This photography company promises magical fairy photoshoots. Some families are crying foul

This photography company promises magical fairy photoshoots. Some families are crying foul


Jennifer Eberbach
 USA TODAY NETWORK

BRIGHTON, Mich. Inside a small photography studio on a Friday afternoon in September, there’s a knock on the door. It’s a family, arriving for a scheduled appointment. A little girl is looking forward to a magical fairy photoshoot the day before her birthday.

Each time she hears the knock, Brighton, Michigan, photographer Dawn Flowers’ heart breaks a little. There was a time when she thought she’d be running those photoshoots — but it’s long gone now.

According to Flowers, Texas-based Enchanted Fairies terminated an agreement with her studio months ago, after she voiced concerns about their scheduling arrangements. Since then, she’s had to turn customers away or inform them a shoot with her independent studio doesn’t include fairy costumes or props. Sometimes, the families travel hours to reach her.

Flowers opened her studio in a newly renovated storefront in downtown Brighton with hopes of working part-time for Enchanted Fairies, an expansion of her pre-existing photography business.

The firm supplied her with costumes and fairy-themed props. It’s all been removed now. The company told Flowers they’d handle booking appointments, making sales calls, and processing customers’ photos.

“It looked cute,” she says of discovering the business on Facebook. “They give a lot of money to charities for kids. I applied for it.”

But things went wrong when Enchanted Fairies started booking appointments.

“They wanted me to work 10 hours a day, six days a week,” Flowers said, adding the intention was never for her to work for the business full-time. She also shoots family portraits, senior pictures, wedding photos and baby photos.

According to Flowers, one Enchanted Fairies representative suggested she hire an employee to keep the studio available for appointments 60 hours a week.

“I had 217 sessions booked,” she said. “June and July were completed booked. August was pretty full and September, and they were still booking them.”

She told the company she couldn’t take on a full-time schedule. Enchanted Fairies informed her they’d be parting ways.

“The next day, they sent an email saying, ‘Maybe you want us to take the studio off your hands for you.'”

It was a lot, she felt, for a company that hadn’t even told her how much its photos would cost families.

In the weeks since, customers have shown up at her studio for appointments the company never cancelled or moved. She worries more have shown up while she’s closed, damaging her reputation.

She plans to keep her studio open by finding another photographer or small business to split the rent — and by negotiating compensation from Enchanted Fairies through her attorney, an issue that has yet to be resolved.

The family on this particular afternoon agreed to hire Flowers to take photos of the little girl in a princess dress, instead. But not all customers are so willing.

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Enchanted Fairies and founder Christopher Rensink responded via email on Friday to inquiries from The Livingston Daily, part of the USA TODAY Network.

“Enchanted Fairies contracts with photographers across the country and receives thousands of applications from freelance photographers seeking to sign up as a contract photographer,” the statement continues. “Enchanted Fairies accepts only a small percentage of those applicants, and takes any concern raised by contract photographers seriously.”

“Enchanted Fairies is aware that a photographer recently made claims about their experience,” Rensink said. “The photographer did not perform any photoshoots for Enchanted Fairies’ clients and is no longer affiliated with Enchanted Fairies. Enchanted Fairies disagrees with the allegations raised by the photographer; however, we value the privacy of our contract photographers, and our policy is not to comment publicly regarding any contract photographer.”

Seeing red flags she’d perhaps missed before, Flowers did some digging. What she found appalled her.

Enchanted Fairies draws scores of complaints

Enchanted Fairies has 51 resolved complaints in the last three years listed through the Better Business Bureau, with hundreds more detailed in a Facebook group called “Enchanted Fairies Scam Victims.” The group has more than 2,000 members.

Enchanted Fairies has a 1-of-5-star rating from customers via the Better Business Bureau. Melanie McGovern, public relations director for the International Association of Better Business Bureaus said the organization is aware of the complaints, adding that Enchanted Fairies went through a complaint-resolution process last year.

The most recent complaint, from August 28, details the struggle of one mother and grandmother to set up a Zoom meeting to review photos.

“We have both tried calling and she has also tried reaching out via email and no response,” the mother wrote. “We both are extremely irritated and unhappy about this.”

Complaints often allege customers are enticed by a $25 booking fee and an offer for a complimentary photo. But later, they’re told buying photos will cost hundreds, or thousands, of dollars. Some photo packages have exceeded $10,000. Complaints also detail high-pressure sales tactics and financing, and some complainants report never receiving their complementary photos at all.

Enchanted Fairies has pricing information listed online. “Most of our clients invest between $1,000-$3,000 and are thrilled with their art pieces,” the website says. “Some families invest $10,000+.”

The business is also involved in an open case with the National Labor Relations Board, filed in October 2022 by a former employee, according to documents obtained by The Daily through the Freedom of Information Act.

The complaint alleges an employee was fired and another was suspended, and Enchanted Fairies violated their right to engage “in concerted activities with other employees for the purposes of mutual aid and protection by seeking to assist (redacted) coworkers and/or discussing wages, hours and/or other terms and conditions of employment with (redacted) coworkers.”

“Enchanted Fairies has earned 13,000 four- and five-star reviews from its valued customers,” the company wrote to The Daily. “After an exhaustive review by the Better Business Bureau this year, claims of a high-pressure sales approach and lack of clarity around pricing were determined to be unfounded.”

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“We acknowledge that there is a small percentage of the approximately 72,000 customers we see on an annual basis that are not completely satisfied,” Rensink wrote. “We read each piece of feedback, we listen to it, and we take negative feedback seriously as we continue to grow and improve our business.

“Any customer concerned about our pricing can view all pricing on our website, as well as an explanation of the purchase process. If there are any logistical challenges, such as a change in reservation location or a need to reschedule a reservation, Enchanted Fairies makes every effort to notify customers and keep them informed.”

‘Shocked’ by cost of children’s fairy photos

Unhappy customers live across the country.

“I have two kids — five and eight — and I was like, ‘I want to have the experience,'” Dion McCullam told The Daily after responding to a post on “Enchanted Fairies Scam Victims.”

Thirty-nine commenters on the post expressed interest in sharing their stories.

“My girl likes fairies. My little boy isn’t as into it,” McCullam, who lives in Wisconsin, said. “I thought it would be nice to have a photograph of them together.”

She said the shoot itself, done with a photographer last summer, was a good, fun experience — but she was “shocked” when she found out how much photos would cost.

She and her husband purchased one 14″-by-12″ photo on stretched canvas “with all the enhancements” for $2,500.

“We found that extravagant,” McCullam said. “We were falling for that hook, line and sinker. … I find that to be misrepresentation.”

They tried to cancel the purchase and report it to their credit card company before Enchanted Fairies processed the order, but it was too late.

“It just sounded like hard lining,” McCullam said.

Cressida Ceesay of New Castle, Washington, started “Enchanted Fairies Scam Victims” after her own negative experience with the company’s pricing and sales tactics.

“It was supposed to be an audition for modeling,” she said. “That’s how it was marketed to me. I’d submitted my daughter’s information, and I had to pay $25 for the audition, and from there we booked the appointment. The place was two hours away. We had to take the ferry.”

“The photographer was nice,” she said. “It was after the fact, during the Zoom photo reveal (with sales representatives).”

She said they offered her 11 photos for $3,500.

“I didn’t get any photos,” she said. “Their justification was the portraits will last 300 years, and the dresses are designed by J. Lo.”

The Daily has found no digital link between Jennifer Lopez and Enchanted Fairies.

Since starting the Facebook group, Ceesay said, she’s had contact with many unhappy customers and photographers. The most expensive package she’s heard of was $25,000.

“It’s different depending on where you live,” she said.

She said customers complain about high-pressure sales tactics that “pull on your heart strings.”

“A lot of the time, the local photographer isn’t aware of the pricing until a customer tells them,” she said. “They’ll get backlash and bad reviews because of Enchanted Fairies.”

Jennifer Eberbach can be reached at [email protected]

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