When Neely and Andrew Moldovan got married in 2014, they were not happy with their wedding photographer.
The Dallas couple claimed that the photographer, Andrea Polito, was withholding images from their special day unless they agreed to pay a $125 fee, although they had already paid for her services.
The couple began to trash Polito and her business online and went so far as to appear on a local TV news station to air their grievances.
After their appearance, multiple negative reviews of Polito’s business started to pop up online, on platforms such as Yelp and WeddingWire.
Now, a jury has ruled that the Moldovans must pay Polito $1.08 million in damages for defaming her, which ultimately cost the photographer her business.
After receiving the proofs of the photos a month after the wedding, blogger Neely Moldovan began asking Polito for the high-resolution versions of the images.
Polito said the contract Moldovan signed stipulated that once she sends the proofs, the couple must put in an order for their album, which has an additional $125 fee for the cover. The couple never submitted the order for their album.
After several emails back and forth, Polito eventually waived the $125 fee in an effort to diffuse the situation.
“We had taken action to make things right, and instead this bride went directly to the media, bragging about the upcoming news story on all of her social media accounts and creating a very large following, which was boosted by her business as a professional social media expert,” according to an open letter Polito posted on her website.
Polito also said that the Moldovans were initially very happy with their photographs, even posting on social media how pleased they were.
“On several occasions this bride had expressed her happiness and resounding approval for the photographs and her experience with us,” Polito wrote. “This bride had posted our pictures across her social media accounts and had nothing but great things to say.”
But the damage to Polito’s business was already done. The couple’s TV appearance in which they made disparaging remarks about Polito’s business aired in January 2015.
Polito said in a typical year, she would book between 75 and 100 weddings. In 2015, she managed to book only two.
She was eventually forced to move out of the studio she’d maintained for 10 years due to the lack of income.
Verdict ‘Restored’ Reputation
Despite the fact that her business was destroyed, Polito has taken some measure of comfort in the verdict.
“I’m emotionally exhausted. This has been a very long battle,” she told The Dallas Morning News. “Last Friday when the verdict was read I felt a little bit relieved, but most importantly, I feel my reputation was restored to myself. What’s been so hard the past couple of years has been feeling so ashamed of this story.”
Since this whole saga began, Polito has changed the focus of her business from taking photos to help other photographers grow and succeed.
“While I am still going to photograph weddings and portraits, I am going to be dedicating my time to helping photographers achieve their goals in business,” she wrote on her new website. “Over the last year I have been carefully crafting an online education platform specifically for photographers.”