A wedding photographer has told Newsweek he was left “close to tears” after calling up a bride and groom to inform them that the pictures from their big day were likely lost.
Southern California native Justin Gummow experienced every photographer’s worst nightmare after the pictures he took at a friend’s wedding ended up being corrupted during a file transfer gone wrong.
Though he made countless attempts to salvage the images, in the end he was left with little choice but to call up the newlyweds and tell them the bad news.
Screenshots of the photographer Justin Gummow. He shared his cautionary tale on TikTok after photographs of his friend’s wedding were lost during a file transfer.
Wedding photographers play an increasingly important role in proceedings, especially as many couples now request that guests refrain from taking pictures on their phones.
A 2021 YouGovAmerica poll of 1,295 adults found that 49 percent of respondents approved of a ban on people taking pictures using their cell phone, with just 32 percent opposed to it.
But what happens if something goes wrong for the photographer? That was the predicament faced by Gummow, who shared an account of his experience to TikTok. He called it “the worst thing that can happen to a photographer when shooting a wedding.” The video earned more than 14 million views, with a glut of sympathetic responses.
Gummow told Newsweek that he’s been into photography since the age of 15. “I started out doing product photography and was asked to shoot a friend’s wedding about 12 years ago. That got me started in wedding photography,” he said.
As someone who has taken pictures in a wide variety of contexts, the 35-year-old photographer is only too aware that weddings are, as he puts it, “their own monster.”
“You sometimes end up being a wedding coordinator and director,” Gummow said. “You have to make sure you don’t miss important moments and try to be everywhere at once. You never want to disappoint the couple.”
Yet, on one fateful occasion, that was exactly what happened. “I was asked to shoot a friend’s wedding and told them I would shoot it for free and just come as a guest with responsibilities,” Gummow said.
The problems began when he decided to take his “small kit” rather than the cumbersome array of lenses and cameras he had in his “heavy kit.”
“What I didn’t grab was my extra memory cards,” Gummow said. “I grabbed my camera that had a card in it and didn’t realize I didn’t have my other cards in my bag until I was already 60 miles from home.”
The day itself went fine, with Gummow impressing so much that the father of the bride offered him money, while the bride herself later sent a tip. It was only a few days later, when he went to work on the photos, that the nightmare scenario unfolded.
“I put the card in a borrowed card-reader and highlighted the photos to drag over to my computer. When I did that instead of copying the images, the computer moved the images and erased them from the card, which was unintended,” Gummow said. “When I looked at the images on the computer, they were all corrupted and pixelated.”
Gummow remains unsure of exactly what happened to cause this, though he reckons it was likely something to do with the card-reader. In any case, what followed were, in words, “five days of stressing about it,” as he tried a variety of solutions to try to salvage the images.
When those failed, Gummow was left with little choice but to contact the bride and groom to tell them what had happened and offer to refund the tip he had been given and organize a reshoot of some kind.
“She and her new husband were very sweet and gracious. I was on the verge of tears,” Gummow admits. “They told me not to worry about money, and we will figure out a good time to do a reshoot.”
Thankfully, after the call, he was able to work out a way to salvage a significant proportion of the images by transferring them back onto the camera and then moving them via Wi-Fi. “Some won’t work at all, and others freeze the camera, and I have to start over. But I’ve gotten a lot back,” he said.
Regardless of this, the experience has taught Gummow a valuable lesson when it comes to wedding photography, and it’s one that he has been eager to share online.
“Always triple-check your equipment,” he said. “Don’t assume you’re smart enough to put things where they need to be and check again. It would have saved a lot of headaches and heartaches.”