Runaway bridal photographer leaves Utah couples without wedding photos

It's easily one of the biggest moments in someone's life - your wedding day. And one of the biggest parts of that day...

Posted: May 4, 2018 3:03 PM
Updated: May 4, 2018 3:04 PM

It's easily one of the biggest moments in someone's life - your wedding day. And one of the biggest parts of that day is your pictures.

Some turn out well, some turn out not as well, and as newlyweds Shari and Brayden Dunaway found out, some don't turn out at all.

They were married at the Utah State Capitol in July 2017.

They say it was a perfect day and a perfect ceremony. Unfortunately, the photographer was a "no-show." His name is David Bowe Jacobs, the owner and operator of Bellissima Images Photography. He's got a great website, great photos, and some great reviews.

Customers giving him five stars, gushing over the work he does and saying things like, "amazing job," "awesome photo," and "best photographer ever!"

For Shari, those reviews played a role in hiring Jacobs to document, what she calls the most important day of her life.

"He had great ratings online… five stars," Shari said. "The pictures looked great on his website."

Shari was sold. She booked him and paid the money. And on the eve of her wedding, a Friday, Shari says she had a conversation with David through text messages about specific photographs she wanted taken. She says nothing was out of the ordinary.

KSL Investigator Mike Headrick asked, "He didn't make any mention he wasn't going to be there?"

"No mention," Shari said.

"So, as far as you knew, he was going to show up? Headrick asked.

"Yup," Shari said.

Hoping to get a little clarification on Shari's wedding, Jacobs graciously let us interrupt an engagement session, which KSL set-up and paid for, to answer a few questions.

"Shari said she had a conversation with you the night before her wedding. Do you remember that?" Headrick asked.

Jacobs responded, "I think she sent an email."

"Did you know the next day you weren't going to show up to the wedding?" Headrick asked.

Jacobs response, "Umm…"

While Jacobs thought about it, the KSL Investigators found a text message suggesting he wasn't going to be there.

Texting another photographer, Kylee Hunter, three days before the wedding, saying, "Are you available to shoot a wedding up at the State Capitol this Saturday? I have another surgery this Friday."

Saying he had surgery on Friday, the same Friday he was texting with Sheri, and didn't mention a thing.

"And I just thought that was weird," Shari said. "Because I was just talking to him last night, and so I'm like, he didn't mention anything about his surgery. He didn't say he wasn't going to be here."

Headrick again questioned Jacobs, "You never let her know you weren't going to show up?"

"I told the other photographer to let her know," Jacobs said.

"Whose job is that – the other photographer or you?" Headrick asked

The other photographer, Kylee Hunter, says she's seen this play out with Jacobs before.

It was a different bride, but almost the same scenario.

"All the little lies and excuses he told," Hunter said. "He told me he was getting surgery and what not, and so I went and did this wedding."

The wedding she's talking about is the wedding of Adrienne Hess and the deal was just like Sheri's.

Hunter photographs the wedding. Jacobs does the editing, and sends the finished photos to the bride. At least… that's what everyone thought.

Headrick asked Hess, "So, have you got the edited version of the pictures from him yet?"

"From Dave… nothing," Hess said.

Headrick questioned, "Still no? How many months has it been?"

Hess' replied, "Almost a year!"

BBB: Buyer Beware list

The KSL Investigators went seeking some answers from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) of Utah.

The president of the Utah BBB, Jane Driggs said, "We get complaints about all aspects of the wedding industry."

She says Jacobs is just one of thousands of Utahns in the state's multi-million dollar wedding industry. It's an industry where Jacobs has earned some of that money and dozens of complaints.

Alleging poor communication, failing to give people their photos, and in some cases - not even showing up for the wedding.

He's on the "Buyer Beware" list and has been fined thousands of dollars by the Utah Department of Consumer Protection.

He was found guilty of two felonies, one for issuing a bad check and the other on forgery. And he has been denied BBB accreditation twice.

"I do have some scruples since I'm the head of the Better Business Bureau," said Driggs, "And I won't do business with a company who has been denied accreditation."

They're valuable pieces of information, Shari didn't know.

It was five months after the "I dos" and she still had no photos. So, Shari's wedding planner reached out to Jacobs, where he responded in a text, "I mailed them out over 10 days ago. I will double check the address you gave me and check the tracking number for her photos."

Here's the problem. There was never a tracking number, because the photos were never mailed.

Again, Headrick questioned Jacobs, "Did you ever tell Shari that those photos were in the mail?

Jacobs said, "Umm, yah. I told her they were on their way… even though I was still working on them."

"So, you lied to her?" asked Headrick.

"In a way, I didn't mean to lie to her," Jacobs said.

"You accidentally lied to her? asked Headrick.

"Not accidentally, no" Jacobs responded

Nine months later and nearly 1,700 miles away, Shari and Brayden have moved on. She's in med school at The Ohio State University.

And while still waiting on the touched-up, edited photographs Jacobs promised, just days after the KSL Investigators got involved, she now has a full refund and all of the raw pictures of that unforgettable day.

And just an hour before this story went on KSL-TV, Jacobs sent an electronic file, he says with the edited photos.

Five-star reviews

Remember all those five-star reviews Jacobs got? Well, when brides Shari and Adrienne gave him a half star review, he denied ever doing business with them.

"Dave reported me as not being his customer, so they took down my review," Shari said.

Headrick asked Jacobs, "Did you ever tell them they weren't your customer? Did you ever say that?

"I can't remember if I did or not," Jacobs said.

The KSL Investigators found the review site. He had said they were not his customers.

We've had a handful of other brides contact KSL in the last couple of days, reciting very similar stories with Jacobs and Bellissima Images Photography.

Consumer advice

The reviews can be helpful, but don't trust them. Physically talk to people who have used the photographer in the past to help make your decision.

Also, go to the Better Business Bureau's website and check out complaints and reviews. They only keep records dating back three years, so for someone like Jacobs, with complaints spanning more than a decade, you're not going to know his entire history. The BBB says they're looking to change that.

Finally, you may want to check court records, where you can see if they've had any lawsuits against them or even a criminal past.

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