Some couples miss out on precious wedding photos after photographer goes missing
Civil servant Shi Hui got married on Dec 31, 2022, but 10 months on, she is still waiting to see the photographs of her dream wedding taken by freelance photographer Alvin Yap.
Ms Shi Hui, 30, has all but given up hope of seeing the photos of her big day that she hired Mr Yap to capture on film. She had found Mr Yap through two bridal showcase events under wedding vendor Blissful Brides that took place in 2022.
Her husband paid the full amount of more than $2,000 for a pre-wedding photo shoot and wedding photography on Jan 19, 2023.
Ms Shi Hui, who declined to give her full name, said Mr Yap promised to deliver all the printed and digital photographs about one to two months after the wedding.
On March 14, Mr Yap sent a text message on WhatsApp saying he had suffered a “storage system crash” and that the photos taken at the wedding were affected.
Ms Shi Hui did not hear again from Mr Yap until April 7, when she and her husband got a text message from him saying he managed to do “data recovery” on his storage system.
That was the last they heard from him. She believes his company, Mellow Pictures, has closed down.
Many attempts to contact Mr Yap on WhatsApp and e-mail were met with silence. After six months, the couple lost patience.
Ms Shi Hui went public with her grievances and put up a post on the Facebook page Complaint Singapore.
She told The Straits Times: “My family and friends encouraged us to make it public and warn others about such photographers to save them from the pain of losing precious memories.
“Lovely pictures of us at our wedding have all vanished. All we are left with are only memories and morning pictures of our bridesmaids and groomsmen.”
Several other couples have also come forward in the comments’ section of Ms Shi Hui’s online posts with similar complaints about Mr Yap.
In response to queries, the police said Ms Shi Hui and her husband lodged a complaint against Mr Yap on June 1.
Ms Shi Hui said the police also advised her to go to the Consumers Association of Singapore (Case) for help.
When contacted, a Case spokesman said a consumer complaint against Alvin Yap from Mellow Pictures has been lodged because the firm did not deliver the photographs it had agreed to despite receiving the full payment.
He added that Case will help Ms Shi Hui explore the options available to her, including lodging a claim at the Small Claims Tribunal.
Mr Yap had also taken payment from another customer, Ms Shu Yi, but did not deliver the goods.
Ms Shu Yi, 34, who also declined to give her full name, said that apart from printed photos of her wedding, she was also promised a “keepsake box” as part of her package.
Until today, she has received nothing, she told ST.
The keepsake box, she was told, will hold a selection of 40 printed photographs from the wedding.
Mr Yap was contactable until early October, said Ms Shu Yi, but when she tried to contact him on Sunday, he went quiet.
Checks by ST found that Mr Yap has in the past worked for a string of businesses, and had at least three Instagram accounts advertising his services over the past five years.
Mr Yap was a freelance photographer with Allure Weddings for about three years until February 2022. The company’s director, who wanted to be known as only Mr Han, said he fired Mr Yap because he misused photos belonging to clients to promote his own business without permission.
However, online checks by ST found that Mr Yap’s Instagram account continues to be linked with Allure Weddings.
Mr Han said he has asked Mr Yap to remove all mention of Allure Weddings from his Instagram account, but as at Tuesday, this had not been done.
Farallon Law Corporation managing director Nicolas Tang said those who find themselves in similar circumstances should keep documents like invoices, quotations, e-mails and screenshots of all correspondence. If the issue goes to court, the documents will help determine whether there are valid reasons for not delivering the products that have been paid for.
Mr Tang, who specialises in arbitration and mediation, suggested that consumers have a back-up plan, hiring two suppliers for important events. They should do some research to find out if the person they are hiring has any experience, good credentials and track record. They should also run litigation and bankruptcy searches to make sure the businesses are sound.
He also warned against making full payment for services upfront. It is better, he said, to make a small deposit, and pay the balance when the work is completed.
For Ms Shi Hui and Ms Shu Yi, nothing can bring back the lost photos and memories, but it might be possible to get their money back from Mr Yap by taking him to court, Mr Tang said.
For those who wish to pursue a court case against service providers for similar reasons, Mr Tang advised them to prepare a list of what had happened in chronological order to provide the court with clarity and understanding of the situation.
ST has contacted Mr Yap for comments but has not received a response.