Dana Dawes Photography Groupon Fiasco
Chain of events:
1. SP/Jodie O recognized images on Dawes’ site as inconsistent after seeing the work being offered on Groupon Atlanta. Dawes’ work next to other professional work that had completely different skills regarding studio lighting techniques sparked suspicion. JodieO, having her images stolen in the past, and who also has questioned Groupon before regarding validity of their advertisers, uploaded a few of Dawes’ images to TinEye (photo recognition) and these images were identified as other photographers’ photographs.
2. When confronted on the Groupon discussion (found here --- http://www.groupon.com/deals/dana-dawes-photography-atlanta/posts , Dawes claims her site must have been hacked.
a. Counter: If her site was hacked, a hacker would have had to log in to her template from Portfoliositez.com, then steal other photographers’ images, and put Dana Dawes’ watermark on them, and then upload them to her site. Would a hacker do this? It COULD happen, but that would be a bizarre case with no clear motive. Random hacker steals images from other photographers and places them on a template? Highly unlikely, but let’s move on…
3. Dawes is pressed by photographers on Groupon, and then states that her webmaster must have done it .
a. Counter: Her site was a www.portfoliositez.com template. These templates are purchased by photographers. Photographers easily can log in to the “back end” of the template site and upload their own images. This does not require the use of a webmaster. Portfoliositez released this “We take copyright infringement seriously. We have never, and will never, use a clients images without permission. If we need to put any placeholder images in a site we are testing we use our own images - which may not be as pretty to look at but they get the job done. If a client of ours is using your images please let us know immediately and send screenshots so we can take the appropriate action.” This quote was released after they suspended Dawes’ site.
b. A legitimate webmaster tends to place his/her information on the site as a contact at the bottom of the index page (i.e., ‘for any feedback on this site, please contact the webmaster at XXX’). There was no webmaster information on this site. This site was registered by Dana Dawes November 12, 2009 with administrative contact and technical contact of Keane-Dawes, D email@example.com P.O. Box 70071 Marietta, Georgia 30007 678-939-9431 information found here --- http://www.networksolutions.com/whois-search/danadawesphotography.com
c. Webmasters are computer/internet savvy. They know coding, etc. This website is a template. Templates do not need coding. A legitimate webmaster would not typically place images on a site that are distorted – that would be a really bad reflection on his/her skills. Webmasters know how to put photos in their correct dimensions.
d. Why would a legitimate webmaster steal other peoples’ images when there are free stock images online that he/she would be familiar with if he/she wanted placeholders (webmasters know copyright law). Also, why would a webmaster take Dawes’ watermark, and place it on other photographers’ images if these were placeholders. This does not happen automatically in this template and has to be done manually in a photo editing program.
e. Furthermore, these same images were found on Dawes’ Facebook site as well as MobileMe site. Dawes had updates on her Facebook authored by herself, she wouldn’t have noticed she was using images that were not hers on her Facebook?
f. As an aside – her Bio paragraph on her website was also stolen from another photographer http://www.kristinayoungphotography.com , word for word.
4. CBS reporter in Atlanta did a story for Dawes to “set the record straight” (link to report: http://www.cbsatlanta.com/local-video/index.html?grabnetworks_video_id=4340231 ) (reporter’s email --- firstname.lastname@example.org ) The reporter states that these stolen images are “generic”. Generic? Please ask the following victims of this theft if their client photos or even their professional businesses are “generic”. The reporter had NOT been in contact with any of these victims prior to the story airing.
Tanya Shield Photography http://www.tanyashields.com
C Stringer Photography http://charlottestringerphotography.com
Morgaine Owens http://morgaineowensphotography.com
PeaHead Photography http://peaheadprints.com
Catherine Clay Photography http://www.catherineclayphotography.com
Julie Johnson from Vine Images http://www.vineimages.ca/
Kathy Wynn http://www.katseyephoto.net/
Kathy Wynn http://www.katseyephoto.net/
******* This list is still growing as images are identified *****
5. CBS allowed this photographer to offer her “deal” on TV. The photography community is outraged that a TV reporter did not try to contact the victims of theft to get their sides of the story. This story was not investigated in any way – only Dawes told her side of the story.
6. Groupon made a statement for CBS that they have an extensive background check. The photography community questions what this background check is. On the news report, Dawes is holding her “client images” that came out of a Walmart envelope. Professionals tend to use professional labs, this is very odd and raises yet another red flag. Groupon also allows “deals” from these photographers such as this one where the following exists.
a. Photographer offers deal of $65 which includes digital negatives of a session done on location. Digital negatives cap the sale. Releasing digital negatives allows clients to use the images any way they wish, printing unlimited. When groupon takes their 50% cut, this comes out to about $33 per client not including any of Dawes’ business expenses. Dawes sold around 1,200 of this deal before it was stopped (this would take her 60 hours per week at LEAST to fulfill for very very little profit) – we have witnessed photographers selling over 2,000 by the end of the day. The deal has to be fulfilled within one year. When you do the math, after taking out the travel hours, editing hours, shooting hours, expenses, etc. Dawes would be making around $6/hour (that’s being generous, please see math on bottom of page), less than minimum wage, working full time for an entire year as a BUSINESS OWNER. Groupon should question these types of photographer deals, and whether or not a professional would offer to work for such a low wage. (breakdown of this type of deal listed below)
7. Why the backlash from the photography community? We get our images stolen all the time by photographers and businesses who end up using them illegally or claiming them their own, and then when we confront them, they always lay the blame elsewhere. It’s predictable, it’s always the same “my webmaster did it” but they can never give us a concrete name of who their webmaster is. This happens ALL THE TIME. We are tired of it, and need it to stop.
Please see http://www.flickr.com/photos/53954517@N05/ for screenshots. We will keep this updated as those come forward with more screenshots.
Groupon needs to be partly responsible here. If they are going to advertise a business, they need to make sure that the business is legitimate. While they may have not been able to recognize the stolen images, the simple fact that any photographer would offer such a low amount for a photo session that includes the digital negatives and not have a “capped” number that can be sold (i.e., could sell potentially thousands), is a huge red flag that this may not be a true professional business owner that they are dealing with. This is common sense, and Groupon needs to use some of that common sense, but we are guessing that Groupon is more concerned about the $$$ they have coming in as opposed to their customers buying these deals. Think about it. Why would Groupon allow a photographer to sell a $65 portrait session and cap it at $100? Because Groupon would rather have $65,000 into their pockets then $3,250. Groupon prides itself on its customer service. REALLY?
So if Groupon wants to argue that they do indeed allow photographers to cap their sales, then tell me, would they let them cap it at 100? If they do allow them to cap it at 100, why would they even bother letting that particular photographer go up on Groupon when they have a long line of them waiting with much higher caps?
SIMPLE MATH FOR THIS GROUPON OFFER – Groupon should question this, as this math does not calculate into a typical professional business owner’s way of running a business.
1. Photographer offers $65 deal through groupon that includes an hour photo session, and up to an hour away on location.
2. Sold 1200+ groupon deals
3. Gives away digital negatives with this deal (tends to cap sale).
4. Groupon takes a 50% cut.
5. Offer is valid for one year.
PART A – the Money
1200 clients x $65 = $78,000 – Groupon’s 50% cut = $39,000
$39,000 profit? No. Let’s look at expenses (business expenses including studio rent to administration materials/office supplies/cost of goods sold, gas/travel, equipment, props, insurance, licensing, etc.) Expenses for most studios are at least $30,000 but can be well over $100,000 per year. So if Dawes is operating a full time business, she is already significantly in the red. For this case, we are going to be generous and hoping that Dawes has a significantly less amount of business expenses as most full time professional photographers. We are going to cut that figure down and pretend she has only $20,000 in expenses per year (studio rent alone is not cheap). $39,000-$20,000 = $19,000
PART B – the Time
1200 clients in one year. 50 weeks in a year (we are leaving off 2 weeks to be realistic – people need vacation and sick days) 1200 divided by 50 = 24 clients to see in one week EVERY week. If she does not fulfill 24 each week, she will get backed up and it will even more impossible to fulfill. Clients get sick, photographers get sick, things happen, this 24 sessions per week has to be rigid or disaster will strike.
Working hours - One hour for session, being kind and saying 50% of these sessions will be on location (we hope they are not all on location) which will require an hour or two drive (up and back), so we are going to average that out at 1-1/2 hours travel time (we didn’t include setup time or photographer or clients being late – this adds up quickly, don’t forget.). 12 studio hours for sessions, 30 location hours per session (each session averaging 2.5 hours including travel time) = 42 shooting hours. 24 sessions per week with administration (answering emails, phone calls, scheduling, in other words, running the business) and editing (at least 1 hour editing each client, but many professionals spend 1-6 hours editing each session – for this, we are being kind and saying she only edits for 1 hour and is strict about it and spends a half hour for each client for administration - That’s another 18 hours.
42 shooting hours + 18 administration and editing hours = 60 hours per week for groupon only clients. We are not discussing regular clients. Regular clients will put this number up even higher.
PART C – the Bottom Line
Being generous and hoping that Dawes spends only 1/6th of the time most professionals do editing client images and taking care of clients, and only has about half (or less) of the business expenses most professionals have, here’s her salary for GROUPON ONLY clients, not regular clients.
Dawes will have to work for 60 hours per week at $6/hour just to fulfill her groupon clients, not regular clients (This was our generous figure. If we used our more realistic profession figures, we would be looking at no profit at all) I’d rather serve coffee at Starbucks and only work 40 hours per week myself. How about you?
MORE DETAIL – Let’s take it a little further: For those who are more business savvy
This, to me, as a professional photographer and studio owner for 7 years, is a more realistic calculation.
PART A – the Money
1200 clients x $65 = $78,000 – Groupon’s 50% cut = $39,000
Subtract her expenses - business expenses including studio rent to administration materials/office supplies/cost of goods sold, gas/travel, equipment, props, insurance, licensing, etc. Mine last year were $111,000. We are already in the red, aren’t we, and we haven’t even started.
Let’s try to subtract her expenses again. After poling photographers today who own very small studios with very cheap rent, we have come up with this figure --- $35,000 seems about correct for the professional photographer with a small studio, running the business as a one-person deal.
$39,000-$35,000 = $4,000 (sad reality, but wait until you see THIS bottom line…. Read on)
PART B – the Time
1200 clients in one year. 50 weeks in a year (we are leaving off 2 weeks to be realistic – people need vacation and sick days) 1200 divided by 50 = 24 clients to see in one week EVERY week. Strictly, she needs to accomplish 24 clients per week with no sick days or reschedules from either her or the client.
Working hours - One hour for session, being kind and saying 50% of these sessions will be on location (we hope they are not all on location) which will require an hour or two drive (up and back), so we are going to average that out at 1-1/2 hours travel time (we didn’t include setup time or photographer or clients being late – this adds up quickly, don’t forget.). 12 studio hours for sessions, 30 location hours per session (each session averaging 2.5 hours including travel time) = 42 shooting hours. Let’s add on weekly administration hours – 10 hours. Let’s add on editing time including CD burning, archiving, etc. for 24 sessions – 4 hours per client. NOW, folks, we are looking at 148 hours per week to fulfill these sessions.
Bottom BOTTOM Realistic Line
Now, with this groupon deal, we are looking at Ms. Dana Dawes working 148 hours per week at 50 weeks, and having $4,000 come in. Again, let’s do the bottom line REALISTICALLY. She would have to work 148 hours per week at 50 cents per hour. Yes, you read that right.
What if she only wants to work 40 hours per week you say? She would have to work 3.7 years at 50 cents per hour in order to fulfill 1200 clients.
What a business model. Thanks Groupon for making this possible!