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Hefty Surcharges for Overseas Wedding Photography Service Packages Beware of Harsh Rescheduling and Cancellation Clauses To Avoid Disputes

  • 2023.11.15

Getting married is a momentous milestone in life’s journey, and many engaged couples choose to take wedding photos overseas to capture indelible moments and to travel along the way. Many wedding photography companies have launched overseas wedding photography service packages, but they often only tout the number of outfits, photographs and albums included in the package price, while seldom setting out itemised charges and the various surcharges. Consumers who do not have a clear understanding of the terms and conditions and the details of various surcharges may end up paying beyond their expected budget. The Consumer Council has collected information on overseas wedding photography services provided by 14 companies, covering a total of 69 packages in 4 popular destinations (Japan, Korea, Prague, and Macau), and found considerable differences in the prices charged by different companies, especially for Korea. However, consumers should also note that the package price is only a basic charge, and there are a wide range of additional fees charged by different companies, such as surcharges for shooting during peak seasons, change of shooting date, overtime, etc. Some companies even ask consumers to bear the airfare and accommodation costs of the shooting crew. In addition, over 90% of the companies indicated that no refund could be made even if the wedding is cancelled or the bride or groom falls ill, and that they could only postpone the shoot or change to other services. Consumers should make careful comparisons before engaging a service, and apart from paying attention to the photography style, they should also enquire about details of the terms. The Council urges the industry to explain details of charges and contract terms to consumers proactively to minimise disputes arising from poor communication.

Korea Packages Found with Largest Price Discrepancies Varying by Up to 3 Times

Through online search and referencing the list of exhibitors of this year’s Wedding Expo and Wedding Fair, the Council has written to and issued questionnaires to 27 companies providing overseas wedding photography services, enquiring about details of their services and charges, but only 11 companies responded by the deadline. In the course of the survey, a total of 20 companies declined to provide information, reflecting much room for improvement in the industry’s information transparency. Among those that declined, the Council randomly selected 3 for telephone enquiry by staff posing as customers. The survey covered 4 overseas wedding photography locations provided by 14 companies, with a total of 69 photography packages, including Japan, Korea, Prague in the Czech Republic, and Macau. The basic package prices varied by over 4 times, ranging from $10,980 (Macau) to $58,999 (Korea). When comparing among the same location, packages to Korea had the biggest price difference of 3 times, ranging from $14,499 to $58,999, all provided by the same company.

Harsh Charging and Rescheduling Arrangements

Full Refund Difficult Even for Reasons Beyond Control

Overseas wedding photography generally includes a series of services, such as transport, outfits, and logistical arrangements, and the price could easily reach tens of thousands of dollars, so soon-to-be-weds need to pay attention to the copious details and choose carefully. For example, 2 surveyed companies required a full upfront payment when placing the order, and the remaining 12 companies asked for deposits ranging from $10,000 or 40% to 80% of the package price. As for the outstanding payment, 6 companies required settling on the day of confirming the shooting date or selection of outfits, 5 had to be 5 days to 3 months before shooting or on the day of picking up the outfits, while the remaining company said that payment could be made on the day after shooting.

If consumers subsequently need to change the shooting date for any reason, or even fail to complete the photoshoot as scheduled, the surveyed companies had different terms and conditions. 4 companies expressed that the date could not be changed, or an administrative fee would be charged for any rescheduling, or that rescheduling could only be considered under uncontrollable circumstances. 1 company allowed free rescheduling once, while the remaining 9 companies could only make it free from 60 days to 240 days before the photoshoot, after which an administrative fee ranging from $2,000 to $13,000, or 10% of the package price, or even the full package price, would be payable, among which 6 companies charged a higher administrative fee the closer the photo session is. In case of cancellation due to personal reasons such as illness or if the engagement is called off, 13 companies refused any refund and only offered extension of service period, a change in shooting location, or switching to other services. The remaining company indicated that requests for cancellation of service due to cancellation of an engagement would be regarded as forfeiture of the shoot and deposit, and discretion would be exercised only if the cancellation was due to serious illness.

Even if cancellation is due to reasons beyond the consumer’s control, such as the company’s original shooting schedule cannot be accommodated or the number of customer participants is insufficient, etc., 3 companies stated that no refund would be made, and the consumer could switch to other services or shoot in other locations, while only 4 companies claimed that a full refund could be made.

As for travel restrictions imposed on photoshoot destinations due to natural disasters, epidemics, black travel alerts, etc., all 14 companies said that they could only postpone the photoshoot, among which 4 companies set no time limit, 8 said that they could extend the shooting period to 2 to 3 years from the date of placing the order, or 6 months to 2 years from the original shooting date, and 1 of them indicated that in the event of a global pandemic outbreak, consumers could choose to receive a refund with an administrative fee of 30% of the total cost deducted. In addition, if a consumer decides to choose another location for the photoshoot and the package price of the new location is higher than the original choice, 13 companies said that the consumer would have to pay the price difference but if vice versa, only 2 companies said that they would refund the price difference. Furthermore, in case of inclement weather conditions on the shooting day, 5 of them said they would generally shoot as usual and adjust the schedule according to the situation, while 6 companies said they would switch to indoor photography or postpone the shoot for a day. 2 other companies only vaguely expressed that they would discuss the shooting date with consumers depending on the situation.

Overlooking Peak Season and Overtime Surcharges May Lead to Budget Overrun

Engaged couples who plan to participate in overseas wedding photography service packages during the peak shooting seasons should be aware that 1 company would include a peak season surcharge of $2,000 to $5,000 for the Japan package, and $5,000 to $10,000 for the Prague package.

2 companies offered appointment of a designated photographer with a surcharge of $3,000 to $8,000, or 20% of the total package price, while the remaining 12 companies did not provide this option. In case the photoshoot overruns, 9 companies would charge extra according to the duration. For a full team, the surcharge ranged from $1,000 to $5,000 per hour, and 1 company’s surcharge for different crew members (photographer, make-up artist, assistant photographer) ranged from $600 to $3,000 per hour, depending on the location of the shoot. Taking 8 companies offering a Prague package as an example, the additional fee for just a one-hour overrun ranged from 3% to 18%, which means consumers would have to pay $21,888 to $43,888 instead of the original $19,800 to $38,888.

Consumers who opt for wedding photoshoots outside Hong Kong would naturally be expected to pay for their own air tickets and hotel expenses, but 3 companies required consumers to also pay the crew’s air tickets and accommodation, or ferry tickets to Macau. Some companies also required consumers to pay for car rental, fuel, highway tolls, parking, location fees, etc., which would definitely increase the expenses of the whole trip, and consumers should pay special attention.

The number of photos taken by the 14 companies for engaged couples ranged from 120 to about 1,000, of which 11 companies indicated that they would provide consumers with all untouched originals, while the number of photos to be retouched ranged from 20 to 80, and consumers would need to pay extra if they chose more, with each photo file costing $50 to $300. The cost of adding photos to an album ranged from $180 to $488 per photo, and it would generally take around 3 to 6 months for consumers to receive all photo products.

As consumers are usually not familiar with photography production, they should be mindful of the following when choosing overseas wedding photography services:

  • Some photography packages may tout a “special price” without outlining some additional service charges such as air tickets, accommodation, transport and meal fees for the shooting crew, cosmetics, grade of outfit options, retrieval of original photo files, addition of photo effects, etc. Consumers should request the company to record all concessions and verbal undertakings in invoices or contracts, carefully read the terms and conditions of the contract before signing and payment, and ask for clarification immediately if anything is unclear;
  • As make-up trial is generally not included in wedding photography service packages, consumers should clearly communicate with the make-up artist beforehand. They should also discuss with the photographer about the desired style of photography and effect before the photoshoot, and set out the details in the contract;
  • Photos may need to be processed or modified several times before achieving satisfactory results. Consumers should budget for this and specify the date of delivery of the photos and related products on the invoice;
  • Consumers should not choose a service solely based on the price and the number of gifts offered. Instead, they should enquire with their friends and relatives and choose a company with a good reputation;
  • Wedding photography companies usually do not take out travel insurance for customers. Consumers should purchase travel insurance with adequate coverage before departure and pay heed to exclusions.


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