A few weeks ago I got a Facebook message from someone saying I should check out a particular website. The message simply said "I think this guy is stealing your pictures." We'll call "this guy" "John," and yes, John was using my pictures as well as other photographers' images and claiming that they were his own. John's plan of grabbing images from photographers far outside of his state could have worked but he happened to choose me, Lee Morris, the owner of one of the biggest photography websites on the internet, and the creator of a massive wedding photography tutorial.
The first link that I was sent was to Wedding.com. On this site, "John" had made a business profile featuring some of my images.
The image above is one of my flagship images. I took that shot for a big advertising campaign years ago. I put a ton of thought and work into getting that image and so I could easily recognize it anywhere. After seeing this, I showed a few of my friends this page and they began doing some research. In about 20 minutes of time we knew everything about John; his current and previous address, his Facebook page, his Google account information, his current and previous employers, his phone number, and a list of websites where he was advertising his "business" including his main website.
We found his personal website
We found him advertising on other websites
We found him on Craigslist
We found him on Youtube
As I went through more and more of "his" pictures, I kept wondering if anyone was actually falling for this because he would put a few of my images next to one of his shots and it was obvious that these shots were not taken by the same person. When you see one of his shots next to one of mine, it just doesn't really add up.
I called John multiple times. Probably twice a day for 3 or 4 days. He had a Google Voice number and I didn't want to leave a message because I actually wanted to talk to him and ask why he would do this. I called John again just now and got his voice mail again. I went back to John's website today and noticed that all of my pictures had been removed, and there used to be a lot up there. I assume that John Googled the phone number of the person that was calling him so much and realized it was Lee Morris, the guy he was stealing from.
A few months ago I wrote the article: How Bad Wedding Photographers Have Made The Industry Better. I made the argument that brides are willing to spend more money for "good" photographers because there are so many horror stories about cheap wedding photographers. Can you imagine if you had booked this guy expecting his pictures to turn out like mine and then he delivered these amateur, snap shot, spot colored pictures? John would have added another horror story to the wedding photography industry. I have no problem with cheap wedding photographers, everyone has to start somewhere; the problem with John is that he is blatantly lying to his customers. If a Bride in John's area has a certain amount of money to spend on a photographer and she chooses one based on their portfolio, John might win that client over a real photographer by using other photographers' images.
As I said above I'm really not mad at John. We've all done stupid things before and I doubt he has booked a single wedding from this website of his. I didn't write this post to get this person in trouble with the community, that is why I changed his name and blacked out everything about his business in the images. If you do figure out who he is, please do not contact him, that is not what this is about. I may try to give John another call in a few days and if he doesn't respond I may eventually send him an email. Maybe I'll even send him a copy of our new wedding dvd, he could use it. The moral of the story is, don't steal other photographers' work and claim that it is your own, especially mine. You'll never get away with it.
Update: I received a sincere apology and explanation from John and in an attempt to protect his anonymity, I have removed the majority of the images in this post. My intention was never to reveal who John was and I honestly wish him the best. Needless to say, John will only be using his images to promote his business from now on.