HOLLAND, Mich. — Monday night, the FOX 17 Problem Solvers story aired that told the story of Laura Uildriks, who has waited eight months for her wedding photos. Tuesday, dozens of other victims with similar stories of the same photographer, Wisper VanderWal of Saylor Moon Photography, emailed, called, and commented on Facebook. In addition, photographers have offered their services to the couple at no charge.
The Holland-based photographer charged the couple $800 for their wedding photos back in May. The couple hasn’t seen a single photo, and the photographer has made it impossible for them to get in touch with her.
“It was really important, and it was a big decision picking a photographer, and I picked what I thought would be the best photographer for the area,” said Uildriks.
When Brandon Shafer, owner of Brandon Shafer Photography, saw online comments on Uildriks' story, he knew, after talking to some other photographers, that such stories give photographers who operate out of their homes a bad name. Shafer has been a professional photographer for six years and spent two years as a second shooter for weddings. He knows the photography world is a tough one, and very competitive at that. He told Fox 17 News that making his work stand out is what keeps his business afloat.
“It’s not easy to be a photographer,” said Shafer. "It’s more training your eye, and developing your style. That can take years."
Shafer said his photography business is his second job but is his passion. He said he doesn't have a store front, but that it doesn't make him less than someone who does. He just prefers to work at home near his fiance and her daughter. He works at Apple to supplement his income.
“I think it’s neat that people want to relive their wedding day through my eyes,” said Shafer.
Phil Catlett of the Better Business Bureau Serving West Michigan said it’s not easy to find a photographer, especially after the upheaval of the job market, which has driven a lot more people to start businesses out of their homes. Catlett said most of the businesses run out of peoples' homes are not BBB accredited.
“I think the most important is just to see examples of the work," he said. "They should be able to show you examples from numerous occasions."
Catlett said it's important to get a signed contract with the photographer and get a copy of the contract. Don’t go for the cheapest price: go with someone with the most experience, and if you are going with someone less experience, then remember to protect yourself.
“I would pay with a credit card, and not with cash, because the credit card offers protections where, later, you can challenge that,” said Catlett.
Several photographers have reached out to FOX 17 News looking to help the Uildrik’s. While going back in time to the wedding isn’t possible, the photographers have offered to re-enact the wedding, do a holiday shoot, or an anniversary shoot. Brandon Shafer is one of those people.
“I noticed the couple had an unconnected wedding," said Shafer. The Uildriks had asked peoplea the wedding to refrain from taking pictures so the photographer to do her job. "That is huge. Telling people to just shut off their phones and be present at the wedding is very powerful. It shows how they have a lot of trust in the photographer to capture those images."
Although we still have not heard from Wisper VanderWal herself, we did talk to her sister, who declined to go on camera but said VanderWal is going through personal difficulties. The sister said she is also trying to get in touch with VanderWal to see what is going on but has no contact information at this time.