Photography Production Scams

As self-employed professional photographers, we all know the feeling – put out a ton of promotions, eblasts and social media posts until we are blue in the face. It’s often a frustrating and seemingly fruitless task. Then finally it all seems to pay off when we get that email from an AD or CD who is interested in working with us on a big project.

We respond, gather information, start working on creative and have a lots of back and forth dialog. They don’t hesitate on our rate, they will give us complete creative control and we don’t even have to handle the production. They’ll do all of that for us through THEIR hand picked vendors. If you are just getting started in this business, this would seem quite enticing. If you have been in this business for awhile, something just doesn’t feel quite right. Something in our head tells us this is too good to be true. Then there is one other odd little item–we’ll need to pay one of their vendors up front from the deposit they will send us! This is just the process of one of the latest internet scams targeting professional photographers both commercially and privately. Below are some correspondence of a couple of recent scam attempts targeting our photography business:


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Commercial Photography Internet Scam


This is roughly how it works. In each case the contact, after a good amount of dialog that includes an estimate (usually accepted without haggling) and possibly a contract, will send a deposit to secure your time. Up front payment for one of THEIR vendors will have to come out of these funds from your bank account. Their check will eventually bounce. This check sometimes comes from a business checking account or as a cashiers check through a major credit card company (which is most likely a stolen identity account).

We’ve had several of these internet scams in the last 6 months needing anything from a fashion editorial shoot to a private birthday party. These guys have everything in place from contracts, style sheets, story boards, websites for the ad agency (not really theirs) and modeling agency. Even a real bank near the ad agency where their funds were drawn from.  They’ll even fedex the deposit!  In the latest attempts they’ve actually stolen the name of actual Art Directors from the well known ad agencies they are trying to mimic, making it seem even more legit.

All of this relies on you to do a mobile deposit or ATM deposit, as many of us are wont to do with our hectic lives these days. If you do your diligence, though and take it into the bank, the manager will readily review and check it to make sure it is legit. In short if you are being asked to pay any vendors up front, sight unseen, without having done any work, it is a most likely a photography scam. If identifying one of these phishing scams still escapes you, check the details on the check–there are often mispelled words in the fine print and colors seem a bit hand stamped.

So far we’ve attributed these contacts to sites like and even where they are getting most of their contacts to target. You can file a grievance with the FTC or FBI So far we have not heard back from any of these resources regard our report but it can’t hurt.

How We Did It – Greenscreen Progressions

All of the images for the youth sports series were photographed on greenscreen, both inside and outside of our studio and were lit to dramatically enhance whatever skill the kids were performing. The inside of our studio gives us such a wide array of light options from dark to dramatically light and the outside bay gives the most amazing natural light that any photographer would drool over.

The elements for this shot were pieced together from several different football fields and the rain was created digitally. It was a bit of a happy accident that the helmet was wet as a result of our stylist spraying “sweat” on the models face. When she went to wipe it off, I asked her to leave it for a few shots as it inspired me to add rain later. Sometimes the most creative moments of a shot are not planned, but a result of the active process that creating an image entails. If you are creating this way, leaving yourself open to the possibilities that a collaboration of people active on a set can inspire, then magic happens. Very rarely are my shots 100% planned.

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What are responsive images

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Intense Youth Sports Imagery – Randy Schwartz

Youth athletes today have an intensity and perseverance  that often belies their age with skills to match.

In this ongoing collection of images, we set out to illustrate (as well as investigate) what kids feel like when they are in that moment of competitive fire while playing their favorite sport. We asked them when they felt the most passion and joy and what their most fantastic moment would be if it could be captured. Some were quite clearly able to communicate this while others communicated many facets of their game. But all were able to collaborate with Randy to create a some very compelling moments.

Youth Sports and Education

It is becoming more widely recognized that kids who are engaged in physical activity perform better in other aspects of their lives, including more success in school, both academically and socially. Those successes transcend to better attendance and the ability to cope with winning and losing. The facts are overwhelmingly in favor of schools that have physical education programs and when schools drop them we are doing a disservice to the future of those children that don’t have access, especially girls. I remember a very compelling ad for Nike by Wieden & Kennedy many years ago that has always stuck with me. My mother being Physical Education Professor and sister a 4 year collegiate scholarship athlete, I know this to be true. Growing up playing any sport that was accessible to me, I was always aware of the fact that sports made a big difference in how I learned to cope socially and how I perform in my profession.






An Afternoon at the Arcade

Summertime in August…what could be more fun than skeeball and winning prizes with friends on Redondo Beach Pier.  Check it out and play the original Ms Pac Man game.


Camping for Purina

We were absolutely thrilled  to be given the opportunity by Ryan Partnership to produce a thirteen day photoshoot for Purina, specifically for Walmart and Sam’s Club stores. These are the jobs that we strive for in our industry, as they bring many more challenges than the average one to three day shoot. We used many locations in and around the Los Angeles area, including parks, lakes, apartments, and houses and cast nearly 65 models and actors in addition to over 50 cats and dogs. The best part of the experience was to be with such great crew day in and day out for nearly two weeks. The synchronicity that we achieved as a group to create a great library of images was most magical.

This shot was taken on location at Malibou State Park and felt like we were on vacation. All of the cast had a great time telling stories around the campfire!















New York, New York

We were thrilled to be hired by Taxi NY to shoot their latest ad campaign for Capital One. The shoot brought with it many challenges, including casting trained Shar Pei dogs that could be playful. Not an easy task considering they are bred to be noble guard dogs, as well as show dogs. We hired all local crew who were largely responsible for putting together the pieces of this top notch production. This ad below is running on the east coast in such publications as the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and the Washington Post.

Lying Down on the Job

[dropcaps style=’normal’ background_color=” border=”]W[/dropcaps]   hen it comes to capturing that shot, lying down on the job is sometimes just what is needed.