Is it ethical...?

Discussion in 'Business of Photography' started by marnifinder, Sep 25, 2020.

  1. Hi. I have a quandary that I have been debating for quite some time. I was a second shooter for one particular photographer for over 6 weddings. She said she loved my work... yet she always had a reason for why she'd pay me the next time. I was naive enough to keep shooting for her until the 6th one. I realized she wasn't going to pay me. When I confronted her about this, she made up more excuses about shortage of funds. She had taken my raw files for all the previous weddings except for the last two I shot. She didn't even ask for them. I believe she thought she'd have to pay me in order to get the raw files. I am under the assumption that she told the clients that her second shooter ruined the photos that she took and cut her losses. It has now been 3 years later, and the file folders of 100's and 100's of great shots from these last two weddings haunt me. My question is.... would it be ethical of me to approach the two couples that didn't get my shots in order to sell them my shots at a very low rate? I would think that they would still want the pictures of their bridal party that I took and the countless candid shots of friends and family celebrating their special days at their receptions. I know I would have loved for a treasure-trove of shots to be unearthed from my wedding. But I guess ultimately, even though the photographer I shot for was a real unprofessional jerk to me, I still do not want to step on her toes. Thoughts? I have attached a shot as an example of my work from some of my weddings as a second shooter.....

    View attachment IMG_1012-3.jpg

    Last edited: Sep 25, 2020
  2. Get over it.
    kerryallan likes this.
  3. Her actions were more than an just being an "unprofessional jerk". What she did was a breach of contract and you could have sued her for lack of payment. Both you and her last 2 clients you shot for were damaged by her actions. I would not concern myself at all with any negative impact to the deadbeat who did not pay you, and at this point, I would simply send those 2 couples the images you have without any request for payment. The damage was done 3 years ago and it may make you feel better sending the images to be enjoyed by someone than leaving them on your hard drive.
  4. I think you're right. The best thing to do would be to get the photos to their rightful owners and cut my losses. I would much rather them get to enjoy the pictures instead of as you said just sitting around in my hard drive. Thanks... I guess the ethical thing to do is to just give them to the couples. Thanks... I needed that push.
    tholte likes this.
  5. I am over it. I guess I just thought the pictures should go to their rightful owners. And the best thing for me to do would be to give the couples the photos without any request for compensation.
  6. Not only wouldn't I worry about stepping on her toes, I'd probably consider giving her a good swift kick in the ... shins. :rolleyes:
    marnifinder and movingfinger like this.
  7. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    I concur.

    Not debating the ethics, on the face of it, this appears to the best practice Business Choice that you have available.

    BTW, on the matter of business: depending upon where you work and what was contained in your contract with the Primary Photographer, you might not own the copyright to those images and you might not own the right to publication and you might not own the right of passing on publication to the Clients.

    Personally, if what you state in your OP is correct in its detail, these points above wouldn't worry me, however it is relevant to bring them to your attention, especially considering that you have published them here.

    Charles_Webster likes this.
  8. I do not judge the quality of your pictures so I don't say anything about them. I think it's OK for you to approach the couples and sell them your pictures. I have no problem with that ethically.
    William Michael likes this.
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Again I concur: noted this response does directly address the OP's question of gathering opinions on the ethics, and my first response didn't, as it was my opinion of the best Business Option to pursue.

  10. I am not at all in this business but what i would do is give the couples the pictures with an explanation of why they hadn't received them beforehand and ask them for a voluntary donation for your efforts with a suggested monetary sum to compensate you for the time and effort. You could even offer to post process the photos for a nominal fee. It would make you and them feel better, I think.
    marnifinder likes this.
  11. Thank you. I just keep thinking that if anyone had wedding pictures of mine that I had never had or seen... I would most definitely want them. They are not bringing anyone joy in my hard drive. Thanks for your response.
  12. Hi there. What an unfortunate situation you found yourself in. I guess we all have to learn some way, even if it takes 6 times not to get paid.. I was thinking about your question if it would be ethical to approach the couples. I actually do not have an answer to that, as in comparison, what she did was far beyond unethical - it was unlawful.
    As someone here already mentioned, I'd be more concerned about your rights you actually have in relation to those pictures (mentioning all that - I totally don't agree with posting them over here).
    If I'd find myself in your shoes, I might want to approach them with gift of the images and my own business details to pass on to their friends and family :)

    Keep us updated.
  13. So the couples in question got no pictures at all or just a few?

    I'm not sure I'd contact them unless you're sure they were unhappy with what they got. It would seem strange to me as a customer of a wedding photographer to suddenly get offered pictures of my wedding from one of their past associates three years later. I'd be suspicious and I'd assume it was a ploy to extract more money. Be very careful how you approach them and how you explain your reasons for doing so. Wedding photographers don't typically give away photos.

    I'm not sure how these arrangements typically work. Do the customers sign over rights to these photos? Would they be surprised and maybe bothered that you're still hanging on to them 3 years later?

    On the other hand, if the primary photographer really failed the couple as well as you, then your contacting them might be very welcome. I'm just not sure how you'd communicate your reasons for doing so. Your business dealings with the primary photographer aren't their problem and you shouldn't drag them into it.
  14. A lot of people operate out of suspicion, and I understand that. I try not to, and I'm not motivated either by my own suspicions of others or by suspicions I project onto others. I think being genuine in the actions I take is the best way to avoid suspicion. If there is suspicion nonetheless, there's not much I can do about it. But I try not to let the possibility get in the way of doing what I think is right or may be beneficial to others. The OP comes across as a genuine person, at least in the communications here. I think the same would be true in communications with the couple in question.
    William Michael likes this.
  15. Just thinking about this some more, I'm probably too many years removed from my own wedding to give much feedback but I tried to think of something equivalent that would give me some insight as to the reaction of the couple.

    My concern is that your motivation for doing this is to exorcise some demons. You were cheated and are rightfully unhappy about that. Perhaps your professional reputation was harmed if you were falsely blamed for ruined photos? I can understand wanting to set the record straight.

    But if the couples got perfectly decent shots from the primary photographer and you're just unhappy that they didn't get an opportunity to even see yours, then I'd be inclined to just let it go and destroy the photos. Exorcise them from your mind that way.

    It might seem wrong in a way to throw out perfectly good pictures that someone may want but hear me out. Perfectly good photos get discarded all the time and life goes on.

    For many years my daughter was a gymnast. And at every meet, professional photographers were hired to sell photographs when the meet was over. You could have an image of your cute little daughter perfectly executing a dismount put a T-shirt for Grandma, - or any number of other expensive ways to sell photographs.

    Pictures were quickly cataloged so you could pick from the 25 pictures of your daughter right after the meet and for a limited time, you could buy the photos online.

    This could run into a lot of money really fast. There were multiple gymnastic meets every month. So we set a limit of one or two pictures from each meet and that was it. Some perfectly good pictures got discarded. My daughter and maybe even we parents may have wanted some of the other ones, but we let them go and are fine with it.

    And that's my point. Our lives aren't any less rich for not having those photos. If someone were to offer us a bunch for free now, I guess we'd take them but if they were delivered on a USB drive with 100s of photos? Maybe we'd look at them. Maybe not. She's not a gymnast anymore.

    And those weddings are long since over. They may have a kid or two that's the focus of their lives now. Hopefully they had fun at the wedding and so did their guests. Hopefully their marriage is a happy one. But sometimes I think we put too much emphasis on capturing these moments and not enough on living them.
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  16. I think being genuine is the key. I agree. What is the real motivation behind this? To get these photos into the hands of the couples for their enjoyment, or to somehow, even in a small way, get back at the other photographer?

    If it's the latter, then I don't think approaching the couples is the way to go.

    Getting paid was the motivation for taking the photos in the first place. Nothing wrong with that. But why give them away now? Are they going to give free photos to other couples that aren't any less deserving?

    If they had gotten paid for their time would they still be upset that the photos were never shown to the customers and feel the need to contact them now?
    Last edited: Sep 30, 2020
  17. Last comment on this (probably).

    To the OP: Often times when you find yourself asking the question if something is ethical, it's because there is something inside you telling you it's not.

    I've offered some opinions but in the end I really don't know what the right thing to do is. Imagine yourself 5 or 10 years from now looking back at this decision. What do you think an older and wiser version of yourself would have wanted you to do?
  18. I take the OP’s explanation at face value. I have no reason to question it.
  19. Sometimes my own motivations turn out to be something other than what I thought after some self examination. Definitely might not be the case here.

    Besides, you left something out:
    The important thing is that whatever they decide to do, they can do without regret. I'm not necessarily saying they'd regret giving away the pictures, but it's worth asking themselves why they really wanted to do this. In the original post, there was the hope that they could get a little money. It wasn't just to reunite the couples with these lost photos.

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