Did a San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer Steal Images From a Flickr Photographer or Was It an Honest Mistake?

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An interesting thread over at the strobist group on Flickr. Photographer Tim Kamppinen recently was emailed regarding some of his sports photographs that were appearing for sale and as promotional photos on the website for a San Francisco Bay Area based professional wedding phtoographer, Dennis DeSilva.

DeSilva, who operates under the name Studio Seven Photography, was recently featured on KTVU where he talked about his relationship photographing former Senator Ted Kennedy.

When contacted by Kamppinen regarding the apparent image theft, DeSilva apologized in a brief email according to Kamppinen:

“Tim,
Sorry I got it mixed up with my other photographers.

Thanks
Dennis”

The images of Kamppinen’s were also removed from DeSilva’s site.

Was this a simple case of a pro photographer mistakenly posting photos from Flickr as his own? Or was DeSilva purposely using Flickr to fill in holes in his own portfolio where he did not have photos? Whatever the case, it seems like folks over at the Strobist thread are pretty worked up about it.

Thanks, Os!

Update #1: Dennis DeSilva responds.

“Tom,

It was an honest mistake. It was a sample page, not for sale. Thanks for pointing it out. I thought it was one of our pix. This is my 40th year as a full time professional photographer, I don’t need or use anyone’s images that don’t belong to me. If you look at my body of work over the years it speaks for itself. Thank you.

Dennis”

Update #2, Another photographer on Flickr is now also alleging that DeSilva had stolen his work as well. Flickr user seanmophoto who teaches a high school photography class is alleging that the photos of the swimmers and soccer players appearing on DeSilva’s website are in fact his.

Also in the comments below commenter David points out that another of the photos of the single swimmer which appeared on DeSilva’s site is actually credited to Chris Schmid who appears to be out of Switzerland at Photo Shelter and iStockphoto.

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14 comments on “Did a San Francisco Bay Area Wedding Photographer Steal Images From a Flickr Photographer or Was It an Honest Mistake?
  1. William Beem says:

    I cannot fathom the circumstances where I did not know my own images from someone else’s. Looking at an image, I would have memories of being there if I was the one who took a shot. No matter how many thousands of images I have in my Aperture database, I remember “being there” every time I look at one of them.

    Something doesn’t smell right here.

  2. Kirstiecat says:

    Agreed 100% with the above comment by William Beem. It’s true none of us may know all the information but something seems really off here. Sports photography doesn’t seem like it was even what he was specializing in, which also makes this look fishy. It’s not like he accidentally got other wedding photos mixed up. In any case, how do you accidentally have shots from someone else on your site that you never took? To me, the only logical conclusion is that they were stolen.

    One of my contacts like me does alot of concert photography and he told me that he had by chance run into another website of a different “concert photographer” who had taken every image he had on his own personal site (not flickr) and claimed they were his. It’s remarkably easy to right click save as and upload as if the image(s) were your own in this world. You don’t have to be a hacker to do that kind of thing from flickr or elsewhere and most people assume that because the world and the internet is so expansive, they will never get caught.

    Incidentally, when I have called people out on stealing my photos-mainly seems to be a Radiohead shot and nothing like a whole portfolio-some of their answers are quite hysterical. Literally, I have been led to believe that the person didn’t mean to claim the shot(s) as his/her own but was just using their site as a storage for the other found photos he/she liked.

    In addition, something others should probably know about is this site: http://stores.ebay.com/posterartprints

    This is a guy who seems to be operating out of Scotland. I have never seen these posters in real life but I know for a fact that he steals the images off flickr and uses what is called a mosaic technique to cover up for any pixelation. For example, he took a photo I had up of Amanda Palmer that was literally 72 resolution and 800 pixels x 533 pixels and somehow created and was selling a 20 x 30 ft poster of this on Ebay. I got him to take mine down as did another person I’m aware of but so many of the photos it’s impossible to identify and notify the person whose image has been stolen.

    It’s a cruel world…bottom line is people are desperate and look for any way possible to rip others off and make a profit doing so. I don’t know what the answer is to stop it, honestly. My guess is the example above is just one of hundreds of very similar cases, maybe even thousands.

  3. Diane says:

    It’s easy to get angry, but it sounds like this photographer has other photographers who do work for hire for him- which means he owns the copyrights to their images. From what I understand this is standard practice in the weddings field. (Although personally I think it’s unethical to use your second shooter’s images on your own site because typically brides don’t know they do this.)
    My personal feelings aside, I can see how it could happen. As long as he removed the photo right away it’s probably an honest mistake. I bet he’ll have better guidelines for his photogs in the future. I’m not naive- a lot of theft does happen. But I don’t think most actual pros are out to steal images.

  4. Tom says:

    Diane:
    I disagree with your statement that it is unethical for wedding photogographers to use second shooters images on their site. I actually feel it is unethical to not. Otherwise the bride cannot see the full extent of the quality and style that she may receive. Many wedding photographers sell you on their style and images, then send a different photog to cover your wedding.

    Reading this thread on the strboist group on Flickr it seems that Mr. Dasilva does have other photogs working for him. However, there was also a significant delay between when the image removed from the website, and then subsequently removed from his proofing/ordering page. It was available for purchase and who knows if it was ever ordered?

  5. ashley says:

    “If you look at my body of work over the years it speaks for itself.”

    Not to be a hater, but the majority of the guy’s sports photography was just really bad HDR usage, imo- so yea, I guess he’s right- the body of work speaks for itself, and Kamppinen’s crisp image sticks out like a sore thumb (or rather, a pristine thumb on a hand full of throbbing fingers!) There were some good shots, but some of them make you question whether or not the images in question were the only shots that ended up on the site unintentionally! :-p

  6. vizcara says:

    I would gladly take a trip up to DeSilva’s studio that is actually “Not” in San Francisco but to his studio that is located in “Walnut Creek” and interview on video on why he thinks this was a mistake????? I really find it bad when he was quoting “Ted Kennedy’s” legacy of lesson and about caring for people when he himself was taking images of young more “Hip” sports photographers work.. To do exactly like others said to “Fill” in were his work lacked… or was less current on the trends of todays young “Seniors” or “Sports” photography. I am a old shooter myself but dont like what this guy did.. I find it very very difficult to believe he did this by “Accident”… Let me know if you anyone would like me to stop by his studio and speak with him in person… A bit harsh??? no I just would like to nip this in the butt so to speak before others “Think” they can do the same and then call a “Opps” “My mistake” while getting away with it for a while… Because if the “Sting” of embarrassment is not strong then others I am sure will gamble in trying it themselves. They will think its worth the “risk” to try to do it.. Can we say papparazzi jumping in front of celeb cars, chasing celebs in cars down a hwy, Jumping up on fences to get pics of celebs? Its the so called “Were do we draw the line” or “This one time wont hurt” “No one is looking I think”

  7. Steven says:

    All that and automatically-launching music on his website that YOU CAN’T MUTE. Fail.

  8. David says:

    I found another photo on DeSilva’s site that looks like it came from another photographer. Check this out from Dennis DeSilva’s sports page (go to #12 of 21) http://www.studioseven.net/index2.php?v=v1#/gallery3/3/

    And check this out, where the same photo can be seen on Photoshelter credited to Chris Schmid:
    http://www.photoshelter.com/image/I0000z03gqhxrRv0
    And here at istockphoto:
    http://www.istockphoto.com/stock-photo-10723752-swimming-sport.php

  9. Kenny says:

    Tim’s are not the only ones – check the flickr thread:

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/strobist/discuss/72157623310565966/page2/

    “the pics of the three swimmers and the three soccer players in the screenshots above were mine…lame

    I teach high school digital photography and these pics were taken for school’s marketing campaign…so he was stealing from a high school…bad karma”

    What a tool!

  10. Don says:

    Steven says:
    February 1, 2010 at 1:14 pm
    All that and automatically-launching music on his website that YOU CAN’T MUTE. Fail.

    Not only that, but I’m willing to bet that he didn’t pay for usage rights to the music either! (I’m sure Frank’s estate would want BIG bucks to use his music to sell photography)

  11. RuanNiemann says:

    at some stage someone copied these photos from this guy’s flickr account and moved them to the website. they didn’t fly there by themselves, how they were mistaken for his or his photographers’s images is not the issue. that bit is actually feasible, but how did they get there in the first place?

    skullduggery, i tell ya!

  12. Stags says:

    A guy on fredmiranda posted a few hours ago that he knows Dennis and that Dennis actually sent him the images in question and Dennis said that HE shot them.

    Here is the thread:
    http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/867138

    Here is what he wrote:
    “I actually know this guy Dennis. He has been an acquaintance for awhile, but I’ve always managed to keep him at arms length because I’m in Denver and he’s in NOCAL. He told me he was getting into High School Sports photography and sent me the very same images in question telling me how he bought a beauty dish and used kickers etc and took these shots himself. Like an idiot, I believed him. That arms length relationship just went to “not with a 10 foot pole”. He lied to me and everyone else and now he’s going to pay the price. I feel so embarrased that I actually thought these were his. Oh well, live and learn I guess.”

  13. Concerned Photogrpaher says:

    Mr De Silva, Studio 7 cannot be trusted. He has a reputation in this area to use people and then not pay them. I know this first hand! Currently he is using those images you are all mentioning that are yours in an attempt to break into HS sports photography. I know that, since he contacted a friend of mine by accident recently to attempt to sell to De La Salle High School (last week)and she saw your photos. He represented them as his own! How can we stop this man from misrepresenting himself with our work? He does NOT have an office in San Francisco nor Walnut Creek. He operates out of his home in Alamo. He operates alone mainly. When he over books himself he uses his wife and son as back up photographers saying they are experienced! Which in fact they are not. Isn’t fraud against the law?