Is it ethical...?

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

  1. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    By your own example that you gave to the OP
    that's your concern not the OP's concern. I see no evidence the OP is attempting to exorcise anything.

    Good photos are discarded every day, true enough and the OP is simply giving the B&G the opportunity to choose whether or not a particular set of photos from their wedding are discarded, nothing more nothing less: My view is that is an honourable gesture.

    The question of ethics, which the OP raised: is a question of business ethics pertaining to the fact of selling images direct to the Client when one was not the Primary Vendor. On that question, considering the nonpayment of services to the OP by the Primary Vendor, doing so would be ethical in a business sense, but IMO, would be a poor business choice.

    As this is a The Business Forum, even though the OP asked a question specifically about Business Ethics, it would be lacking if those with business experience did not give an opinion based upon the the best practice Business Choice: on that point, there would be an argument to leave well enough alone and simply trash the images, however, it seems to me that the quandary for the OP has is, if the OP trashes the images, then by so doing the B&G might be deprived of images that could bring them joy.

    This quandary does not speak of the OP needing to exorcise anything; rather it speaks to me of the OP being a Vendor who shows care for his/her Clients and wants to provide them with Ultimate Customer Service.

    If this is so then (as advised by Ken Katz) simply send the images to the B&G as a gift, with no caveat.

    I think this does not require three thousand hours of over thinking, dissecting and motivational psychoanalysis: it is a pretty straightforward situation of a Second Photographer not being paid and holding onto the image files which (unfortunately) occurs too often in the Photography Businesses.

    As a lesson learnt going forward, the OP might consider always having a contract stipulating the that the hand over of files to the Primary Photographer is strictly COD (Cash on Delivery), there should be no issue with those arrangements if the Primary has a solid business and the Second is an accomplished Photographer.

    samstevens likes this.
  2. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "how these arrangements typically work" varies and depends much on the location (what country/state) and also the specifics of the Contract between the B&G and the Photographer.

    "Do the customers sign over rights to these photos? also varies depending upon the same criteria as mentioned above. Additionally, "rights", is a non specific term, there are many "rights" to consider, the main ones being, but not limited to: Copyright; Publication Rights; Printing Rights.
    Also, the "Customer", (i.e. usually the Bride and Groom), often do not have any "rights" to the images, until there is payment in full - and - it is common in many jurisdictions, the Customer never holds the Copyright, the Photographer does, but that is not universal, either.
    Another layer is, in the topic of conversation at hand, depending upon the contractual arrangements between the Second Photographer and the Primary Photographer, the second Photographer may not have Copyright: (as I have previously mentioned).
    However, the foregoing is supplied only as providing a rough answer to your question, intending to highlight the complexity answers to such a question, and, hopefully highlighting the fact that none of that really matters after 3 years, because the Primary Photographer's business has probably folded anyway, as most businesses of malpractice generally do.

    "Would they be surprised and maybe bothered that you're still hanging on to them 3 years later?" Probably surprised.
    I think most genuine people would be appreciative, certainly not bothered, to be given additional photos of their wedding, gratis. Additionally, if accompanied by a short note of explanation, something written with candor outlining the facts, such the Opening Post here, most people would say, "thank you, what a nice gesture."
    The point at issue is not whether or not the B&G would treasure these new photos, or even look at them more often than you might look at an additional 100 photos of your daughter's gymnastics, the point of this conversation is what is the best action for the OP to do with these photos.


    If we are going to delve into this situation a bit more deeply, one aspect has not been mentioned, unlike sports specific images of one child, a Wedding Coverage amasses a Portraiture array individually and and in groups. It would be not uncommon for the Second Photographer to be given the duty of the general Group Portraiture of Family and Guests whilst the Primary Photographer was attending to the Main Bridal Group Portraiture: additionally, the Second Photographer often would attend to second tier Family and Close Friends Bridal Portraiture - it depends how the coverage was structured.

    In any case, the salient point is, the images from the Second Photographer will contain unique groupings and unique situations, not in the Primary Photographer's coverage. That may be irrelevant, but often this is not the case: as just one example, the Second may have the Portrait of Aunt Molly with the B&G and the Wedding Cake in shot, now Aunt Molly made the Wedding Cake, and has since passed away, and that image may well be a treasured addition, now.

    That's an example based on fact and I can relate many other examples which would be relevant.

    Our studios having shot over 1500 Weddings, the majority on film and at a time when we had "print orders" (as opposed to nowadays a common practice is to sell the image files), I can say we were rarely contacted after about 18 months for any additional images, but when we were, it was almost always for a sentimental reason concerning a Group Portrait containing a Friend or Relative; an image not bought at the initial print purchase but much later it being much valued.

    Who knows - it the images the OP has made may well bring great happiness or may be trashed and never looked at - but if the OP gives the images to the B&G, it is the B&G's choice to do as they like - that's the key point here.


  3. The problem is that this gift of images would require some explanation.

    If I were the couple I'd want to know why I hadn't seen these images before. Marnifinder can certainly provide an honest answer, - which could tarnish the image of the primary photographer. And that's perhaps well deserved. But it is a potential consequence Marnifinder should recognize going in and make sure that's not going to come back to bite her.

    Was the couple charged for 2nd photographer? Are they going to feel cheated?

    Do they have a personal relationship with the photographer? How many wedding photographers serve this community? Do they cross paths?

    Could this impact Marnifinder's opportunities to get work in the future if the primary photographer finds out and decides to retaliate?

    To me it does not hurt to think this through to see if perhaps it might have some unintended consequences.

    Again, I'm not saying that giving the photos away is the wrong choice.

    Marnifinder would not have posted the question if she didn't have some internal doubts about approaching these couples. And when you have some internal doubts I think it is worth asking the questions:

    What is my real goal here?

    Are my actions going to achieve that goal?

    Now, it is very likely that the couples will be appreciative, the primary photographer will be none the wiser and Marnifinder will feel good about their choice. But it's worth 5 minutes to think it through.
  4. The OP described themselves as being haunted by the images.

    And as I tend to do, I try to put myself in their place to understand why. And it's not hard to understand.

    As a professional photographer they'd likely want:
    1. to have their work be appreciated
    2. get paid
    Neither of which happened with these images, - and it bugs them to this day !

    And as a human being they might also want to:
    1. stick it to the photographer that screwed them over.
    And yes they'd like to do something that kills the negative feelings caused by these pictures. I chose to call it exorcising. You can call it something else if you like.

    I would be mad. And when emotions come into play it can cloud your judgement. That's why I'm asking them to think it through.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
    morrisbagnall likes this.
  5. It’s not a matter of “calling” it different things so much as a matter of seeing and understanding it differently.

    Even if I were to emphasize the negative feelings the OP had, I’d still see the proposal of reaching out to the couple now as a gracious act, wanting them to have access to photos they might appreciate. Getting paid (minimally, as was stated) for something doesn’t negate a desire to do something nice for or in the interest of others.

    Ethics, which the OP brought up, are involved not just in how we handle business relationships but also in our motivations (which are often multi-dimensional), not only those we have but those we attribute to others.

    As you’ve noted, you would have had certain motivations. That doesn’t necessarily translate to others in similar situations.

    I generally think empathy (which can aid in assessing the ethics of others) is about putting myself in others’ shoes rather than putting them in mine ...
  6. Assuming you have a way of contacting the subjects, I'd simply drop them a line and explain that you were a second shooter at their weddings, and came across their photos while cleaning out your drive. Suggest that, if they'd like them, they can send you a flash drive, and you will download the photos for them and return it (you might want to include a photo in any correspondence you send initially so they know your are genuine).
  7. Empathy draws on personal experience. If I'm "putting myself in others' shoes", I'm still me trying to imagine how I would react in someone else's circumstances. I believe that's what I'm doing. It may not result in a true understanding but it's all I can do.

    I believe it's important when trying to understand or empathize, to consider all of what someone said, not just portions. Again, - while recognizing that communication is imperfect and open to interpretation.

    I believe I'm being as empathetic as I can be while acknowledging that "I" would be mad. The OP may not be mad at all but they are "haunted". "Exorcising" seemed a fitting term for becoming "un-haunted".

    Anyway, if the intention is to be gracious, - to do something good, then "I" would want to make sure that "my" multi-dimensional motivations didn't prevent "me" from seeing a potential negative outcome. And that would be for me or for anyone involved.

    So a simple question: Do these couples have a personal relationship with the primary photographer? Are they friends?

    It's not at all unusual in my social circle to have a professional wedding photographer be someone that has a personal connection to the couple.

    I would not want my gift, which was intended to do good, end up causing a rift. Is that worth the recovery of a lost photo of little Timmy dancing with Great Aunt Jane or of another angle of the bridal party eating dinner. Maybe.

    I don't expect the OP to research the relationship between the primary photographer and the couples. But they might already know.

    FWIW my wife's take on it would be that if this ends up straining a happy relationship, that is not my fault. It would ultimately be because of the unethical behavior of the primary photographer. Which is true. But I would end up still being haunted by those photos when my goal was to be un-haunted.

    An alternative would be just to delete the photos, but I acknowledge that may not result in the desired un-haunting either. So a gift of the photos might be the best choice. But it should be an examined choice.

    As another aside, my wife often doesn't like it when I think this way. She sees it as "overthinking" too. :)

    At the same time, she will often have me read an email before she sends it, or talk to me before having a difficult conversation with someone precisely because I do think this way.
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2020
  8. And she may incorporate some of my suggested edits (if any), decide not to send the email at all, or decide to send the email as originally written. ;)

    The OP is in the best position to decide what is best, just like my wife.
  9. I understand that's what empathy means to you. All I'm saying is that empathy for some of us is NOT trying to imagine how "I" would react in someone else's circumstances, but rather trying to imagine what it's like for THEM.
    I agree. I also think it's important not necessarily to connect various aspects of what someone says in a way that may not have been intended. Therefore, I don't causally connect the situation with the deadbeat main photographer to the idea of offering the couple these photos. I took them as two ethical issues. Do I have the right to do with these photos as I wish and get paid for them since the job wasn't originally contracted in my name? Can I contact the couple on my own since I did the job under the auspices of another photographer? There is NO direct connection made between the deadbeat-ness of the main photographer and the desire to do something nice for the couple, other than the one you are making about exorcism.
    That may be so, for you.
    It seems to me that's one of the reasons the OP asked for input. The one you pointed to is a projection that the couple could become suspicious. That's been dealt with by many who've posted comments here.
    You have much more reason to pay attention to your wife than to me, even though she and I seem to agree! :)

    This will likely be my last word on the subject. Suffice it to say that I think you're well-meaning and being genuine in your comments. I consider this an amiable disagreement between two well-meaning people. We've given the OP diverse views of how to consider the situation. It's now the OP's choice to do with all this input what the OP thinks will work best.
  10. Interesting.

    I guess what I'd say is that I am trying to imagine what's like for THEM as best I can. But I'm not them and shouldn't pretend that I can imagine their circumstances as if I were. I can't fully remove my own history and experience from that process. I can only recognize that their life experience will be different and try to account for that. And also recognize that there is some commonality among all of us. My feelings as I imagine they might be in the same circumstances may give me insight into what theirs are.

    Fair enough. :)
  11. As I said in earlier post I see no problem ethically with trying to sell or giving them away. With that said if it was my wedding I would ask the OP to erase all the shots. I don't want pictures of me in other people hands although the OP has the right to keep those pictures.
  12. IANAL, but it looks like the primary broke the contract.

    If you sell a car, and they buyer doesn't pay, you reposes it.

    From what is said above, we don't know that the primary was paid by the wedding parties,
    or if they were given any pictures.

    As above, I believe that supplying the pictures along with an explanation is the best way.
    If they did not pay the primary, they are more likely to feel like paying for them.
    They might feel like it, anyway.
  13. why the endless roundabout battle of virture signalling here everyone? The op was contracted to be a second string shooter at a wedding. OP did the work, got the photos, never got paid. THe people who paid the primary photographer HAVE NO LEGAL OBLIGATION TO PAY the OP.

    The ONLY person with an obligation to pay, and a legal requirement to pay the OP is the primary photographer.

    IF the people want to pay for the photos the OP took THATS GOOD.... but who cares at this point?

    For so many people "in business", there has been so much horse manure drivel about empathy, the relationship between the primary photographer and the people who paid them to do the wedding shoot, yada yada yada..
  14. Fox News meme alert.:rolleyes:

    [And a misspelling to boot.]
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2020
  15. If you're in America you likely own the copyright, and you can sell the images to whomever you choose.
  16. Many people do things because they want to do them, not because of any legal obligation.

    As far as we know, the photographer has no legal obligation to give them any photos, either.

    Even more, as far as we know, the primary never gave them any photos, and may
    not have gotten paid. (If the primary didn't get paid, cash flow problems would make
    it harder to pay the OP.)

    One possibility, since it has been the business model for many photographers for years,
    is to give them smaller prints and offer to sell them larger ones. (Most have a studio charge
    for the smaller ones, though.)

    We assume that the bridal party would like some of the shots.

    Given COVID restrictions, it is likely that the OP has reduced work hours (especially as
    a wedding photographer) and could use the money.

  17. As someone who understands business, the customer was supposed to pay the primary, who was then supposed to pay the OP to play second string. the only one with any obligation to pay the OP is the Primary. To think otherwise is to contradict all established laws and legal rulings.

    Also, the amount of people putting in bizarre things like empathy, supposed relationships between the customer and the primary shooter, all stupid and bizarre and not signs of someone who understands business
  18. Yes.

    But we already know that one of the things that was supposed to happen, that would ordinarily be part of a successful business, didn't happen.

    It doesn't seem so far to wonder if the other things also didn't happen.

    Maybe the primary really doesn't understand business, we don't really know.

    The OP has some photographs that could be valuable to some people.
    As a successful business person, he could sell them.
  19. And someone who claims to understand "business" should also understand the non-monetary aspect of good will.

    I'm not someone who ever plans to make a living on photography, but it's also not something I'm above earning a bit of money on as a hobby to offset the monetary hole it also sometimes makes :) . I've run actually successful and profitable sole proprietor small businesses in other areas, though, and I tend to over-deliver on what I contract to offer(including in COVID times extending some contracts by several months of my own volition). My statements/invoices often itemize specific things covered and not covered, but I still often chip in my "not covered" items. Even if it costs a bit of money in the short term, I'm making sure my delivered results are the best quality I'm capable of and generating a lot of "Hey, we used this guy for this and he was amazing-you should give him a call."

    To me, the OP giving the photos would fall into that category. Maybe they would forget right away, maybe it might turn into "Hey, we want a family portrait-why don't we call up that great photographer who was nice enough to give us our "lost" wedding photos."

    BTW, in pre-COVID times, I'd often spend Sunday afternoons roaming around the grounds of my state's capitol. I was there because the state spent a lot of money keeping the entire grounds nice and presentable, and it was a great spot to get some interesting and always-changing photos. For that reason also, it's also a popular spot to bring their kids/families for impromptu photos in front of particular landmarks in their Sunday best or whatever. More than once, "friendly guy with big camera" has been asked to snap a few photos on their cell phone. I've then offered to take a few on my camera, spent some time posing and doing other "better photo" tricks. I'll exchange contact info, work up a few, and send them over that afternoon. More than once, that sort of thing has generated paid jobs a few months or years later. It doesn't cost me anything other than a bit of time, and maybe it earns me a few bucks down the road...

    If I were making a living on this, it might be different, but I'm not.

    Reading your posts here, you seem to have a rather jaded view of this kind of stuff. I'm sorry for whatever has happened that's given you that perspective.
  20. Every positive thing you do within a moral framework is an investment.

    Last edited: Nov 2, 2020
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