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Thread started 12 May 2015 (Tuesday) 01:50
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Feedback on misrepresentation wanted

 
CAPhotog
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Post edited over 4 years ago by CAPhotog. (5 edits in all)
     
May 12, 2015 01:50 |  #1

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?




  
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Nogo
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May 12, 2015 02:06 |  #2

You have not mentioned if the contracts between her and you were written or not. If there is no written contract the best thing to do is chalk it up to a "lesson learned." If you do have a written contract, then let a lawyer review it and see if the lawyer believes it is worth pursuing any legal recourse. This varies by jurisdiction but if your agreement is by handshake, you are not going to even recover enough to pay the lawyer.

As for her listing you on her website, this is much more serious. It sounds like it would be worth pursuing even if you are unlikely to receive any compensation.

P.S. I am not a lawyer or a professional photographer, just a person who actually enjoys trying to keep up with my local laws. So take my advise for what it is worth. :-D


Philip

  
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AlFooteIII
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May 12, 2015 06:21 |  #3

I think this is an instance where even an old pro can learn an annoyingly uncomfortable lesson. You got suckered, but there's not really anything you can do about it.

The one thing I would do is send her an email professionally telling her to lose your number and to remind her that all of your work (even that work done while covering her) is your copyrighted material and she cannot use it without licensing it from you (for an adequately high price).

Keep an eye on her social media/web presence and if you ever find out she's using your work to promote her business, sue her into oblivion. :-D


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PhotosGuy
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May 12, 2015 07:08 |  #4

You tried to help someone out & got taken advantage of. Life goes on. The above advice works for me, too.


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Trvlr323
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May 12, 2015 10:08 |  #5

The amount involved certainly doesn't justify involving an attorney. You could go the small claims court route but that involves a lot of time, effort and frustration. This, notwithstanding the fact that much of your interaction was likely verbal and therefore considered hearsay. Chances are from a legal standpoint you don't have much of a case.


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Wilt
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Post edited over 4 years ago by Wilt. (14 edits in all)
     
May 12, 2015 10:45 |  #6

In response to your assessment, "I have already written to her stating that her actions to represent my work as her own are unethical", I do not inherently see where this issue is not unlike any other 'wedding coverage provided by Judy Jones Studio -- but actually shot by a hired gun Sam Smith in behalf of Judy Jones' situation that commonly occurs!

You may have agreed to 'a few hundred', having been snookered by Judy Jones, while she bills the client for $1100, but that again is 'typical' business (apart from a somewhat underhanded/unethical 'negotiation' method by Judy Jones to get your fees lower).

There really was 'a conflict for a company event', you simply did not know the conflict was scheduling for a vacation in Hawaii.

The fact that the client had paid in full, but you have been paid nothing by Judy Jones is rather poor business practice by Judy Jones. But the fault lies equally in your court.
YOU have no contract with Judy Jones for work to be done, so tell (confront nicely) her


  1. "I have no payment from you to hold my time for that date yet, and I have another job potentially on that date.
  2. IF you want ME to shoot on that date, I need to have a payment in hand of (n)% or (n)dollars, in advance, or I will book the other job."

Yes, #1 and #2 might be somewhat deceiptful (not being entirely true) in your not having another gig, but she has not been up front with you either!
"What's good for the goose..."

As for the written vs. verbal contract issue questioned by Nogo, if it was a verbal commitment from you to shoot, you can easily counterargue that there was a verbal commitment by Judy Jones to pay you IN ADVANCE, and that part of the verbal agreement has (so far) been broken, nullifying ANY bilateral contract (written or verbal)...and any first year law student will agree it is a 'bilateral contract'!

And as AlFootelll says, "Keep an eye on her social media/web presence and if you ever find out she's using your work to promote her business" you have every right to stop her from further use of YOUR photographs used for commercial purposes to promote her business.

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sspellman
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Post edited over 4 years ago by sspellman. (2 edits in all)
     
May 12, 2015 11:03 |  #7

Honestly, you should already know that dealing with amateurs is going to be full of problems. You simply need to stick to your standards of terms and $$$ and only deliver the service when those terms are agreed and met. If you haven't been paid, then do not deliver the work. When you quote a price, stay firm and let her mark it up-there should be no split. Since you have been a second shooter, her statement of ""representative of the photographers with her company." is not unreasonable. Nor is it an issue for her to use your images shot while a second shooter in her company portfolio. If this is not what you want or expected, then you need a contract upfront that covers all the details. If the details are important, then you need to specify them in a contract. You cannot expect that another business partner will think exactly like you unless the details are in writing.

Its only up to you to manage your business. All these issues could have been avoided if you had a contract, stood firm on your terms, and held delivery of the photos until you received payment.


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Alveric
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May 12, 2015 12:49 |  #8
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I'd just ask for your payment once more, nicely of course. Then after getting it or getting yet one more runaround, just tell her plainly that you're not interested in helping her out anymore and ask her not to contact you again. No lies, no excuses, no 'I'm busy on that date'. There's more than just the de facto problem with lying that you have to keep lying –crafting new lies to support the old ones–; there's also the fact that by doing so you're encouraging to continue cheating you.

I see absolutely no problem with 'please, do not contact me anymore'. And if she has the gall or the cynicism to ask why, just plainly and politely tell her that you don't take kindly to lies and misrepresentation, nor to be listed as a hired-hand of a company when you've never agreed to be so.


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CAPhotog
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Post edited over 4 years ago by CAPhotog. (4 edits in all)
     
May 12, 2015 14:09 |  #9

All good comments and appreciated. Part of my goal is to see how photographers interpret the narrative in my own words at face value. I know language is key whether written or oral. Nearly everyone has focused on a written contract, some even implying oral contracts aren't equally binding instead of just harder to prove. I see I need to clarify the following already if I take any action:

1. Most of the discussion above was written, although I incorrectly use the term "said". There were eight exchanges by email and one phone conversation, nothing face to face. I have used a lengthy written contract myself 99% of the time, including 5 years prior as an art director when I was hiring photographers before shooting professionally on my own. Ironically, I have advised this woman to start using written contracts with clients, but nearsighted in regard to myself. In each of the three cases I helped her, I did put basic wedding/event terms in writing by email, excepting copyright which is retained by the creator if no assignment is given. Keep in mind I'm mostly watching out for her vs. the client at that point (some ego invested).

2. Terms and time of payment were specified. I was to be paid the week prior at latest, but she used the "got lost in the mail + client's fault + I'm out of town" excuse after the fact. Certainly on me for watching it unfold and not bailing per terms. But there was the Catch-22 of the client already told I'm going to take care of them and looking so forward to meet me. The client did pay and admittedly she was smart to use the leverage of introduction, knowing I won't bail on them and risk my name.

3. In all cases like this, even a written contract does not stop intentional deception or playing parties off each other. For those who say no excuses for moving forward, maybe so, but 400 guests told you were a no-show is not good either. No one knows you are contractually in your right. The client only knows they paid.

4. I'm surprised no one has suggested I use the invoice and non-payment this long as proof of deception by the photographer. Or to act legally so that her client at least knows she is blaming them. In fact her phone message from Hawaii which I saved, says she didn't tell me when I'd be paid, but in fact was written. Two weeks have also gone by since her return. The client paid in full over a month ago. She just doesn't know I know that.




  
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Fernando
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May 12, 2015 14:11 |  #10

She managed to find a talented and highly experienced sub. Yes, you're just a sub.

Other than not being paid yet, there's nothing actionable here.


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May 12, 2015 14:15 |  #11

Sounds like she's a great businessperson. She's vacationing in Hawaii while you're working for peanuts.


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Fernando
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May 12, 2015 14:26 |  #12

nathancarter wrote in post #17553718 (external link)
Sounds like she's a great businessperson. She's vacationing in Hawaii while you're working for peanuts.

Yep...


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CAPhotog
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May 12, 2015 14:28 |  #13

Fernando wrote in post #17553714 (external link)
She managed to find a talented and highly experienced sub. Yes, you're just a sub.

Other than not being paid yet, there's nothing actionable here.

Fernando, this is actually sobering and feels true. If it were straight up business that's one reality. Money is not the point, but money is the only damage that can be sought. There's a trust factor that gets overlooked and harms the profession.




  
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Fernando
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May 12, 2015 14:32 |  #14

CAPhotog wrote in post #17553728 (external link)
Fernando, this is actually sobering and feels true. If it were straight up business that's one reality. Money is not the point, but money is the only damage that can be sought. There's a trust factor that gets overlooked and harms the profession.

At its core it is a trust issue and I hope she has finally burned through all of yours for her...


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CAPhotog
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May 12, 2015 14:37 as a reply to  @ Alveric's post |  #15

Alveric, that's the least path of resistance to take and stay my own course.




  
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