Photographer says bride didn’t offer him money for destination wedding

  • AJ Abelman said he was offered a free – and no money – trip to photograph a wedding in Cancun.
  • The wedding photographer said the bride wanted her to share a room with her employee.
  • Abelman spoke on TikTok about the request, saying it undervalued her work.

A wedding photographer is speaking out after saying a bride asked her to photograph her destination wedding, but only offered her a free stay – and no money – to do so.

AJ Abelman31, a wedding photographer based in Chicago, Illinois, has had her own business for six years and is used to traveling all over the country for her job.

But recently, she received a request for a destination wedding that had her “blood boiling,” Abelman said in a ICT Tac February 24 video.

According to Abelman’s TikTok – which has more than half a million views at the time of writing – a bride asked him via email if she would be willing to “trade” his photography services for “travel and accommodation for a three-day wedding in Cancun, Mexico.

Abelman said the bride expected her to photograph the wedding and a second day trip on a boat without money, as the bride would pay the cost of Abelman’s hotel room. In her TikTok, Abelman included a screenshot that allegedly showed an email she received from the bride.

According to the screenshot, the bride said she didn’t want to hire a local photographer because she didn’t want to pay the resort’s fee for such a service. The bride went on to say that it would be ‘ideal’ if all members of the photography team could share a one-bed hotel room and that she would ‘consider’ covering their travel expenses , according to the same screenshot.

Abelman told Insider she was confused by the request because she felt it undermined the value of her work — and that of all wedding photographers.

A bride and groom pose in front of Lake Michigan.

AJ Abelman is based in Chicago.

AJ Abelman Photography

Abelman said she typically charges between $6,000 and $9,000 to photograph weddings, and when she travels for work, the couple also covers travel expenses.

“The travel and stay is on top of what you would pay for your actual package because I have to fly there instead of driving there,” she said, adding that it would “literally cost me ‘money’ to work if she had to pay for flight and accommodation.

She was particularly troubled by the suggestion that she should share a room with her second shooter. “When was the last time you were asked to share a bed with your boss?” she says.

Abelman also told Insider that the bride seemed to assume her wedding would be a fun experience for her, rather than a job.

A bride reaches out to a flower girl as they walk towards a window.

Abelman said she felt the bride was undervaluing her work.

AJ Abelman Photography

“My mortgage keeps having to be paid because I’m on vacation in Mexico, and it’s not a vacation if I’m working,” Abelman said. “If I want to take a vacation, I want to leave my cameras at home.”

Abelman sent the bride a lengthy email response that detailed the work and money that went into the wedding photography, such as editing and paying for the second shooter. She also shared her response on TikTok in an effort to educate others.

“Asking creatives to do what they do for a living, for free, on your wedding day is offensive,” Abelman said in response to the bride. “[I] Doubt you’re asking your plumber to fix your pipes in exchange for a movie date, or offering to take your doctor to lunch instead of paying your bill. If that was the case, they would say what I say: no.”

Abelman told Insider that she hopes sharing her experience inspires others to appreciate the work of wedding photographers more.

“It’s an investment in your memories because when the wedding day is over, the flowers have died and your guests have gone home, the only thing that remains besides your spouse are the photos,” a- she declared.

“Making art is real work,” Abelman added. “We deserve to be paid fairly for doing our job.”

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