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

Hey Lee!  If we steal some of your images and pass them off as our own will we get the wedding dvd free?!?  LOL

Lloyd Grace's picture

Lee - I appreciate the fact that you're showing grace and forgiveness, I really do. But, this is theft and copyright infringement on your end and fraud on his end. He is fraudulently representing himself to his "customers" if he has any. That doesn't help the legitimate 'togs in his area and it's bad for business period. I can understand you not wanting to prosecute, but I think he needs to be called out publicly and stopped. 

Keith Bradshaw's picture

I would have totally named him. Maybe I should just chill out but it reminds me of the web commercial I produced for the "TED 5000 energy detective." Which by the NEVER works and I feel so ashamed for producing content that was misleading. 

 i doesn't work? shit, i didn't know that. i've done work for them too

You could send me a copy too, I wouldn't mind checking it out! haha.

Hey Lee, You mad bro? Lol

Lee you are a true gentleman for taking the high road and putting things into prospective. I'm glad to have met you and Patrick in Chicago back a few summers ago. Cheers Mate.

oh come on, how could you have let him off so easily? Im not saying you had to go all out lawsuit on him, but you should have at least made him sweat a little more.... then send him the DVD  :-)

Steve O'Hara's picture

If you're going to give a you Wedding DVD to a jerk who steals work - please give it to me instead!  I'd love a copy.  I'd "settle" for the Peter Hurley DVD though!   

LOL...so if I steal one of Lee's photos, then photo collage it w/ Patrick Hall's, then selective color it and post it up with a really bad video of the process, would I get a free wedding DVD and photoshop and videography DVD? :-)
Wooohoo!  :-)))

Nice job taking the high road Lee...you guys always have class.

Keith Bradshaw's picture

This is self-worth gone south. Imagine knowing that your talent is so bad that you have to steal it.
OR....
It's a scam artist with hopes of receiving deposit money only to slip away and never take a picture. 

Wow.  Very reasoned response.  Good for you!

I guess Im going to have to stop telling people that I started Fstoppers and that my name is Lee Morris... shucks....

What about the couple that hires this guy thinking they're going to get similar results of their wedding day and end up only with this guy's actual work? You certainly haven't done them any favors by letting it slide, even for a little while.

Tony Guillaro's picture

LMFAO...Way to go lee 

Tyler Dretke's picture

Well played, Sir.  You handled this situation with greater poise and maturity than I would have been capable of.  This makes me respect FStoppers and your photography even more.  

You handled this very well Lee and I commend you for this!  I think most of us wouldn't have been so kind and forgiving...

Phong Thai's picture

I never understood guys that steal images and claim it as their own...I mean just learn proper lighting on your own and go out and do you own thing. Saving to get your DVD by the way...

Philip Goff's picture

Couldn't help but feel a little angry for you, but well said and very well handled!

Lee, Really sorry you let him continue scamming people. You weren't the real victim, the victims are the people paying thousands for work he can't deliver. I know these scammers and his lesson from you was to be more careful about stealing high profile images. I see too many people paying big cash to great marketers only to get garbage in return. 

José Miguel Stelluti's picture

Yes a free DVD!!!!!!!!! jajajajajaja All photographers have some ego because photography is among other things, the relationship of the photographic eye, and creativity to make a picture, being a profession and lifestyle creative authorship will always be something that we keep with suspicion. It is normal to show some ego Lee has the wins to back it up. I admire you for how you took everything. Hey if you're feeling kind of gifting a DVD, Sign me in your list, one for Venezuela!!

He clearly knows your onto him now, as he's started to remove his ads and sites.. When asked why he was stealing images from one of the most popular photography sites in the world he told me "There are no stolen pictures. Don't you think if they were, someone would have done something about it." So I told him to maybe check out fstoppers".. Minutes later his ads were deleted

Patrick Hall's picture

Wait, you know the guy?  I think Lee has already had a response back from him

I dont "know him" ... It wasnt to hard to find his ads, and then his site.. The Internet is a wonderful thing if you know how to use it! I'm just glad he's been found out, and that he's taking the sites down!

Taken! "I don't know who you are. I don't know what you want. If you are looking for 'business', I can tell you I don't have 'clients for you'. But what I do have are a very particular set of skills; skills I have acquired over a very long career. Skills that make me a nightmare for people like you. If you let my 'pictures' go now, that'll be the end of it. I will not look for you, I will not pursue you. But if you don't, I will look for you, I will find you, and I will 'write an article explaining how upset I am at' you. " - Lee Morris :-X

DB's picture

Lee,
The website is great. But to be honest. You seem a smug prick. Even your silly picture on the banner ad stuff comes off as brash. You're better than that man. Your work is amazing, let it show your confidence

Patrick Hall's picture

Hmmmm....and to think, all the writer's were just saying how Lee is the nicest, down to earth guy they've ever met. 

First class Lee Moris.  Thank you for your hard work and dedication to the profession.

Shannon Wimberly's picture

i think you may have been too easy on him.... but thats only my opinion..... i hate the overuse of litigation, but sometimes people don't learn from just a slap on the hand....... just my opinion, and ditto Joshua Nyenhuis...... you are first class, Lee.

Daniel Knafo's picture

Best part is how you used this to advertise your video twice:) You are a marketing genius. I am not even being sarcastic. well done:)

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