Bankruptcy of the wedding studio leaves couples and photographers on the floor

The bankruptcy of a wedding studio has forced couples to find another photographer with no refunds for the first, as the studio’s contract photographers scramble to book new couples amid weeks of overdue payments.

South West Photo and Film (SWPF), located in the UK, declared bankruptcy on July 27, leaving couples without a wedding photographer, even after having already paid in full. The studio was reportedly accepting bookings until the week it filed for bankruptcy. Owner Lee Brewer apologized to the couples in an automated email response. In the e-mail, he explains that his company could not recover from the pandemic, where he reimbursed more than 200,000 euros in two years. As a result, he said he was forced to declare bankruptcy. The owner confirmed that weddings he has photographed in the past three months will still receive retouched photos, but all social accounts and the company’s website have been taken down.

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The COVID-19 lockdowns that canceled weddings and events around the world had left photographers around the world scrambling. A couple told the BBC which they booked and paid for in full during a “lock-in deal”. Two brides – sisters – said they booked with SouthWest Photo and Film and paid 3,000 euros for both weddings; the company declared bankruptcy three days before the first of two marriages. A sister told the BBC that a Facebook support group for affected couples has already gained more than 1,000 group members.

South West Photo and Film has contracted out a number of photographers and videographers, and many couples have attempted to find these contract photographers who have been hired to cover their weddings, but many of them remain unpaid. British photographer and videographer Sam Richardson told the BBC that payments had slowed over the past six weeks until thousands of bills were overdue. He also has says PetaPixel that he suspected that funds from a couple paying for year-long weddings in full were being used to pay for living expenses. Richardson says he tries to release existing videos to couples and offer “pay what you can” for previously booked weddings with South West.

The wedding studio’s bankruptcy comes a year after a similar scenario when US-based Glasser Images closed, citing financial difficulties related to COVID-19, leaving couples and contract photographers to scramble. The closure resulted in a civil action where the owner had to pay nearly $1 million in damages.

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