This Guy Stole Photography From The Wrong Person... Me

This Guy Stole Photography From The Wrong Person... Me

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.

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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 websiteupdatebelow
We found him advertising on other websites
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We found him on Craigslist
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We found him on Youtube
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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.

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As I continued through "his portfolio" I noticed one shot that looked like something I would take, but it wasn't my shot. After reviewing John's actual work, I knew he wasn't good enough to take it so I did a little more research. I noticed that the trees in the background looked familiar... in fact, this shot was taken about 1 minute from my house at Boone Hall Plantation. After doing a Tineye search for that image I realized that he had stolen this picture from my friend Leigh Webber, another great wedding photographer in town.

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Now I know a lot of photographers would be furious about this but honestly it didn't really bother me. I think John was pretty stupid for trying to get away with using my pictures as his own, especially when some of my pictures are so well known publicly, but I doubt he is booking any work and this isn't effecting my business in any way. I was going to just forget the whole thing ever happened but a few friends convinced me to give John a call.

 

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.

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112 Comments

Previous comments
Egon Ligi's picture

Lee, I think i should also steal some of your shots, because then i'd also recieve a free copy of your new wedding DVD :)

Richard Byers's picture

Well played - 

Toby Lynch's picture

Found the website. Dear god. 

1KIND Photography's picture

Just go to his house and ring on his door bell. He'll shit his pants immediately.

I takes great integrity to not get mad at someone stealing from you, and for that I salute you Lee :)

luka pogorelz's picture

Moral of the story: steal your pics if you want a free DVD ;)

Patrick Hall's picture

Well he didn't steal any of my images so I'm going to veto the free DVD giveaway :)

BAM!!! Co-Founder spoke! y'all had forgotten about Mr Patrick Hall! hahaha

Oh for Pete's sake, use another fake name...

Jim Gustafson's picture

A far bigger man than I am.  I admire your attitude.  Great article, well laid out, but then again all of yours are.  

Joseph Molina's picture

"don’t steal other photographers’ work and claim that it is your own, especially mine. You’ll never get away with it"..... but you may end up getting a copy of that awesome wedding photography DVD. haha. 

PHO's picture

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PHO's picture

Great way to handle your business . Nice!

You are a better man then most others to turn the other cheek. Hell I'm scared to even plagiarize my own photos from better shooting days.

Diana Zucker's picture

"Maybe I’ll even send him a copy of our new wedding dvd, he could use it"  Now people are going to steal your images in hopes of getting a free DVD hahaha

Jeanne Mitchum's picture

That was amazing!! I love that you are being super nice about this! No need to get mad indeed. 

Oh man, now i'm gonna have to replace all of the images from Lee Morris that i used to advertise my job! haha, just kidding... well played!

nice post....but that end seems like you are showing off and it makes you look like a douche. specially if at the end he got away with it, and it wasnt even you who found him in the first place. :(

Such a nice tone you set in this piece...my hat off to you Sir.

Anthony Hostetler's picture

Thats funny,I placed an add in a magazine i sent 4 of my best photos i got the sample to check ff and low and behold there was a FIFTH image!!!! I am not A great photographer I don't Think I am bad either I get better every Day.. The image she had on there was Ok NOT good i said why did you add someone else's work.. She said well the other photographer said that 5 images would look so much better and he wanted to help me out!! I said well i want people to like me for my work who is this photographer ? she said oh its my son he does so many weddings and he loves to help other photographers cus he has been their... So i went to his site And he was amazing!!!! so either he had his mom try to put a bad photo in my add or on his site he is using others work.... Oh and I had her take it off before I new any of this.. said its not even close to my style .. 

marc osborne jr's picture

Wait a second Lee did "John" give you permission to post his photo?  PWNED!

I was waiting for this comment :)

If all I have to do to get a free DVD is steal your pics, I'm in, check out my website in about 10.  Once I have the DVD I promise to take them down.  PROMISE!

I wonder if he licensed the song on the background of his website....

Jesse Ford's picture

Looks like the thumbtack site got deleted..where is the actual website...

If you guys keep looking this guy up I'm going to have to delete this post

Even Amateurs have images nicked and promoted by someone else as their own.
My experience came to light and went sour real quick, when the person bringing it to my attantion was a legal representative at a major corporation, not happy an image advertising some other business had their logo in it.
I was happy with the image being removed, but the offender threatened legal action(?!) so I got a take down notice issued, and the Corporation then went further with a full site take down and legal threats of their own.
Now ive heard ( from legal rep at the major corp) the offender is being prosecuted and (IRS) audited, due to other 'irregular' business activities they uncovered.
Moral - dont steal, if you do, admit mistake, apologise and learn, dont get uppity or personal, it Will come back and Bite you.
Well done on the gentle and forgiving approach.

Even Amateurs get stolen from.
The moral is be nice, well done,
And admit mistakes and learn from them,
Dont get upity and argue or accuse.
I had an image taken and used to advertise a small company, a long way away.
Legal representative at a major corporation contacted me, they didnt like their logo advertising someone else.
I asked Thief, nicely, to remove my image.
Thief threatened legal action if I were to pursue a take down notice.

So Major Corp did it for me, full take down, site in use and others in Thiefs associated companies.
Now Thief is being prosecuted, by another Photographer, and their State Govt, and being (IRS) Audited,
Because they got arrogant, and Major Corp spent a few more minutes checking them out.

That was an awesome read, Lee. I will NEVER understand why people do this, and why they think they can get away with it. The same thing happened to me a few years back, with one of my candid rain photographs... what's funny was how I discovered about it: an anonymously reader started accusing me of stealing his friend's photo! And when I finally discovered who the thief was and sent her an email, she even had the guts to deny it at first and say "we probably just shot the same picture at the same time". What are the odds! Eventually she came clean and issued a public apology. 

It was weird getting accused of stealing you own photo. I wrote about the whole ordeal in my blog: http://www.dannyst.com/in-search-of-the-stolen-shot/ 

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