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June 6th, 2012

NM Wedding Photogs Can’t Discriminate Against Same-Sex Couples, Court Confirms

New Mexico’s appeals court has confirmed that wedding photographers who refuse to shoot same-sex weddings violate the state’s anti-discrimination laws.

New Mexico Court of Appeals judge Timothy L. Garcia affirmed two previous rulings that Elane Photography of Albuquerque violated the New Mexico Human Rights Act when they refused to photograph the wedding of a same-sex couple on religious grounds.

The NMHRA prohibits businesses offering services to the public from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation. The appeals court rejected Elane Photography’s arguments that forcing them to photograph a same-sex wedding under NMHRA amounted to a violation of their freedom of speech or freedom of religion protections.

The New Mexico Human Rights Commission originally ruled in 2008 that Elane Photography violated the state law. A trial court affirmed the NMHRC decision in 2010, triggering a second appeal to the New Mexico Court of Appeals.

The case arose after plaintiff Vanessa Willock inquired about hiring Elane Photography to photograph her commitment ceremony. She indicated it was a “same-gender” ceremony. The owners fo Elane Photograph–Elaine and Jonahtna Huguenin–responded that they photographed only “traditional” weddings. Willock followed up, asking Elane to clarify whether “it does not offer photography services to same-sex couples.” Elane photography responded, “Yes, you are correct in saying we do not photograph same-sex weddings.”

The next day, Willock’s partner sent an e-mail inquiring about photography for her wedding, without mentioning that it was a same-sex ceremony. Elane Photography responded by sending pricing information, indicating a willingness to travel to the wedding, and offering to meet to discuss options.

Willock filed a claim for discrimination with the New Mexico Human Rights Commission, and won her case. The NMHRC awarded her $6,638 in attorney’s fees. She did not seek monetary damages.

The appeals court re-examined all of the arguments that Elane Photography presented  in its original appeal to a state trial court, and rejected them one after another.

For instance, Elane Photography argued that it refused to photograph a same sex-wedding, but that didn’t amount to discrimination against Willock because Elane Photography would have photographed her in other contexts, such as portrait sessions, for example. But the court said that amounted to “attempt[ing] to justify impermissible discrimination” by separating Willock’s actions from her status as a member of a protected class. The argument, the court went on to say, “is without merit.”

Elane Photography also argued that the NMHRA violated rights of freedom of expression protected by the US and New Mexico constitutions. The basis of that argument was that photography is an artistic expression protected by the First Amendment.

But the appeals court batted down that argument, too: “the NMHRA regulates Elane Photography’s conduct in its commercial business, not its speech or right to express its own views about same-sex relationships. As a result, Elane Photography’s commercial business conduct, taking photographs for hire, is not so inherently expressive as to warrant First Amendment protections.” The court explained that taking pictures of a same-sex wedding doesn’t by itself convey a (constitutionally protected) message of approval or disapproval of same sex marriage, the court explained. “[A]n observer might simply assume that Elane Photography operates a business for profit and will accept any commercially viable photography job.”

Similarly, Elane Photography argued that forcing it, under the NMHRA, to photograph a same-sex wedding would violate its freedom of religion protections. But the appeals court said the NMHRA doesn’t prevent the owners of Elane Photography from practicing their religion. And the court reasoned,  “Elane Photography voluntarily entered public commerce and, by doing so, became subject to generally applicable regulations such as the NMHRC. When followers of a particular sect enter into commercial activity as a matter of choice, the limits they accept on their own conduct as a matter of conscience and faith are not to be superimposed on the statutory schemes [that] are binding on others in that activity.”

The owners of Elane Photography were not immediately available for comment. It is not clear whether they plan to appeal the latest ruling to the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The full text of the ruling can be downloaded here.

January 11th, 2012

Divorcé Suing for Wedding Pic Re-Do Just Enforcing a Contract, He Tells AP

The divorced guy who suffered public ridicule for suing his wedding photographer and insisting that photographer shoot a re-enactment of his 2003 wedding has spoken out in his own defense.

In reporting on the case, PDN Pulse suggested it was time for the ex-groom move on. But it seems his motive for suing is to hold a business to a pledge, not hold onto his broken marriage, according to a new AP report.

“It was their [the photographer’s] failure to deliver after a promise and a handshake” agreement to retouch the photos, according to a statement he provided to The Associated Press, the wire service reports. “How could a business treat a customer this way?”

The ex-groom is Todd Remis of New York, who sued H&H Photographers in 2009 to re-create his wedding photos. H&H photographed his wedding in 2003. He and his ex-wife began divorce proceedings in 2008, and the divorce was final in 2010. Remis has lost contact with his ex-wife, Milena Grzibovska, and has said during court proceedings that he believes she moved back to Latvia, where she was from.

During a deposition he stated, “I need to have the wedding recreated exactly as it was so that the remaining 15 percent of the wedding that was not shot can be shot…so we would need to recreate everything to complete that.”

The New York Times reported Remis’s lawsuit and testimony in November. Remis was branded “Groomzilla” by the tabloids and became the butt of jokes and ridicule on the Web and television. He has declined to be interviewed by the media, including AP.

Related:
Long After Divorce, Groom Sues to Have Wedding Photos Recreated

December 21st, 2011

PDN Video Pick: Jerry Ghionis’s WPPI Speaker Video

This year, organizers for the Wedding and Portrait Photographers International Convention and Trade Show invited their headlining speakers and renowned industry leaders to express what WPPI means to them. They got a lot of great videos in response to the request, but one of our favorites was done by Melbourne, Australia-based Jerry Ghionis. Inspired by the recent Old Spice commercials, check it out to find out what WPPI means to him.

November 3rd, 2011

Long After Divorce, Groom Sues to Have Wedding Photos Recreated

When a bride and groom are unhappy with their wedding photos, they sometimes demand a refund. Former groom Todd J. Remis is currently suing H&H Photographers, alleging breach of contract because the photographers missed the last 15 minutes of the ceremony and took lousy photos. Remis takes his claim even further: He has also demanded that the studio pay him $48,000 to fly the wedding party back to New York and recreate the entire ceremony and reception.  Here’s the sad part of the case, reported with fitting poignancy in today’s New York Times: The wedding took place in 2003. Remis and his wife separated in 2008, and divorced last year. Her whereabouts are unknown.

A judge in the State Supreme Court in Manhattan is letting Remis’s claim of breach of contract proceed. But in her opinion, she noted a sad truth that many wedding photographers already know: Sometimes the wedding photos mean more to the couple than the marriage itself.

Quoting the Barbara Streisand hit “The Way We Were,” Judge Doris Ling-Cohan writes, “This is a case in which it appears that the ‘misty watercolor memories’ and the ‘scattered pictures of the smiles … left behind’ at the wedding were more important than the real thing.”

Veteran New York Times reporter Joseph Berger explores many angles in the case, and interviews the founder of H&H Photographers, Curt Fried, an émigré from Nazi-occupied Vienna who opened the business 65 years ago.

But our real concern is Remis.  We hope his friends have told him: It’s time to move on.

We pity the photographer he hires to shoot his Match.com portrait.

September 16th, 2011

Q&A: Zombie Engagement Photographer Speaks!

©Amanda Rynda

Photographer Amanda Rynda’s “zombie engagement photos” were an Internet sensation this past week, ending up on blogs and websites all over the world.

We caught up with the Los Angeles-based Rynda and asked her a few questions about how it felt to “go viral” and whether she thinks her ghoulishly good photos might start a new trend in wedding photography.

See the full zombie sequence and Rynda’s other work here.

PDNPulse: Please give us some background on you and your photo business.
Amanda Rynda: I’m a color stylist for Disney by day and took up photography this year in my spare time to have a new creative outlet. I’ve been working as an associate photographer with LA-based wedding photographers, Jen Harris and Charise Proctor on the weekends.

PDNPulse: How did the idea come up to do the zombie engagement shoot?
Amanda Rynda: Juliana and Ben asked me to shoot their engagement session but they weren’t into a soft, PDA filled engagement session. They wanted something fun and quirky to show off their fun-loving and creative personalities. Juliana came to me and said, “Ben and I want to survive a zombie attack and then hug because we’re in love.” It was such a fun idea, I knew right away we’d have a great time making it happen.

PDNPulse: Had you ever done anything like this before?
Amanda Rynda: No, I’ve never shot anything like this before. I’m pretty new to photography so I haven’t worked with too many clients of my own yet. I’m just so happy to have been given the opportunity to work with people as fun, creative and eager to open up as much as Ben and Juliana did for this e-session. I hope that trend continues.
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May 9th, 2011

Jason Groupp Sets Guinness Record for Most Flashes Used in a Photo

Our good buddy and occasional product co-tester Jason Groupp has set a new Guinness world record for using the most flashes ever by a single person in a photograph. The New York City-based Groupp harnessed the power of 300 small strobes to light this group portrait captured at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center in Cincinnati, Ohio over the weekend.

To read more about the shoot, check out the blog post on Jason’s site. The info in the post is a bit brief but Groupp promises to release more detail about the record-breaking, 300-flash photo in the days to come (once he catches up on his sleep).

Below is a short behind-the-scenes trailer about some of the preparations that went on before the epic shoot.

April 29th, 2011

AP to Publish Royal Wedding Keepsake Book Next Week

© AP Photo/APTN

Did a family emergency, act of God or snooze button prevent you from tuning in to watch the Royal Wedding this morning? Don’t worry, the Associated Press has you covered. The wire service sent 21 photographers to document every last detail of Wills’ and Kate’s big day.

AP picture editors are already picking through the thousands of images AP photographers made, the best of which will be gathered into a commemorative book that will be available next week (technology!) from online on-demand publisher My Publisher. The handshake between Mr. Middleton and the Prince, the exchange of rings, the kiss (!), that rascal Harry’s proud smile—all of these moments can be yours to cherish.

The limited-edition book—limited to what, you ask? As many copies as people are willing to order, we’d wager—will be available in two sizes. Prices for your very own Royal Wedding album have yet to be announced, but we’re pretty sure they’re just going to call it priceless. Well played, AP.

Watch this space: http://www.mypublisher.com/royalwedding

March 3rd, 2011

Survey: What Couples Spent on Weddings in 2010

Couples spent $2,320 on average to hire a wedding photographer in 2010, and $1,463 on average to hire a videographer, according to a new survey of 19,000 US brides. TheKnot.com and WeddingChannel.com surveyed brides married last year to gather results of their 2010 Real Wedding Survey.

The survey shows that the average amount spent nationally on an entire  wedding (excluding the honeymoon) was $26,984, of which the photographer fee made up roughly 8.5%.  (For comparison’s sake: The national average amount spent on the wedding dress was $1,099; the average spent on flowers was $1,988.)

The survey has some modestly good news for photographers and others in the wedding business.  About 31 percent of the 2010 survey respondents said that the recession had affected their wedding budget; that’s down slightly from 34 percent in 2009. The most common cost-cutting measure was to reduce the number of guests.

There are still a lot of lavish spenders out there. Approximately 1 in 5 couples spent more than $30,000 on their wedding last year, and 12 percent spent more than $40,000. The survey notes that the location where couples spend the most on their weddings is Manhattan, where the average wedding spend last year  $70,730.  (Not, we’d like to point out, any Manhattanites we know,) Utah had the lowest average wedding budget:  $13,214. According to the survey, destination weddings are still on the rise, and 1 in 4 considered their wedding a destination wedding.

Thanks to recent trends, more brides may be using engagement photos and other portraits in new ways.  The number of couples creating personalized web sites devoted to their weddings grew 23 % between 2008 and 2010. In addition, 40 percent more couples in 2010 created or sent their save-the-date  notices and invitations online, compared to 2008.

More survey results can be found at TheKnotinc.com.

February 24th, 2011

WPPI Seminar Report: How to Thrive in a Down Economy

The 31st annual Wedding and Portrait Photographers International 2011 officially kicked off Thursday, February 17th with WPPI U, a two-day workshop geared towards emerging photographers who were given the opportunity to learn lighting, marketing and postproduction from pro photographers including Jerry Ghionis, Cliff Mautner, Doug Gordon and Dane Sanders. Sanders, author of Fast Track Photographer and Fast Track Photographer Business Plan, emphasized that photographers need to value their worth and not sell themselves short to clients, advice that seemed to be an underlying theme throughout the week’s course lineup.

Platform classes later in the week drew thousands of attendees, all of whom seemed interested in learning how to increase their business and continue making money in a bad economy. Popular topics ranged from how to price your wedding packages and upsell to clients to why you should be embracing new ways of storytelling, including the use of DSLRs that also record audio and shoot HD.

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