Stolen Moments: Serial Scam Artist Steals Wedding Photos from Northern Michigan Bride

Some say your wedding day is the happiest day of your life. It’s certainly one you’ll never want to forget. 90% of brides hire a wedding photographer for their big day to capture every little detail.

Alysa Davis of Harrison was no exception. She perused wedding websites for a photographer for her August 2018 wedding to her high school sweetheart.

She had a tight budget and wanted a simple, small gathering at her church. Alysa was discouraged to see that many Northern Michigan wedding photographers were out of her price range.

Then she found Jesse, a photographer with a reasonable price and a stunning portfolio.

“He said he wasn’t in it for the money, he was in it to please the brides and get them the day they deserved,” said Davis. “He said he was doing 60 or 65 weddings that year…and his videos and photos were fantastic.”

Davis paid a deposit and signed a contract. She ordered photos and videos of her big day, which Jesse said he would return to her two months after the wedding via flash drive in the mail.

Her wedding was seamless and Jesse was professional and on top of everything.

Davis and her new husband went on their honeymoon. When they returned, Davis checked in with Jesse.

“He said ‘yeah, I’ll send them in eight weeks’ and that’s the last time I heard from him in a while,” said Davis. “He disappeared and no one [could] find him…everything [on social media] at that time had been deleted.”

This was the first red flag in what would turn into a months-long back and forth to get her wedding photos.

September and October passed with no word or photos from Jesse. By mid-November, Davis got a text from him.

She wanted to know where he had been? And where were her photos?

“He gave me an excuse. And told me that he was pulling some extra shifts at work and that he had been sick,” said Davis.

Jesse gave her excuse after excuse.

“He said they must’ve got lost in the mail, that he forgot to mail them out and was going to mail them out, he said he got into a car accident, that [he] ended up running out of thumb drives,” said Davis.

Four months after the wedding, Jesse got around to sending a handful of photos. They were not worth the wait.

 

“You can tell he edited them too much, and I was so disgusted that he didn’t have [any with] my daughter at all,” said Davis, whose children were her only wedding party. “I felt defeated. I felt like he had taken something away from me that I can never get back.”

That’s when Davis realized she wasn’t Jesse’s first victim. Dozens of brides in the Michigan Displeased Brides Facebook page had also been ripped off, and had posted about his reputation to warn others.

Her memories were stolen by a serial scam artist photographer.

Davis, and many other brides, are suing Jesse.

She wishes she knew what she was getting into before she paid Jesse her last deposit.

“Something that I can never get back is our wedding day,” said Davis.

How to hire the right photographer

When it comes to finding a photographer that’s Mr. or Mrs. Right, it’s about looking for consistency, longevity and reviews.

-Be skeptical of stunning photos with bargain price tags

“If someone’s putting out the best photos you’ve ever seen and they’re half the price of everyone else out there, that’s a big red flag,” said Jeff Baas, who owns Montage Media and produces wedding videos.

Check out their portfolio

“Is it consistent? Do they have one good wedding and the rest of it looks terrible? Make sure you see at least three or four weddings that you walk away and say WOW,” said Andrea Bogard, who owns Northern Art Photography.

Utilize social media

Look at Facebook, Instagram, Google and other social media sites for presence. Make sure their pages go back for a long time, and there are consistent ratings that are consistently positive.

Make sure there are photos and reviews going back as long as they have been in business.

“If they’ve said they’ve been in business for three, four five years and [they] only have a few months of work going back and one review  … that’s a big red flag,” said Baas.

Check out wedding forums

WeddingWire.com and TheKnot.com are two of the biggest wedding sites used today. Their forums are used to rate and review vendors of all kinds.

Good photographers get booked quickly

Already, reputable photographers are booking Summer 2020 weddings. It’s difficult to supply quality vendors a few months out, so plan ahead.

You get what you pay for

Vendors are expensive and real-deal photographers have to price their services to cover their insurance, gear and other costs.

Invest in a good photographer with good credentials.

Know what to expect

Wedding photographers use contracts and usually request deposits to hold the date. Many also expected to be paid the remainder of the fee the day of the wedding.

“For us, we usually request 25% down to hold the date whether it’s a year and a half out or six months out that holds your date,” said Baas.

“If someone says to you, ‘I’ll do your wedding and then you ask, ‘well, do I need to sign a contract?’ and the answer is ‘Nah, we’re good’ that’s a huge red flag,” said Bogard.

Bogard says the typical amount of take to get your wedding photos is four weeks, although she returns them in two.

 

These tips, something Alysa wishes she knew earlier.