Wedding Photographer

British wedding photographer leaves ‘hundreds’ of people stranded

August 9, 2022

High-demand UK wedding photography and videography company that went bankrupt has quit “hundreds” of customers out of pocket and desperately search for solutions, while contract workers remain unpaid and scramble to help.

South West Photo and Film (SWPF, formerly known as Lee Brewer Photography) filed for bankruptcy on July 27, 2022, saying the pandemic caused difficulties that sank the business.

“We have worked hard over the past two years to survive the COVID-19 pandemic,” read Brewer’s automated email response to customers. “The financial implications proved too great for us to recover from. Unfortunately, I had no choice but to cease my business activities and declare bankruptcy effective today, July 27th. An Official Receiver will contact with further information.

A wedding photography business that closes is usually not a big deal, even in the event of bankruptcy. Between the generally difficult nature of wedding photography, made worse by a pandemic that has brought the profession to its knees, another business falling by the wayside is no reason to stop the presses.

But SWPF was no ordinary company, with the scale of the impact after Brewer declared bankruptcy.

Newsweek says some reports suggest up to 800 customers across the UK are affected by the SWPF closure. Although this gargantuan figure seems incredible, especially considering Newsweek did not cite or presumably verify the source, in just over a week more than 1,800 Facebook users have joined a group set up to connect Brewer customers with new photographers.

“We had our wedding with him on Friday, and on Monday he emailed asking [an additional] £125 to do a ‘quick edit’ and get our pictures back within two weeks,’ said client Hannah Veale.'[And on] Wednesday he declares bankruptcy!

About 200 posts appear on the Facebook group, which only allows affected couples to post messages looking for a new photographer or videographer. Since the group’s goal is to match clients with a new photographer or videographer, many of the 1,800 members include wedding vendors, as well as people who are just sticky-mouthed.

But scrolling down the page shows an impressive number of Brewer customers with similar stories. Some couples have a wedding planned in less than a month, while some people are being paid over £1,000 for a wedding next year.

It is quite devastating and hopeless.

“We have our wedding in four weeks, spoke to him the other week because he was making his routine call to confirm and take the £1200 balance,” client Kim Morgan wrote. ‘Which we obviously paid because it seemed normal to collect payment so close to the wedding and I always looked on his Facebook page because he was always uploading recent weddings, everything seemed legit, and I loved watching how videos and photos, get excited, actually really like ‘his work’”. We no longer have a photographer or videographer.

“It’s good that so many people refer people, but what do we do if we have no more money. With our wedding so close, we have nothing left and we can’t save anymore because it’s so short – we all have bills to pay, kids to feed, etc. – you take a long time to save for a wedding.

“He knew what he was doing and I feel so stupid. He kept putting “offers” on his page for final payment. He has planned this for a long time. I know how each of you are feeling right now, it’s sickening. Photography is one of the main things to pay for at a wedding. It’s not even like it’s cheap, which would make you doubt [the legitimacy of the business].’

Although some clients have shared stories of arranging successful last-minute photographers and videographers, some even have 48 hours before they get married.

How did it go so bad?

It’s surprising that Brewer, with so many paid customers, sank his business. Generally speaking, businesses fail when they don’t have enough customers, not the other way around. While Covid may have contributed in part, apparently poor management and a lack of business acumen brought Brewer’s business to its knees.

Videographer, Sam Richardson, who was among the many contractors working for the SWPF, said Petapixel the company was “over its head” with massive spending on advertising, salaries, and equipment.

“The scale he was trying to manage and what they were trying to pay was huge. I didn’t think the price was high enough to pay the costs,” says Richardson. , it got to the point where people were paying in full for next year and that money was immediately going to pay for equipment and overhead for the here and now.”

Richardson told the BBC Alarm bells started ringing six weeks ago when payments slowed for “all shooters, where overdue bills were piling up in the thousands”.

He says the bankruptcy “has affected me tremendously” and is “picking up the pieces and working with the rest of the team to help as many couples as possible get photos or videos back and get new bookings.”

“For my part, I just tried to get the videos that I shot for couples to them and the arrangement that we make is ‘pay what you can’ because I’m out of pocket and that they don’t want to pay twice,” Richardson said. “I’m taking new bookings for this year and next year for affected couples at the price they previously agreed.

In a now-deleted Facebook post, Brewer promised to send all clients whose wedding he photographed in the past three months with fully retouched photos.

“I will also contact clients whose weddings have been captured by our associated photographers and videographers. I have set up automated replies on all of our email accounts to update you on our current situation. It’s not a cowardly act like you all probably think and I’m not hiding but I just can’t cope with the large amount of people trying to contact me.

I spent years trying to build this business and now I’ve lost everything.

In hindsight I should have admitted defeat during the pandemic, but being the type not to give up I kept trying to fight, rebuild and grow, having had to repay over £200,000 to the over the past two years due to the financial burden following the pandemic. my business failed as a result.

I completely understand that people lost their money and are very angry, but I had absolutely no other choice.