BetterPhoto Q&A
Category: New Questions

Photography Question 
Scott McCord
 

Sensitive Issue over senior portraits


Need some advice. I was booked to shoot some senior portraits by the kid's father and grandmother. The senior comes from a split family and they were adamant about the mother not ordering photos. However, the mother is still a legal guardian. I offer online proofing and the mother was able to access the proofs. She has asked to order photos, but the grandmother is insisting that I do not let the mother order photos without the grandmother's permission.
It was the grandmother who booked and paid for the session, not the mother.

My question: Does the mother have any legal right to buy the photos from her son's session even though the grandmother and father are the ones who booked and paid for the photos?
Or will she have to book her own session and purchase the photos from that session rather than the grandmothers.
I'm expecting a call from the mother in a matter of a day or two, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.


To love this question, log in above
10/25/2006 5:49:34 PM

 
W.    "My question: Does the mother have any legal right to buy the photos from her son's session even though the grandmother and father are the ones who booked and paid for the photos?"

No. The client has the right. The client(s) is/are the grandmother and the father. Not the mother.

"Or will she have to book her own session and purchase the photos from that session rather than the grandmothers."

Yes. Then she, the mother, will be the client, after all.


To love this comment, log in above
10/25/2006 5:59:30 PM

 
Scott McCord   Thank you, that's what I suspected, but wanted another opinion before I really tick off this mom.


To love this comment, log in above
10/25/2006 6:09:48 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  This is one reason (among a lot of them) why I decided to stop practicing law and go back to photojournalism. Frankly Scott, some people just need to be dope slapped. This family, among others. The don't need a photographer, sounds like they need Dr. Phil.

Nonetheless, I'm inclined to agree with WS. Mom, despite legal custody, wasn't your client. Is that "joint legal custody" or does mom have sole legal custody with shared physical custody?? Probably doesn't really matter.

BUT, in the future, you should ensure that only those who are entitled to have access to your online proofs actually get access. Otherwise, someone might muster a pretty good argument that you're publishing the images of a minor kid electronically on the internet without parental consent. Arguably, THAT could become a yucky problem.

Meanwhile, I'd call the father, tell him to grow up because it's just a photo or two for Godsake. Afterall, I assume he and his ex created this kid together at some point. They should share a collective memory of their previous collaborative work together. As a judge I worked for once said: "Tell them to get out in the hall and settle it." LOL !!!
Mark


To love this comment, log in above
10/25/2006 6:13:40 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  oh contrare,
booked and signed,money delivered,and then morality sets in.
you have no right to call anyone and push morality,or pass judgement,or make a judgement on a disfunctional,as you percieve family,to justify yourself to give a freebie.,or get paid twice for a work.
as many do,ethics,morality and honor take a back seat on a daily basis.
do not litigate morality scott,or stand up and make the call.
I guess you had to ask,sam


To love this comment, log in above
10/25/2006 8:31:04 PM

 
Dennis Flanagan
BetterPhoto Member Since: 12/31/2005
  Question for Mark: Although the grandparents paid for the session, do they have the sole legal right on the use of the photos?


To love this comment, log in above
10/25/2006 10:22:42 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  "Frankly Scott, some people just need to be dope slapped."

Actually, it's pimp slapped.
Just try to keep it with as little drama as you can and just do some more pictures for the mother.


To love this comment, log in above
10/25/2006 11:54:45 PM

 
Scott McCord   Mark,
Thanks for your response. I did have the proofs password protected and posted under an anonymous name that only the father, grandmother would know. However, the senior was excited and showed his online proofs to friends. The mother was able to obtain the password.
Sam,
I'm not trying to pass any judgements or impose my own ethics. I'm simply trying to avoid any legal problems. Personally, I think it's ridiculous that the mother is being shunned like this by the other parent, grandparents. However, I know she will insist on buying proofs and I needed to know whether I could legally offer them to her. It's fairly obvious that you would not offer a senior's photos to a potential customer who is not related. However, the mother sharing legal custody, I wasn't sure if she had a legal right to these photos of her son. She did not pay for them or the session. One way or the other, somebody is going to get upset.
It would thrill me if the father, grandmother would work out an agreement with the mother to allow her to purchase photos.
I'm worried about the mother trying to push the issue too far about purchasing these photos. And on the other hand, I'm worried about the grandmother, father pursuing legal action if I do offer them. I personally would have turned this session down if I would have had a good grasp on the situation beforehand.
I have also taken the proofs offline and notified the grandmother that I have done so because the mother, having access to the proofs, could have ordered online.
The grandmother also told me that she's fine with the mother having senior photos of her son as long as she books her own session with him and I'll end up taking the same photos over again and offering proofs to the mother. I'm inclined to ask her to choose a different photographer for her own senior session.


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 8:29:01 AM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  boy scott,i deal with families like these all the time."i need their phone # so I can call my ex"no.
"what's their new address"no.
they are seperate entities.
do not let them drag you into this quibbling and immaturity.
and I would'nt take the same photos or poses.unless you really need the money,yeah,i'd refer her to someone else.
I say the mother has no right to the photos,but i'd be glad to hear what mark or anyone else has to say.
sam


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 12:41:55 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  It sounds to me like you've got a valid contract between you and the grandparents who used the father's partial legal custody to retain your services. There's an offer, acceptance, consideration, performance and therefore a performed contract. There is also in contract parlance, what's called privity between you and the paternal grandparents whereas you have no contract with mom, hence no obligation to sell her anything or even to shoot again on her behalf.

You're under no obligation to sell anything to anyone you don't have an agreement to do so with.

Soooooooooo, if mom calls, just tell her your arrangement was with the father and grandparents, they paid you to do the work, they received the prints, and with their written permission, you'll be glad to have prints made for her. OTOH, if they refuse permission, sympathetically suggest that she retains the services of another photographer, give her some recommendations, suggest she have her own photos made, and just decline the job.

Now, on the third hand...(counting 1,2,3,) you could always give her prints under the table so-to-speak cause it's real doubtful this family is going to each other's homes to share Thanksgiving or x-mas dinner. :>) In that respect, who's gonna know if no one tells them.
Mark


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 5:25:29 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Hey Dennis, sorry I missed your question. In terms of publication or signing a model release, only the parent(s) with legal custody can do that. Use of the photos? The grandparents could give them to anyone they want so long as it doesn't involve publication.

Greg, I'd still dope slap them. I don't think they'd be worth a good pimp slap. LOL !!!


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 5:29:43 PM

 
Scott McCord   Mark, Sam...
Thank you both for your responses. Mark I was hoping you'd respond to this. You seem to be a treasure chest in the photo biz.


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 6:48:13 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  scott,
do not give any photos under the table.your credibility and honor are at stake.personal and professional.
gee mark,i agree with your response to dennis,yet you want scott to subjugate the law.
kinda gives the idea that if no one finds out it's ok.
I warned you about morality scott,and it's head is about to surface.this family will find out if you choose the wrong path.might be tuesday or january.
you are not ticking off the mom intentionally scott.you did a service she is not entitled to.period.
still your call scott,what kind of person are you.
honor.although not that big a word,defines who we are.
definately your call,sam


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 6:59:53 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Easy sam. Your moral glue is melting at the very fibers that sustain it. I was kidding. KIDDING !!!! A joke. OK?
M


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 7:20:54 PM

 
Gregory LaGrange
BetterPhoto Member Since: 11/11/2003
gregorylagrange.org
  And you know how flammable all that moral glue is. This whole place could go BOOM!


To love this comment, log in above
10/26/2006 8:14:24 PM

 
Scott McCord   Sam,
I never intended to give photos under the table to anybody. I simply wanted to do what was within the letter of the law. Simply needed to know if the mother had legal rights to these. Now that we've determined that she doesn't, she will have to purchase her own session/package, or hopefully find another photographer.
And I caught Mark's subtle humor on giving away photos, not endorsing anything "under the table."
Don't worry, I have a good grasp on morality, what I didn't have a good grasp on in this situation was legality.
Thank you all for your help, you've pretty muched solved this for me.


To love this comment, log in above
10/27/2006 2:02:12 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  well thanks for gettin me goin.
I deal with parents and kids all the time and then you throw in ex's and in-laws,out-laws.arrgh.
it's very tough to stand there after name calling and threats and say i'm sorry I can't give you or tell you such...very,very tempting to take them up on their offer to go outside.
but it might be a few days later when the kid says,you should have punched him for what he said.then I get ta splain things and it's all worth it.
lecture and a little embarrassment over,back to you scott.
sam


To love this comment, log in above
10/27/2006 2:09:58 PM

 
Mark Feldstein
BetterPhoto Member Since: 3/17/2005
  Whether it's fortunate or not, there isn't a confidential photographer-client privilege like priest-penitant, doctor-patient or attorney-client. The privacy issue really comes with the publication or not of the work product.

And, in most cases, I think parents should be required to go down to the state and get a parenting license before they're allowed to have kids or maybe even to go near them. Maybe I need to go sniff some of that moral glue. Glad to be a (favorable??) contributing factor Scott.

Have a great weekend guys!!!
Mark


To love this comment, log in above
10/27/2006 4:48:02 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  now you make me proud mark.please sniff no further.
you have done well.the help.
sam


To love this comment, log in above
10/27/2006 8:50:11 PM

 
Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/29/2004
  I would hate to think of how these two parents are going to handle "big" issues in their son's life. Speaking as a divorced mom of two, I always took the high road and any pictures of my kids that were taken, I always bought some for their father & his mother. Maybe I needed the dope slap? :)

Perhaps son can "buy" the photos himself that his mother wants. Let mom pick them out, tell dad he wants them for friends and get them that way. Still a bit sneaky, but maybe it would satisfy everyone. Or perhaps mom could reimburse half the expense of the session? All things mom & dad should be figuring out, not you Scott.

Sorry you're in this spot. Hopefully it will all work out and no one will be upset with you! :)

Smile :)


To love this comment, log in above
10/28/2006 12:31:02 PM

 
Samuel Smith
BetterPhoto Member Since: 1/21/2004
  well,although I admire your thinking brenda,do not put the child in a situation where he/she ,ya know,kinda takes a side in a hatfield/mc'coy kind of situation.the child at this point is already considered property??
each parent thinks the other owes them in what you say is a big issue.
and by the way brenda,it's the others who don't do what you did who need electro therapy,bench slapped.
ya can't fix what's broken,only what needs mending,hell I don't even believe that.
duck brenda,sam


To love this comment, log in above
10/28/2006 7:27:35 PM

 
Brenda M. Wolfensberger
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/29/2004
  Whew... I think I ducked just in time. ;) Understood Sam... the poor kid is already stuck in the middle.

Scott, I hope this works out for you and for the family. Let us know how Mom takes the news.


To love this comment, log in above
10/29/2006 4:36:57 AM

 
Scott McCord   Mark, Sam,
Sorry I haven't responded sooner to this, but can you believe it...I've had the same situation happen yet again.
A retired photographer referred a client to me. I booked the session (grandmother booked session because she was paying for photos) and took the photos. I took my time and was very attentive to detail on this shoot because the client was referred by a colleague.
They received the proofs and first, were upset that there were only 74 images from the studio session (this did not include the on-location photos). Next, I had scheduled the on-location portraits with the grandmother, who was the purchaser of the services. When I called the senior to confirm the location, the mother answered and told me that the appointment was cancelled because while she was happy with the quality of the photos, she thought there were enough props used for senior photos. Since she was there the entire session, I knew this was an excuse. The grandmother then called me and told me that 10 minutes before I spoke to her that the mother announced she was moving to Texas with her new boyfriend and abandoning the family. She also told the grandmother that she could not order any of the photos from me of her daughter. While that is just a threat, it all boils down to another shoot that won't earn me any money.
I have no idea how these people find me. Maybe I should employ an in-studio therapist for my clients.


To love this comment, log in above
11/2/2006 3:35:14 PM

 
Scott McCord   Had an error...it should have said that the mother was upset because I DID NOT use enough props.

Also on the other case, I believe the mother stepped aside. Her son won't agree to shoot the photos again because he doesn't like her, so she's given up...I think.

Oh, why can't I just have a nice nuclear family for a client.


To love this comment, log in above
11/2/2006 3:40:51 PM

 
Log in to respond or ask your own question.