Local photographers lend a helping hand to devastated Holland bride

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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.

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  • Sandy

    Oh look…an article made up of yesterday’s comments. How transparent and juvenile, Fox. And you expect those commenting on your website to have class? Have some yourself first, and maybe we’ll take you seriously.

    The solution to this problem is simple. Get a judge to confiscate the photos and give them to the people they belong to. If these photographers want to really help these people, then they can do all the photo processing for free on the photos that already exist. No need to take new ones…unless you are just looking for publicity, of course. After that, then have her family take the camera away from her and tell her to get a job.

    • Davis Wendler

      Consider this an upvote! Freaking leeches are just as bad as the original girl. If any of them had a shred of selflessness in them they would be banding together to put pressure on their colleague to get her to give the original photos back! Where is the professionalism here?

    • Megan

      Agreed, when I first saw the original article and all the comments, the photographer mentioned above in this video really stood out, more for the attention than anything I feel like, maybe because it was posted all over his FB page with the #celebrity?

      There was another photographer over a month ago (Dana G Photography) who actually, out of the sincere kindness of her heart, put together a mock wedding day for a couple and invited friends and family to participate once again in this new wedding day and photo opp. The story took off by social media, blogs and news stations, but the photographer herself didn’t do anything out of her way to actually promote the good deed she was doing. I feel like in a situation like this some photographers now are trying to cash in on a crappy wedding situation by mimicking what Dana G was able to pull off. All for publicity? I’m not sure, I could be wrong.

      Another Grand Rapids photographer also commented on the original story above and asked what she could do to help and if the couple happened to receive the images to edit them and do whatever she could rounding up other photographer friends to help with the editing etc. Overall though this whole thing is sitting uneasy with me in so many ways and I just really hope people are stepping out of the woodwork for the right reasons. It would be horrible for this couple to feel like they were being taken advantage of again.

      • Anonymous J. Shutterbug

        FWIW, I am an area photographer as well, and I have attempted to contact Wisper and also let Fox17 know that I would be willing to sort through all the images and records Saylor Moon has, do whatever processing needs doing, and get as many of the original images to their rightful owners as I possibly can, free of charge and without any claim or obligation. And no, I don’t feel any need to mention my business name here to stand behind that offer. What I gain from doing that is that my chosen field maintains a level of dignity that it wouldn’t otherwise have. By treating other people, even people who are not my customers, with care and respect means everybody benefits. I think this is the right way to deal with it, but I understand why others would want to do it the other way. I do think theirs is a short-sighted approach, though.

        • Sad mom

          If you do get the pictures, my daughters 1 yr pictures are in that group! Wisper took them in April and never returned them after I already paid her. :( I would love to have some pictures to show her someday.

  • Frank

    Bottom line is the so-called “Problem Solvers” haven’t done a damn thing to help this woman. They are not licensed private investigators and lack the skills and diligence to track down this photographer. Whether there was a contract or not doesn’t do any good if you can’t find the photographer. Get a P.I. to find her and go from there. But Fox won’t do that. They just like to keep this story going.

  • Diego Nibbs

    You’re so awesome! I do not think I have read a single thing like that before. So great to find another person with some unique thoughts on this topic. Really.. thank you for starting this up. This site is something that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!

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