“Asking for a Friend” {Ethics in the Industry}

Dear Stefanie Shutters, 

I just received a text from a friend asking for a friend about her son’s senior pictures with another photographer.  She wanted to know if the friend could hire me to remove the watermarks from the web proofs because she doesn’t want to buy their packages! 

I’m honestly so shocked I don’t even know what to say.

~Shocked and Appalled 

Dear S&A,

I’m with you on the shock… she doesn’t want to pay the photographer but she’s willing to pay you to commit a federal crime instead?

My first thought is to find out what the original photographer was charging for the most expensive all digital package… then quote her that and outsource the job to the original photographer for that amount…  you know, assuming she agreed.  There’s poetic justic there that is unlikely to be served as the whole point of ‘removing the watermark’ is to get everything for nothing.

Instead, text your friend back and let her know what what her friend is asking about is illegal and a violation of federal copyright law. (It’s also completely rude, unethical, and a number of other adjectives that I won’t use in public print).   Furthermore, have her tell her friend its impractical. The watermarked web files shown in proofing are too low resolution to be able to ‘do anything’ with from a printing standpoint.  After all, she doesn’t want fuzzy announcements and blurry wallets to send out to family for this special milestone occasion. Her best choice is to go back to the photographer and select a package that fits her budget.

Sadly, she may still find someone to do it… or even just attempt to print them with the watermark on it.  Nothing surprises me anymore.  But the important part was that you tried to educate her and that you didn’t compromise your own ethics.


 Do you have a photography business question? ASK it! 
Client issue? Need a second opinion on what to do? ASK it!
Email ask@stefanieshutters.com and get an answer! 
Names and identifying information is never used in the final article. 

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