewal thereof shall be one hundred twenty-five dollars.
§20-253 Contracts. Every bridal shop or wedding photographer shall provide each consumer with a customer contract that shall, at minimum, provide the following information: a. The cost for each service or product provided by the licensee, as well as information relating to any up front fees or deposits required and outstanding balances left due. b. Any additional fees associated with additional products or services.
§20-256 Bond Requirement. Each bridal shop and wedding photographer shall furnish a $5,000 bond to the department conditioned upon:
a. compliance with all laws, rules and regulations covering the conduct of bridal shops and wedding photographers;
§20-257 Penalties. a. Any person who, after notice and hearing shall be found guilty of violating any provision of this subchapter, shall be punished in accordance with the provisions of chapter one of this title and shall be subject to a penalty of not less than one thousand dollars nor more than five thousand dollars for each violation.

More floor suggestions from the 6 member panel committee proposing the law.
"Wedding photographers should have to place their wedding deposits in an "escrow account" till after the finished photographs are delivered to the clients." That would be disastrous to wedding photographers who book weddings several months before the wedding. It's these deposits that carry many wedding photogs through the lean month's till the wedding season kicks into action in the spring.

Or, how about, "Photographers should have to licenced the way they are in Germany." Just by coincidence, I received an email for from of our DPT readers in Germany that spelled it out in a comment to one of my posts on another matter. Here is what he wrote, "You have to start learning photography by a master licensed photographer for 3 1/2 years and also spend 1 day of the week in the designated school operated by the government. After examination you have to work for a photographer at least 5 years, after which you have to go at least 2 years full time in a master-school for photography, and finish with a examination. Only after going through that process can you then open your photography business." Almost 11 years of extensive training before you can pursue a career in photography on your own - I think brain surgeons only have slightly more training.

The Rest of The Story
A representative from the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs quoted the fact that out of the 30,000 consumer complaints they get a year less that 30 are wedding photographer related - or said another way, less that 0.1%. They actually thought there was not much need for the regulations. The committee disagreed.

Who slips through the cracks of the proposed law; for one DJ's and others doing what are called "Zap-Shots" - quick images shot then thrown up on the big screen and possibly subsequently sold to the wedding client. Don't forget the super-duper part timer just shooting for pocket money and running their "web site" on Flickr.
I recently did a Google search on wedding photographers on Craig's list here in Cincinnati and was really surprised by the results that popped. Here are two screen grabs from the posted ads for services. Yes, even free wedding photography and a professional photographer that has a whole new way to spell "professional." Hey, don't get me wrong here - we all have to start somewhere. I'll cover that in a post next week here at DPT - stay tuned.

New York City's proposed law is clearly not well thought out and is putting the cart before the horse while only harming the consumers it claims to protect. If the law passes in New York, then anyone with a digital camera, $125 licence fee, and posted bond can be a card carrying, camera carrying wedding photographer in the Big Apple. Pretty darn scary for the unsuspecting clients out there that will now assume that a licenced photographer is a competent photographer, when unfortunately, the reverse will be true in many cases. This whole proposal only worsens the problem. What a "can of worms" NYC brides and the city would have on their hands then.

Hopefully Calmer and Wiser Heads Will Prevail
Pretty scary stuff isn't it? You know, we had that same thing happen twice right here in Cincinnati - two big name photogs going out of business, taking the money, and leaving the brides high and dry. The local photogs responded to the aid of many of those brides - myself included - to be sure the bride had photography for her wedding day. Too many times the "bad guys" give way too many black-eyes to the wedding profession in general and the good guys, most of which are willing to do what ever it takes to help the stranded client.

The same is happening in NYC with the good wedding guys coming to the bride's rescue. Terry Michael, one of my sources for this story was at the NYC council meeting. He shared with me on Friday of two such instances of when one of the brides booked by the studio mentioned in this story and a Craig's List photographers went MIA - Missing In Action. I'm sure there are many other similar stories - way to go Terry. Terry was also winner of the prestigious Photo District News Top Knots wedding awards. You can see his winning entry right here.

I also talked with Paul Berstein, another highly reputable photographer that was at the meeting. Paul has served as an officer of the Professional Photographers of Greater New York and is a council member of both the Professional Photographers' Society of New York State and the Professional Photographers of America, as well as a member of both the American Society of Photographers and Wedding and Portrait Professionals International.

Paul asked me to invite any of our readers to contact him directly regarding this bill. He can be reached through his web site right here.

I thought one of the most telling revelations about the 6 member committee proposing the bill was it's commitment to doing the right thing. They had called the meeting for additional comments from those whom the bill would effect - all were welcome to attend.

Here is the attendance report for that last Wednesday's meeting.
15-18 attendees - photographers, etc. took time out of their busy schedules to be heard.
Out of the 6 member committee;
1 member failed to make the meeting.
1 member - the main proponent for the law - left early without even hearing most of the comments form the photographers in attendance.
2 other members followed suite and left early too.
Only 2 of the committee members stayed on to listen to the arguments and comments against the proposed bill.

Welcome to Bureaucracy Monday!

P.S. Next week read my win-win article on photographers shooting their first wedding and brides who book them.


  1. Death Bag Toter7:41 AM, May 13, 2008

    Great! When did this country become COMMUNIST?

    I might need to "re-tthink" my "proffession".

    Seriously scary stuff.

  2. I have a suggestion! It is a proposal targeted to resolve this and similar issues. Bear with me:

    Background: It seems that large lawmaker operations, having nothing better to do, start coming up with stupid laws to regulate an industry in just the wrong way. The following is proposed to resolve the situation:

    1) Bond requirement: every lawmaker shall furnish a $5000 bond to the "department conditioned upon"
    2) Application: each lawmaker applying for a license or renewal thereof shall pay the yearly fee of $125
    3) Sworn Affidavit: each lawmaker will provide a sworn affidavit to either create meaningful laws, or get out of office so that those willing to create meaningful laws are not impeded in any way
    4) Escrow Account: Each lawmaker will deposit their entire salary into an escrow account, to be held there until they actually deliver a meaningful law.
    5) Penalties: Each lawmaker creating laws without a proper license, after notice and hearing shall be found guilty of violation of any provision of this proposal and shall be fined $5000 for every law they propose while unlicensed.

    How about that? Isn't it only fair if wedding photographers are being licensed, the same to go for lawmakers too? Honestly, some "lawmakers" should be kicked out of office for being too damn incompetent to see the consequences of their actions.

  3. The escrow requirement would definitely be frustrating for those who live off of those funds throughout the year, but the bigger problem could be for the photographer who tries to collect those funds from a client who cancels. Photographers collect non-refundable fees to ensure that their calendars don't get filled with clients who don't fulfill THEIR end of the bargain. With the money in escrow, collecting cancellation fees (or liquidated damages) would be next to impossible. Bad, bad idea.

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