Wedding Photographer Loses Over 2000 Photos After Car Was Broken Into – What Would You Do?

Jul 30, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

Wedding Photographer Loses Over 2000 Photos After Car Was Broken Into – What Would You Do?

Jul 30, 2014

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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Screenshot of one of the bride's Facebook pages asking for help locating the photos.
Screenshot of one of the bride’s Facebook pages asking for help locating the photos.

A Vancouver based wedding photographer, name removed – see update below, suffered a devastating blow this week. While photographing a wedding the photographer’s car was broken into and the thief made off with her bag which contained her laptop, the sole keeper of a heap of wedding photos. Of course the laptop is replaceable, but the 2,000 bridal photographs housed on it are not.

This is where the story really starts getting painful. The lost photographs were taken over the course of the previous two weeks at a couple different weddings she shot. Unfortunately, she had not had the opportunity to back up the images yet resulting in a total loss of two weddings worth of photographs.

The photographer told her local news outlet, Burnaby Now, that she had made a trip back to her car around 7:30 that evening to grab an extra lens and that everything was fine. When she returned to her car after the event was over, around 10:30PM, she was horrified to discover her car window had been smashed in and her bag and laptop had been stolen.

She is mostly sad for the couples that have had their once in a lifetime moments taken from them; however, after making a report with local law enforcement, she remains hopeful her computer will be recovered. The photographer is even offering a $500 reward for their safe return.

One of the couples, Caitlin Henderson and Jim Beland, say they are incredibly saddened by the loss of their wedding photos, but are not going to pursue a legal action against her. The newly wed couple have made a poster and have been sharing their story via Facebook hoping for the safe return of their memories.

Hopefully, this story will have a happy ending, but the photographer unfortunate tale should serve as motivation to us all, inspiring us to back up our photographs immediately, especially work done for clients and images that are deemed as ‘priceless’ as wedding photographs are. It also serves as a reminder to be careful what we keep in our vehicles while out shooting on location–these types of things can happen to any of us if we are not careful!

How would you handle this?

UPDATE: we removed the photographer’s name. It seems stressful enough of a situation to deal with without having bad SEO juice to worry about.

[via Burnaby Now | North Shore News]

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Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller

Tiffany Mueller is a photographer and content strategist based in Hawi, Hawaii. Her work has been shared by top publications like The New York Times, Adobe, and others.

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57 responses to “Wedding Photographer Loses Over 2000 Photos After Car Was Broken Into – What Would You Do?”

  1. Joscha Häring Avatar
    Joscha Häring

    I don’t want to be a dickhead but you don’t leave a laptop in your car. Especially if there are files on it which I haven’t backed up and are important for my job. Even in the best areas I can’t leave such items in the car for even 10 minutes without stomach ache… People suck so you have to take care of your stuff.

  2. Jonathan Donovan Avatar
    Jonathan Donovan

    My heart goes out to that poor photographer, as well as the bride&groom…

  3. Ben Semisch Avatar
    Ben Semisch

    She had two weeks to back up the photos. That is inexcusable. If you’re that lazy then just don’t format the cards. Simple.

  4. Jordan Stanhope Dean Avatar
    Jordan Stanhope Dean

    What’s rule number one of storage of images? Make a copy right away!

    As a wedding photographer, this is even more important. It’s negligence essentially, but also bad luck to have the car broken into.

    If it was a hard drive failure and the photos were lost, I’d expect many people would sue the photographer, so why not when they didn’t take proper measures to make sure the images were backed up? (especially as it wasn’t just one shoot!)

    1. Andy Avatar

      Never talk about the storage of images?

  5. Stewart Norton Avatar
    Stewart Norton

    Am I missing something here ? Taken over the course of two weeks and no back up…I’m a wedding photographer and the first thing I do after a wedding is to back up regardless of time or how tired I am.

    1. Sylvain Clement Avatar
      Sylvain Clement

      Exactly : dual SD cards (copy) + external back up ASAP (+ don’t delete files from one of the SD card before deliveried my work)

  6. Sam Dickinson Avatar
    Sam Dickinson

    Yep, backup before clearing cards. If the laptop is stolen, just redownload the images off the cards.

  7. stewart norton Avatar
    stewart norton

    Am I missing something here ? Taken over the course of two weeks and no back up…I’m a wedding photographer and the first thing I do after a wedding is to back up regardless of time or how tired I am or how much I want that glass of wine….shabby business practice.

  8. Caroline Duncan Avatar
    Caroline Duncan

    I back up all my photos and don’t delete cards until client has finished files. Wouldn’t leave laptop in car. No excuse!

  9. Caroline Duncan Avatar
    Caroline Duncan

    also it was a 2005 MacBook. I can’t imagine not backing up when likelihood of HDD failure is so high on computer that age!

  10. Dick Durham Avatar
    Dick Durham

    That is just silly and self inflicted. I have zero sympathy for her. Lots for the couple though.

  11. Michele M. Ferrario Avatar
    Michele M. Ferrario

    Google photo synch :) and if price drop to 6usd/mo for 1Tb i’ll start to synch RAW too

  12. Ian Brace Avatar
    Ian Brace

    And I thought there was this thing called Cloud?

  13. Jonas Astorson Avatar
    Jonas Astorson

    two weeks of work with wedding photos and no backup… and leave the laptop in the car… holy crap what a douchebag!

  14. Rick Todd Avatar
    Rick Todd

    Back up to cd/dvd, back up to external drive or NAS, back up to Cloud. Enough said.

  15. Mike Avatar

    “Unfortunately, Tymkow had not had the opportunity to back up the images yet”
    Two weeks is a pretty tight schedule to plug in that TimeMachine external USB disk that does an automatic incremental backup… You just can’t expect a professional to do that.

    1. SakariJ Avatar

      Yeah I think there’s misspelll on the article, it should say “wasn’t arsed to do backups.”

    2. Frank Nazario Avatar
      Frank Nazario

      U are kiddin right??? I backup 700+ photos from a wedding all the time… AT the reception !!! by the time they finish picking up the place i have a backup of the wedding the reception AND the pre-wedding photos in my sd cards a portable hd IN MY POCKET and most of the time in a WD cloud drive at home!!!

  16. Michael Scrip Avatar
    Michael Scrip

    Two weeks without a backup? On paying jobs? Insanity!

    Not me… I freak out until I have a backup (or two)

    I remember reading about Chase Jarvis’ workflow. They back up almost immediately to a laptop and to two separate external hard drives. (Plus I would imagine they have enough cards during a shoot so they can keep the images on the cards as well. So that would be 4 copies of the data.)

    Then… two different people each carry a hard drive in their luggage… as to eliminate an “all your eggs in one basket” scenario. And I’m sure the laptop and used memory cards are kept separated too.

    It’s kinda like the President and Vice-President not travelling on the same plane together :)

  17. andi Avatar

    Take a portable HDD with you auf it is about two(!) Werks work

    1. andi Avatar

      Sorry, commenting via smartphone sucks…so, get a portable hdd in the next computer store and you’re save. A matter of rudimental data management.

      1. Doc Pixel Avatar
        Doc Pixel

        Only problem is that this “pro” photographer would probably pack the back-up drive in the same bag as his/her laptop. These people are NOT pros and shouldn’t be trusted with “keepsake”, event, commercial, or…or… any photography other than with their phone.

  18. willem de leeuw Avatar
    willem de leeuw

    I’m a Brussels based photographer.

    I always keep a backup on the original memory cards. I erase them only after they are transferred to my hard drive ànd they are backed up.

    Of course my memory cards can get stolen as well. But that’s only during the wedding. Therefore I use big capacity cards so I don’t have to get them out of the camera.

    Bad people are everywhere, so be careful about your gear!

    And to the thiefs: hope you have a terrible itch on your back and your arm is to short

  19. LiveMike78 Avatar

    “If you don’t have the data twice, you don’t have the data.”

    I’ll join the group with no sympathy for the photographer here. I suspect that they’ve just learned a hard lesson and that their work flow will probably now prioritise backing up shoots much sooner. Essentially, what it should have been before this happened.

  20. Andy Avatar

    This is pretty poor business practise!

    Always backup, I find it impossible to believe that during this entire two week period there were no opportunities to back up at all. Buy an flash to HDD device, upload to cloud storage. There is always downtime. You have time after the wedding, she surely has not been doing a wedding a day for 2 weeks!

    It is, I suppose, fair to assume you wont always actually want to be bothered to back up, but for two weeks? They are irreplaceable images. *Face palm*

  21. Gregg Bond Avatar
    Gregg Bond

    High on sympathy, low on compassion. This was a ticking timebomb of terrible workflow management I am afraid.

  22. Simon Lanciault Avatar
    Simon Lanciault

    This is what happen when you hire a “photographer” with no experience.

  23. Simon Lanciault Avatar
    Simon Lanciault

    You never leave stuff in the car — final—

  24. Tito Hzar Avatar
    Tito Hzar

    Here’s a few tips..
    Don’t leave your laptop in the car. And if you absolutely have to, put it in the trunk.

    Put a tracker on your laptop. I have find my iphone on my Mac and can track it and display the last location whenever it’s connected to wifi

    Lastly, whenever you do a photoshoot, put the pictures on your laptop and an external hard drive in a remote location. I sometimes even leave the pictures on the SD card until I delivered the pictures.

    I follow these rules and never had a problem.

  25. Pascal Avatar

    As already told several times in the comments. Back up after every Job is the first thing I do. And even I’m living in Switzerland which is basically a very save Country, I would never leave my Laptop/Camera-bag in my car!
    Lets hope that they at least get the pcitures any how…..

  26. Shannon Avatar

    I’m with everyone else. How would I handle this situation? I wouldn’t be in this situation. Back up immediately, at least 3 different places and do not clear the cards until the photos are delivered. Digital memory is so cheap one can afford to have enough memory cards to do so.

    And don’t leave your laptop in the car!

    I feel horrible for those who lost their pictures. I hope the photographer carried insurance.

  27. MM Avatar

    I have a pretty simple strategy in case of an emergency which (thankfully) has never happened: I simply don’t delete files from the memory card until I have two copies of the files (laptop and external hard drive). You can easily set things up to backup automatically while you sleep. Shame on her for being lazy about this.

  28. Wil Fry Avatar
    Wil Fry

    I was with you right up until the “two weeks” part. While I CAN envision scenarios in which I’d have no backups for two weeks (lost in the jungle?), none of those scenarios involve multiple paid photo gigs. Unfortunately, it seems this photographer has learned multiple lessons the hard way.

  29. Tony Burks Avatar
    Tony Burks

    Why you no back up files?

  30. Brandon Lee Dittsworth Avatar
    Brandon Lee Dittsworth

    I agree. Leaving your laptop in a car isn’t the smartest idea. Also, backing up your photos (RAW files & Final JPG files) is a must, whether you’re a “professional” or a hobbyist. We don’t know the real reason behind these decisions, but why be negative and nasty? We don’t walk in the photographer’s shoes. Any case…the photographer is a victim of a crime, and the bride and groom of both weddings are screwed.

  31. Casey Braunger Avatar
    Casey Braunger

    Never. Leave. Your gear. In the car.

    1. TURNERO Avatar

      Vancouver is probably one of the worst places in the US for car crime too. What was she thinking.

      1. Baffled Avatar

        Are you serious – Vancouver is now in the US?

        1. TURNERO Avatar

          Vancouver, WA is but that’s not what I meant, I meant North America.

      2. Katherine h Avatar
        Katherine h

        She was too busy dreaming about how many other ways she could photograph a piece of fabric floating on the breeze, or floating in the ocean… seriously, I think her work is so dull and unimaginative. I hope her wedding photography is better.

  32. Jhoneil Centeno Avatar
    Jhoneil Centeno

    Back it up, back it up, back it up. My daddy taught me good…

  33. PhotographyBackup Whisperer Avatar
    PhotographyBackup Whisperer

    I’m surprised that NO ONE has mentioned the obvious. The photographer should have made backups! I can’t believe that not ONE person on this thread has mentioned that the photographer should have backed up their files! Not ONE. This photographer should have backed up the files, am I right? Who in there right minds shoots a wedding and does NOT BACK UP THE FILES? Everybody knows that as soon as you finish a gig, before doing ANYTHING, you BACK UP THE FILES. I mean WOW, who does that? Who shoots and doesn’t back up their files? Usually people on threads like this make an obvious statement followed by many others repeating the EXACT same thing but worded differently. But not here! So again, I will say what NO ONE ELSE HAS BOTHERED TO SAY MANY TIMES on this thread. This photographer gets no sympathy because it was their fault they did not back up their files. In case it’s not understood, PLEASE REPEAT with slightly different wording. People need to know that this photographer is unprofessional and does not deserve sympathy because they did not back up the files. Not backing up wedding files is unprofessional, right? This photographer has no excuse for NOT BACKING UP THEIR FILES! I’m sorry, but if you don’t back up your files, your just not a professional photographer. This story should shake the professional photography world. Please spread the word! BACK UP THOSE DARN FILES!!!! Photographers need to have it hammered in their skulls that if you don’t back up your files, you get no sympathy! I just realized that my sole purpose in life is to make other photographers and the general public at large to back up their files. Why? Because NO ONE ELSE ON THIS THREAD HAS SAID ANYTHING ABOUT HOW IRRESPONSIBLE THIS PHOTOGRAPHER WAS BY NOT BACKING UP THEIR FILES. This should not be taken lightly. How can you take a paid gig and NOT BACK UP YOUR FILES?!! Everyone knows that if you don’t have the data twice, you don’t have the data (which means the millions of pics we’ve taken and edited that were not BACKED up don’t exist!) Maybe if we all repeat the same obvious comments in a self righteous tone, the photos will re-appear again! Or maybe they never existed in the first place since they were not backed up TWICE!!! Or maybe if we all repeat in unison how the photographer was not professional and should have backed up the files, the laptop with all the pics will return! We should all have zero empathy for such shabby business practices, right?

  34. VVegaSTL Avatar

    I hate the whole internet commenter “blame the victim” thing, but yeah…two weeks without a backup is awful. It would have been another thing if this happened on the way back from the event, although measures could and should be taken there, too. But even then, I am very uneasy about leaving my things in my vehicle…I’ve gone grocery shopping with my 5D around my waist for that reason. If I absolutely HAVE to leave things, I’ll lock them in the trunk. Absolutely not foolproof, but at least out of compulsive sight.

  35. Jeffrey Guyer Avatar
    Jeffrey Guyer

    Not to be a cold, heartless ass@#$%, but what the hell? For the life of me I can’t even begin to figure out how this doesn’t rise to the level of professional negligence. Oh wait– it does. On a variety of levels.

    1. Are we to believe that in the 336 hours (2 weeks) that she did not have any time whatsoever in which to download the images? When I get back from a wedding– or any shoot for that matter– I don’t eat, sleep, drink, or go to the bathroom until those images are downloaded to the main computer, and backed up in at least two different places. It doesn’t take that long and there is no excuse whatsoever for not getting it done right away.

    2. Leaving the gear in the car? Who does that? I get that every venue poses its own unique challenges when it comes to the age-old question of “what do I do with my gear?” but come on. In the car? Really? I’m guessing that the culprit saw her go back to the car to swap lenses and seized his/her opportunity. Personally, I’d have been too embarrassed to share any of this with the local news.

    The photographer is damn lucky that the couple is not taking legal action. You know why? Because they would win. I obviously don’t know what her contract said, but I’m fairly certain she breached it. And if she didn’t have a contract it just goes that much further to show lapses in professional judgment.

    I do feel bad for her– and for her clients– but she absolutely brought this on herself.

  36. Tiffany Mueller Avatar
    Tiffany Mueller

    I agree, two weeks is a long time to have not backed up the files. On that note, let’s stay positive and hope the photog has learned a valuable lesson!

  37. Bert Perez Escalera Avatar
    Bert Perez Escalera

    Use the “Find my phone” app to find the laptop.

  38. Andrew Sible Avatar
    Andrew Sible

    I think that might actually make me faint, or cry? The one wedding I travelled to do, I took an external HDD with a laptop, and all of my USB sticks, and I did NOT delete my cards. I kept the drive separate from the camera and the cards on my person, so three copies in different locations.

    Also, I was backing up DURING the wedding when I was “on break,” so I didn’t even risk misplacing a card on my first out-of-town job where so much was unfamiliar.

    I can’t believe someone shot two weddings and put ALL the images in one location without guard. :(

    Also, a $500 reward? Really?
    Those contracts must have not been for much compensation. I understand the loss of gear, time, effort, and money but that’s a serious mistake and hopefully (if they bothered to get it) insurance would cover the gear.

    major bummer

  39. Steve Solis Avatar
    Steve Solis

    would’ve, could’ve. should’ve; of course It’s easy to play Monday morning quarterback but DIYphtography asked. “What would you do?”. I’d probably would’ve done the same thing and told a local media outlet. .. maybe… I don’t k ow honestly.

  40. Wing Wong Avatar
    Wing Wong

    :( feel sorry for all the clients. Nothing much more to say, as everyone else has said it.

    Just this: Apple find my mac service. Hope she enabled it. That and have the serial number of the mac reported to police and posted to craigslist/etc as stolen.

  41. Kurt Langer Avatar
    Kurt Langer

    This story could be fake just to trick us all up.

  42. MikeInMI Avatar

    I’m really getting tired of this approach where anyone with a digital camera thinks they can be a wedding photographer without taking this as seriously as it needs to be taken. Not only no backup (no excuse for that), but must have had the backpack in the back seat vs the trunk. I would guess she had only one camera and one flash, too (you really need three of everything for a wedding. . . . I’ve known professionals who have had two cameras fail at a wedding, and I’ve had flashes fail).

    When I got into wedding photography, everyone I knew (including myself) went home and didn’t go to sleep until we had at least one backup. Today, with external portable USB drives so cheap (and fast), there is no excuse not to have two backups. Heck, I always have two backups of everything when I go on vacation!

  43. catlett Avatar

    I would handle it by not being in that situation. I feel horrible for the people who lost their photos but not even a little bit for the completely unprofessional photographer.

  44. Clayton Finley Avatar
    Clayton Finley

    I would be perfectly fine. Twice a week my home server that I built automatically backs up my entire photo library. And then once a month, those backups get backed up. Seems pretty obvious to me.

  45. Frank Nazario Avatar
    Frank Nazario

    I do a backup immediately after the shoot …this is what i do:
    1.- I have about SD 6 cards (32gig class 10) formatted and ready to go
    2- I setup my laptop in a safe place in the venue… NO one is allowed near.
    3- I shoot. Go to the laptop make a quick copy of the sd card and REPLACE with a new one in the camera, i do not erase that card. copy the card to a portable HD (Toshiba 1tb retails for about $79.00) there is NOTHING in the laptop. and setup the backup service to read from the SD card and copy to a WD cloud drive i have at home while at the same time is being copied to the cloud. While i keep shooting… the portable HD goes in my pocket.

    4- at the end of the day i have my portable with the photos of the shoot… the used sd cards and a copy of the shoot in my WD at home. and backed up in the cloud by the time i get home.

    It works for me… and you might be asking why 32 gig SD? they where on sale LOL!!!!
    with this flow 8 gig cards would have been more than enough… ;-)

    Hope this helps.

    1. Graeme Taylor Avatar
      Graeme Taylor

      I shoot only with cameras that offer dual slots, so I am getting a back up as I go. Then I When I am home, I make an external backup, and that goes off site immediately. I don’t sleep until THREE separate backups are made from the wedding day. You can’t be too careful about this. You literially only get one go.

  46. Harley Bonham Avatar
    Harley Bonham

    As the story reads, the photog had “not had the opportunity” to back up photos over the course of 2 weeks. So, at NO time during that 2 weeks could they back up? I have a hard time feeling sympathy; that just seems inexcusable. My cards get backed up onto a laptop AT the wedding, then go in my pocket and uploaded to the cloud before I go to bed. I figure, worst case, if I get t-boned at an intersection and rushed to the hospital I still have the images on me while the car might be a burned-out wreck.