Would like some feedback from older professional photographers, especially anyone with a similar legal matter before.
A struggling photographer has misrepresented herself to me and to her client while getting me to cover a shoot for peanuts and billing her client 4x more. She had approached me three years ago and admitted her inexperience while asking to rent or borrow my gear. I told her I don't do that, but would offer her occasional advice. She did not own any studio equipment and barely knows how to use her camera beyond auto and TTL. I even sold her a couple spare umbrellas and a lightstand cheaply, just to get her started with lighting. She has contacted me many times for advice ever since, often last minute when poorly prepared for a job and no idea how to execute it. Twice she called me in desperation to fill in for a second wedding shooter she claimed had flaked. I am a commercial photographer of 25 years and don't do weddings, so thought what the hell since I rarely shoot on weekends. Both times she said she knew she can't afford me. Under those emergency circumstances I said she can just give me what she would pay her second or what she considered fair. You might see where this is going.
On this occasion, she said she had a conflict for a company event. She was worried she would lose one of her best clients if she turned them down. She knew she won't lose the client with me and at least "we'll both make a little money". We agreed on a few hundred after she wanted "to keep a little bit for herself." I told her she knows I normally charge more, so this was only so she keeps her client. When I asked for set up details she said there weren't any and sent basic event samples instead, telling me just to have fun. I was already frustrated with her battiness, but upon finding out the client expected architectural shots right before the event became very annoyed. For the client's sake, I shot them best I could with one strobe I had in the car, then kindly advised them to schedule another shoot if they want architectural images for advertising done properly.
I found out midway the young photographer went to Hawaii for vacation during this shoot. She left a message saying her client's check got lost in the mail so didn't send me the fee before she left. On return, she was thrilled to hear her client might actually want an architectural shoot. Again, she has no clue how to light a brick. All she wanted to know was how much I charge. She then offered to split it with me 50/50. Now I was more than suspicious and two weeks later her check still hasn't arrived. I looked back through our email exchanges to review. I see she once forwarded her client's confirmation, but mistakenly included her entire exchange with the client. Expanding and scrolling to the bottom, I see a message that I and another guy are "representative of the photographers with her company." Even worse, I click a link and see an invoice for $1100 and statement from her client that the check was sent out a couple weeks prior to the event paid in full. I have already written to her stating that her actions to represent my work as her own are unethical, but not mentioning any of the proof. She only replied she is also a "seasoned photographer" who treats her clients professionally and that she thinks she can do the architectural shoot herself or with someone else, but will I take 60/40?!
While kicking myself that I did not see it sooner, I am considering my next steps. Aside from jokes, the monetary amount is only small claims but the fraud seems to warrant more. An attorney is obviously in order. Given the amount, I question how worthwhile. What would you do?