Plainfield, Ind. – A group of Hoosiers is calling out a photographer after they said she canceled several photoshoots.
Andree O’Dell had her baby in 2019. Wanting maternity photos, she said she found a deal online.
“I kind of looked around on Facebook and found H. Cole Photography,” O’Dell said. “She was doing a package that was a maternity shoot, newborn, three-month, six-month, nine-month and then the one-year shoot for $400.”
O’Dell said it seemed like a great deal. She paid the $400 deposit upfront, as requested.
“We set an appointment for like, sometime in early June,” she recalled. “The first appointment, she cancels and reschedules. Then, she cancels again and then, cancels again.”
O’Dell said the photographer kept cancelling for weeks on end.
Miranda Poole said she found a similar deal online. She paid $200 and picked three sessions, including a maternity photoshoot.
“I’m pretty sure my pictures were scheduled for like, December 28th or 27th or something like that, and I was due with her January 22nd,” she remembered.
Poole said the photographer canceled on her multiple times as well.
CBS4 called the photographer and requested an interview. On the phone, the photographer said she got overbooked and overwhelmed.
“We had a lot of things happen in our life, suddenly, traumatically,” she told CBS4.
The photographer swore she refunded everyone who didn’t get their photos. Documents show that was true for O’Dell and Poole.
“I have told them I am so sorry. I will do anything to make this right for you,” she said.
CBS4 planned to meet with the photographer in person, but she then cancelled.
Professional photographers warn that anyone can become a photographer. Indiana University Professor Steve Raymer spent 25 years capturing images for National Geographic Magazine. He said photographers do not need licenses to work with the public.
“There are a lot of good photographers who make outstanding images but they’re pretty lousy businesspeople,” he said.
He had a few suggestions if you are shopping for a photographer:
- Make sure the photographer has a legitimate website instead of just a social media page
- Ask for references and speak with those people directly
- Make sure you sign a contract that lays out the expectations and repercussions if those aren’t fulfilled
Raymer said the photographer’s website should show a good variety of pictures. Consumers should make sure the photographer is well-versed in the type of photography they’re interested in purchasing.
“For example, if someone is a specialist in wildlife photography, birds, or macro – close up photography – it’s more than likely they’re not the ideal person to photograph a wedding or maternity,” he explained.
Raymer said it’s not unusual for a photographer to ask for an upfront payment or retainer, but if the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. CBS4 asked whether $400 would be reasonable for six sessions, like O’Dell purchased.
“I would be hard to get in the car and pull your camera gear together for one photoshoot, let alone a series of milestones,” he responded.
CBS4 did some digging and found most newborn sessions alone can range $400 to more than $1,000.
“A photographer has a right to make a profit and the profit has to include not just the investment of time and materials but the investment of the back end of it. It’s their equipment and the servicing of their equipment and the traveling,” Raymer said. “People don’t realize the digital world has done a lot of good things for images. We can see so many details in the shadows but for every one hour we spend behind the camera shooting pictures, there are at least two or two-and-a-half hours on the computer.”
O’Dell and Poole never ended up getting any photos taken by the photographer in question. Instead, they skipped getting their maternity photos taken altogether and later signed a contract with someone else.
“I know I’m not the only person that feels that memories are important, I know I can’t be the only family that wants to capture those moments,” O’Dell said.
“Harper was my rainbow baby. We waited three years to have her and so when my maternity photos came around and I didn’t get to have them done, that really upset me. I was so excited,” Poole told CBS4, emotional. “It wasn’t even just the money part of it, it was the memories part of it.”