SCAM ALERT: Freelance/Independent Photographer needed for a Fashion Shoot
It starts with an email...
Today we recieved an email almost identical to the copy below. Names and publication have been removed:
"Hello, My name is _____ _______ and i'm a contributor/writer on ____________ . I'm looking for a professional photographer to produce an independent outdoor fashion photo shoot for the magazine. As the photographer, you will concept, shoot, and produce 20 images, featuring 4 models as selected by the client. You will be required to work with a hair/makeup artist and a wardrobe stylist, and bring a smart, fun approach and distinctly '____________' style. If you find this interesting enough, please apply with personal info and samples of your work."
What's in the details?
What could be more exciting than hearing you are being considered to create content for one of your favorite publications? You quickly respond with some examples from your portfolio and guess what - they love your work! You got the job! Your hard work is paying off and the world will finally see your amazing work as it was meant to be! Time to celebrate and begin planning your breakout shoot. Now here comes their confirmation email/contract:
"Your works are beautiful and I would love to work with you on this gig. Before I draft the contract, I would want you to go through the details below:
MODELS AND OTHER TALENTS: An agency will provide the 4 female models. The 4 models were recommended for the shoot and we've reach out to an agent/broker that will provide them for the shoot; we want you to work with him.
BUDGET: Total budget is $7000 (photographer gets $3000 and $4000 for the talents). You will be paid $1000 upfront plus the talents budget ($4000) while your balance payment will be paid after sending us proof that the job has been done; usually watermarked images.
PHOTOGRAPHERS RESPONSIBILITIES: Photographers we hire usually take on the responsibilities of coordinating the shoot, selecting location, and disbursing fees. An advance payment of $5000 will be issued prior to the shoot; this covers your $1000 upfront and the talents’ fee payable to their manager.
The agency providing models and MUA is ________ and you will be communicating with ________. You can reach _______ via mail at _________________.
If you’re comfortable with the above, please specify the name and address you want the contract addressed to."
What's phishy about that?
Obviously, we all want to work for the most exciting clients and have our work presented in the top publications but a bit of due diligence can save you a lot of heartache and frustration. There are many scams specifically targeted at freelance photographers and video creators. While the specific verbiage changes over time, the scam seems to be the same. The promise of featured content in a well known publication (the example we saw was for a shoot with Town&Country Magazine) with the requirement of making direct payment to their selected broker/agency. Ultimately, it's a variation on a check cashing scheme (along with data phishing) where the desired result is to get you, the photographer, to accept a check from them and immediately pay out the majority of it to their 'broker'. By the time the check bounces and you realize what has occurred, you're on the hook for the money you paid out to their 'broker.'
To catch a thief.
What are the signs of a scam/phishing operation? Bad grammar is usually a dead giveaway. While these operations have gotten much more sophisticated there are still sentence and phrasing structures you will often see that just don't seem right. Emails ending with phrases such as 'kind regards' or 'sincerest wishes' or anything else that may technically be ok but is outside normal vernacular are also indicators. Another indicator is to look up the information of the 'broker' they suggest. In many cases, no such agency or broker exist and a simple google search will show this. If an agency is large enough to be utilized in a major publication, they most likely have a working website. The biggest issue with this scam that you should notice is that they're not giving you any choice in the hair/makeup professionals you work with, and they're requiring you to make payment to an agency at their client's behest. This isn't how it works. Basically, if something sounds too good to be true, it most likely is.
Remember, you are building a business based on the quality work you do for your clients. Stay focused on the work in front of you and the clients you know. We all want to be successful, let's not ever forget that the path to lasting success takes many steps.