A friend of mine asked if I could help out with a shoot for an acquaintance who was starting up a new company. After a lot of begging from my friend, I eventually said I’d do the shoot for free.

I had a meeting with my new “clients” and showed them my portfolio. They were happy with the quality of my work. During this meeting I told them that if any paying work came along, I’d put the editing of their shoot aside to complete the paid work first. Otherwise, we stipulated they’d get all their images after two weeks (as long as I received no other work). They agreed with this.

After getting half of the photos to them within the first week, I ended up with a paid job and had to put their work aside. Week two I get a e-mail from them demanding the rest of the images. I reminded them that they’d have to wait while I took care of my paying clients.

The third week I delivered the majority of their images. I then got an invoice from them charging me R500.

(R = South African Rand, which is roughly 0.12 USD)

Client: You have cost the company money by not delivering the images on time, therefore we’re charging you.

Me: You’re charging me for providing you with a free shoot?

Client: You claimed you could provide a service and we set our time scale to that promise. You’ve failed to deliver and you’re costing us money, therefore we’ve sent you the invoice.

I decided to invoice them in return, including photographic rate, editing, etc. and sent them an invoice of about R20,000, with the R500 subtracted from the amount. By this time, the images I had supplied were already on their website.

Client: You just invoiced us? Is this a sick joke?

Me: I’ll be happy to make sure you get your remaining photos with in two days and pay you your R500, if you pay for my time and images.

Client: You’ll be hearing from our legal advisor soon!

Me: I look forward to hearing what your legal advisor says about you using my images for commercial gain, displaying them on your website and providing me with no credit while attempting to charge me, all while I was still operating within the conditions of our contract AND maintaining a copyright on all the images previously mentioned. 

Oddly, I never heard back from them or from the legal advisor. Since then, my images have remained on the site and I’ve even found a few of them in magazines featuring their product.


Editor’s Note: I originally stated that 1R=1USD. I’m not sure how I got the conversion so wrong. Apologies.