Open Letter to Carly Fuller and Ken Rochon - Cramer Imaging - Quality Fine Art Photography
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Open Letter to Carly Fuller and Ken Rochon

Lately, a DJ named Ken Rochon has sparked some serious controversy in photography circles when he took photos at a wedding using professional quality camera equipment and shared them on Facebook the next day.  Professional wedding photographer Carly Fuller was contracted to shoot that event.  Upon seeing that the DJ had published his photos on social media the next day and tagged her business in the album, Carly started an outcry against Ken's actions.  It has become a very divided issue on social channels with photographers coming to Carly's defense and DJ's coming to back up Ken.

If you would like to read up more on this matter before plunging into my letter, check out this link on PetaPixel which discusses both sides of the battle in greater detail.  Here are my thoughts on the matter.

Dear Carly and Ken,

As I am a business owner first and foremost and so are both of you, I can see some of both sides of the issue at play here.  I'm also trying to scratch out a living from the services I provide just as you do.  I know that it can be really difficult to do so.  I understand the importance of both contracts and the ability to advertise.  Contracts set out clear client/vendor understandings and advertising is the life blood of any business.

I have a few things I want to say to the both of you in regards to your approach to this controversy.  As I cannot speak to both of you at once, I will begin with Ken and end with Carly.

Ken, I really do understand the importance of getting your name out there.  Without people knowing about you and your business, you don't have the means to put food on the table or pay your bills.  I get this.

However, you were hired (and probably contracted as well) to perform a service for the bride and groom.  That service was to provide entertaining music.  That, and that alone, should have been your first priority.  You were not being paid to take pictures of the couple nor the guests.  Carly was being paid to do that.

As a business owner, your single best form of advertising and marketing is a happy customer.  You should have been concentrating on making the couple happy with the service they hired you to perform rather than working on promoting your business instead.

It was also highly improper of you not to voluntarily discuss your plans of taking pictures with the HIRED professional photographer there.  This is regardless of whether or not you have the client's permission to proceed.

Even worse than not voluntarily disclosing your intentions was refusing to honor Carly's wishes in this regard.  Many photographers will happily work out some deal with other vendors to exchange the photographs they take for something else of value such as photo credits, backlinks, and business partnership arrangements.

Your apparent refusal to accept Carly's offer of sending photos later was a very poor decision.  You could have used her fan base to bolster your own and vice versa.  Simply tagging Carly's Facebook page is not enough to start the kind of good will you were seeking.  Tagging her business page in your album WITHOUT her prior knowledge AND permission is completely out of line.

A few years ago, I went to a family member's wedding and did some wedding photography much the way that you did.  I was a guest not a vendor.  However, I made a point of approaching the hired professional photographers and letting them know that I was also going to be taking photos.  I indicated that I was practicing my wedding photography and that I would not be interfering with them and their work.  They were perfectly happy to let me take photos along side them.  Had they objected, I would have sadly put my camera away and been a guest.  I also gifted my images to the couple.

I made a valuable business contact that day by being professional, courteous, and up front about my intentions.  I strongly suggest you use this kind of approach in the future.

You threatened the continued existence of your own business by not thinking about the bird (or client) you had in your hand and pursuing after the two or more in the bush which are not guaranteed at all.  You might have had some other future clients in the wedding guests.  Now, they don't know what service you provide: DJ or photography; and they probably won't call to hire you.

This was exceedingly poor business practice from you.  I hope that you will rethink your strategy of marketing in the future.

Now Carly, it's your turn.

I am a photographer myself and have spent some time as a wedding photographer too.  I know the importance of contracts there and not having competition when trying to take those special and precious photos of fleeting moments.  It can be very stressful.  I decided that wedding photography is not for me.  If that branch of photography is something that you enjoy and can make money at, more power to you there.

You apparently require some serious clarification about your relationship with your client.  The relationship between you and the client is one of employee and employer.  The client is paying you to be there which makes them the boss and you are the employee.  As long as they are aware and comfortable with other unpaid photographers of any skill level taking pictures, it's their call.  Others taking pictures, even with professional looking gear, do not interrupt any so called "organic experience."

You seem to have some unrealistic expectations of what your contract with the client covers.  For starters, your contract is with the client and not the DJ.  You have no agreement to do business with Ken so you probably don't have any legal grounds to seek damages against him for breach of contract.  Your only possible legal recourse is to sue the couple.  I sincerely hope you will not attempt either path.

Your only possible legal recourse on Ken and his company would be to claim interference with contract fulfillment.  A grand total of 232 photos hardly seems like plausible upstaging of you as I know for a fact that you can take hundreds to thousands of different photos at a single wedding.

Unless you have solid proof, in photographic or video form, that he was posing clients against your directions, blocking you from taking your contracted photos, or otherwise deliberately interfering with you completing your job, you will have an extremely difficult time proving that claim.

If you contract does indeed contain an exclusivity clause, which I believe it does, then it is your responsibility as the vendor to educate your client what that means exactly.  Your clients failing to understand that there were not to be other photographers there is your fault, not theirs, and certainly not Ken's.  Neither of these parties should have to pay for your shortsightedness.

One point that you seem to fail to realize is that Ken Rochon, or any other wedding vendor present at that event, is not a professional or "official" photographer.  They are professionals but not professional photographers.  They would not be covered by that clause in your contract as that clause is designed to prevent the couple from hiring another photographer to compete with you at the same event.

If I read your published exclusivity clause correctly, your monopoly of the event only includes photography services stated specifically in the contract.  As the DJ's photography is not part of the service requested by the contract, exclusivity does not apply here.

While what Ken did is indeed unethical and unprofessional, it is not illegal nor is it a breach of contract.  If this bothers you, adjust your contract to better clarify what you really wish in this matter for future events.  Be careful on how you word such a clause as it would be illegal of you to require the couple to check the photographic skills of every potential guest before sending them an invitation.

I sincerely hope you realize just how unenforceable the idea of no other photographers (of any kind) at an event, such as a wedding, is.  You do not have the authority, even with a contract, to declare that you are the only person allowed at the wedding with any kind of competency or decent photo gear.  It is not a right to attempt such a measure either.  It would be an illegal seizure to take any professional looking camera gear away from guests and wedding party members just so you can be the only person present with professional camera gear.

It is not your event and you are merely employed to be there.  You cannot stop anyone else from taking pictures if you wanted to.  This includes vendors as well.

I must wonder at how secure your business is if you feel threatened by some other vendor, AND NOT A PROFESSIONAL PHOTOGRAPHER, taking photos at an event you were booked for.  Perhaps you had better evaluate that and quickly.  You have ruined what could have been a valuable and profitable business partnership between the two of you.

While Ken indeed committed the first offense, you are not an innocent victim yourself.  Your decision to turn to social media in an outcry for public support was entirely out of line.  Shame on you for doing so.  This is a matter which should have been handled privately between the two of you not broadcast for the rest of the world to see your dirty laundry.

Think of what you have done to that poor couple who paid you good money to photograph their wedding.  All they wanted to do was get married and celebrate that with friends, family, and associates.  You have forever immortalized them as the couple that started a fight between a photographer and a DJ.  Because photos of them are at the center of this, someone will recognize them and their names will come out regardless of what you choose to say.  Do you think they will give you a good review over this?  Do you think they will recommend you to friends and family in the future?  I know I wouldn't in their shoes.  They certainly will not do so if you sue them and rightly so.

Because of this decision of yours to go public with your disagreement, you will have some serious business consequences to think about, more serious than Ken Rochon will deal with.  Think about it: will other wedding vendors want to book the same event you are working at now that they know you will become offended and smear their good names all over social media if they so much as pull out a camera of any kind?  I know I wouldn't in their shoes.

It is something to think about as this could have cost you lots of business in your local area thanks to this new reputation you have started for yourself and your business.  Vendors often keep a list of other vendors they refuse to work with and share that information with their clients upon a successful booking.  Couples may now be forced to choose between having you as their wedding photographer and having numerous other vendors they want provide services at their weddings such as catering, bartending services, and music services.

Worst of all, Ken and his company might have sufficient and justifiable grounds to sue you for libel over this.  How many legal battles do you think you can handle right now?

This public denouncement was extremely poor and unprofessional behavior from you.  It's worse than what DJ Ken Rochon did to you.  If your business can survive the fallout of this campaign of yours, I sincerely hope that you will rethink taking your disputes public again.

Carly and Ken, whether or not you win the battle remains to be seen but you both have already lost the war.  You both have become known publicly for very poor business practices along with unprofessional behavior and that is something that the public does not forgive lightly.  You both will have to work exceedingly hard to overcome this serious business reputation setback you are in if your businesses can survive the consequences of this social media battle.

On that last point, I sincerely wish both of you good luck with the uphill battle in public opinion you are now facing.

Sincerely,

Audrey Cramer
Business Owner
Professional Photographer