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An open response letter for Dani Leigh Photography aka Photo Stealer

*** Update- The content of the original post got edited. After I talked to some friends and clients who reached out to me, I realized that post came out way too personal and did not focus on the professional aspect of the story, and, most importantly,what myself and other photographers can learn from this saga, so here it is…

 

I know that most of you that follow me on my personal FB page and  my business page know the beef I have with Dani Leigh from Dani Leigh Photography, but today it reached a new  peak. She wrote a blog and accused me of being a bully…. of course I had to respond.

Since I remember myself, I always stood  up for whats right and voiced it. Sometime I get into trouble by saying the truth to someone’s face without sugar coating it even if the person has some power or being popular . If there is one thing you can’t call me is a”Bully”, and if you did, it would be a big fat lie. I am the kind of person who always takes the side of the person who is being on the right, even if he/she the weak one. I can’t begin to tell you how much trouble I got in school for standing up for people I did not know, but were getting bullied by the more popular ones.

A quick background to the story, Dani is my former photo assistant, and I taught her most of what she knows about photography starting from basic like getting the right exposure, composing the client, to more complex like how to light the reception, EVERYTHING. We became friends or that is what I thought.

For the last two years,Dani started conducting in some pretty unethical activities. If you read the response I wrote to her below I described some of these shameless activities.

At the beginning, when she started using my images, honestly, I did not think too much of it, and just let it go. When it got to be worse and she contacted Hotel Morrison {Yes, she contacted the hotel with images from my wedding, she put her logo on them and gave the gallery as if it was her wedding}, I emailed her and told her “dude, stop using my images”, this is just too much, as a second shooter/assistant, you don’t do that. Few days ago I exposed her and put her name out on a photographer forum because I was fed up by her dismissive behavior, she just did not get it.

Fast Forward,

Today, I saw her  post she wrote on her blog {http://www.danileighblog.com/2013/10/14/melanie-la-ballerine/} and all of a sudden I had a “haha” moment. This girl is taking the bad situation that she got caught and spinning it such that it  makes her look like the victim; exactly, they way  the photographer ,Jasmine Star, {Dani follows her blog religiously} did when she got caught basically not following her motto of “keeping it real”, but quite the opposite, stealing. {you can read about Jasmine Star’s story here http://blog.photoshelter.com/2013/10/sad-tale-jasmine-star-doug-gordon/  and her half ass apology here  http://fstoppers.com/i-was-wrong-i-need-to-apologize-to-anyone-ive-offended }

I decided it was time to respond, nobody will call me a bully, especially the girl who I invested so much of my time to help her grow professionally.

 

This is my response to her:

I know you will probably delete this response and keep just the lovey dovey ones, but I will write here anyway.

It is kinda of Ironic that you bring Jasmine Star as someone who lifts you up since she is too under scrutiny by the industry for stealing other’s people work , just like you did, {http://stopstealingphotos.tumblr.com/…/jasmine-star}

The reason I exposed you were a fraud to the public this time, is simply because it was not your first time, and when I talked to you about how unethical you were the first and second time, apparently you did not get it because you continue stealing my work and pretend it was your own. 

If you want to pretend that you are the victim and get more fans, suit yourself, but let’s get the facts straight.

I taught you 95 percent of what you know about photography, I took you under my wings and mentored you, and instead of being respectful and show gratitude, you took advantage and while I was going through a rough time in my life, you started stealing my images.

First, you started putting just images that you took while assisting me, I did not say a thing; then, you started putting the images {which I planned with my clients, search the location, worked with their wedding planners} as YOUR featured weddings. I started getting annoyed and told you that if you shoot with me, please photograph from a different angle and a different lens, that your images will not look the same.

Next, you shot a wedding for me, went to the hotel with the images, put your logo on them, and presented as if it was your wedding. At this point, I got upset, and emailed you that this is in every shape and form pure unethical.

Third, you started emulating exactly how I shoot, from beginning of the wedding to the end including getting ready of the girls, to the night shot of the couple {since when are you doing night shots with the couple? well after you saw me doing that}
I raised a concern in the photography forum few months back and did not include your name because I wanted to see if they encountered something like that, then decided to let it go.

Next, I read your post about your  new lovely studio and see the exact same image { that I promote my business with}, ON YOUR WALL {the biggest canvas in your studio}.

This is a screen shot of the canvas with my image on the studio wall, the EXACT same image I use to promote my business {here is the blog post about this wedding with the same image}

After I emailed you about the trick you did with the hotel, I thought for sure, there is any chance she will do another trick, and there it is. You basically assisted me that day, you came over my shoulder and took exactly the same shot. Is that fair to you? Is that right?

This was the last straw, and yes, I exposed how fraud you were because I am sick of people like you that people give them and give them and you just take and take. You took advantage when I went through the darkest time in my personal life. You knew I am not on the top of my game and my business suffers from it and you started using my images to promote yours.

Last but not least, you even had the guts to put my image in a contest and win, are you for REAL? who does that? I understand you need to “fake it till you make it”, but don’t be so disrespectful to the only professional who took you under her wings and taught you the skill you have now.

* above is a screen shot of my image Dani used to participate in a contest and win.

Otherwise, you will end up like Jasmine Star, a joke in this industry.

Own Up to your mistakes, don’t be a coward and just say “someone wrote nasty comments about you”, then write me an email and say that you are sorry, shame on you!

PS, your  behavior is a pure form of bullying, punching someone while she is in the most vulnerable place in her life,  and stealing her livelihood {images are what kept me going in the darkest moment} it is just well, bad!

 

OK, I am not going to lie, I was all fired up when I wrote the response, and of course, she deleted it five minutes after. I am not proud of this bickering back and forth, I actually feel pretty damn bad about the whole situation. After talking about it with others, I thought to myself, it has to be a learning experience. I know that she will continue to do that, but I need to prevent the situation from happening to me again.

So, I have made myself a list of steps I should take:

  • All photographers will agree with me, it was stupid of me not to sign her on a contract. Yes, it was a very busy season when she started working with me, and we became buddies, but this is work, and I should have kept the work part more professional to protect myself and my images. The funny thing is that I have a contract like that available..yes, it was plain stupid on my part
  • Emphasize to second shooter/email few times to take a different angle and shoot with a different lens than I do. If I shoot with my 70-200mm, my assistant should shoot with their wide angle {I do email that to my second shooter with some other guidelines before a wedding, but need to type it with bold font} My photographs should look totally different than my assistant, otherwise, there is no point of them helping me. I add a second shooter to give my clients verity, not the same images I shot.
  • Send second shooter to the groom while I am shooting the bride. Again, I usually do that already.
  • While I am shooting the couple, if I don’t need my second shooter to hold the light for me, I can send him/her to photograph the reception’s details. Again, doing that already, but again a good reminder to myself.
  • SECOND PHOTOGRAPHER CONTRACT

 

Please note, that I have worked with many assistants after I have worked with her, and I have never had a bad experience with any of them, so this is unusual behavior to say the least. There are some good people in this industry, and they are fun to work with, so I should stick to working with them.

So this will be my last response to her blogs, emails, etc. I wish her well, but not willing to stoop to this low level. I have worked way too damn hard to get to where I am today professionally,so I will count this all experience as my mistake and choose to move on.

  • December 7, 2014 - 1:31 pm

    Steve Marucci - I could not agree more. Danielle is a full faced liar and a adulterer. If her and Frank want to have an open relationship that is great. Do not drag others into your circle and lie to them you freaks. I have been dating her for 6 years with the understanding she was divorced. She tells everyone she is divorced from Frank. Even on Sunday November 30,2014 she told me and my family this before we left to stay at what I believe to be her Grandmas house in Frederick. Its right in downtown. I think the address is 321 are the first digits. Obviously her grandma is not there. I have everything documented even to the point of Sunday spending time in this house she tells everyone her parents live in and that her and her mom purchased. Note there is nothing but furniture in the house. No clothes etc.. She also tells a story of how she built a house in Columbia and sold to Pandora. I cant confirm this. The only home she has owned is the one with Frank currently a short sale in Frederick. But I digress.
    Back to my point. So a week from today we had sex upstairs in a room on the left at the top of the stairs. The text Dani sent me the next day describe an amazing night. A green comforter and a white iron rod bed is in the room. The basement is exposed granite rock that looks amazing where she says “our babies will play”. Its a beautiful home. Wood floors which give it that older feel with nice antique furniture and new kitchen with black granit. We entered the back door parking outside a wood gate walking up exposed brick patio. We went out the front through a small mud room door and another door out onto the street to our walk downtown. There is no tv or internet in the house and walking distance to Market street. It was a beautiful night for a walk as if you recall it was unseasonably warm as we walked and looked at lights holding hands. She displayed a great skill of playing an old black piano on the main floor. I am telling everyone this as I believe she may be pregnant. She text me and said we “may not have babies as she got her time” but I am unsure of this as she has decided since her marriage secret is coming out to block me from contact. Fortunately I have emails, pictures, and text for the past 6 years. I will ask for a paternity test. Sorry Frank. But also there is a guy from Under Armour she talks about being with. Frank, If your in on this you two are sick! Im sorry I had to do this Danielle but you left me with no options. Good luck you sick sick person. Yes, she did steal these pictures this website claims but feels its justified and will say she took it down and then took a picture of it to prove it. Its that she thinks she has some sort of entitlement but this time it has caught up to her. Disgusting. All the Danilayadulterer followers and apologist. Please doubt any of this to be true. I have all the proof well documented for you to see. Btw on Dani’s danileighphotography website under the Mexico pictures I was with her and took the food pictures juevo eggs, tequila wall, margarita glass (btw thats Danielle in the pic of the Margarita glass), i guess her website does not have to have pictures SHE has taken. Oh and the picture with the three glasses. We stayed at a place in Sayulita a small surfing town on the coast. We were in a small little red casa she has pictures of as well.
    I know about her brother thank you for your service over in Iraq, her other brother and gf expecting as well! Sheldon and her Mom who just arrived back from Alaska in which Dan went with. Her fellow photographer Emily who she just went on vacation to Mexico with. I hesitate to comment on anymore I know as I am unsure what she was honest about and what she wasnt. Danielle broke her foot stepping off a curb in Houston when she visited me for the first time 4 years ago. Dr. Alexander Kaden was her doctor. In Katy Texas. She bought me a tv. Thanks Dan! She interviewed at Lifegift for the OPO I worked for in Houston. She lived close to my parents house on Mayfair court I think the name is before moving to Frederick. She was visiting me in Tampa just before Thanksgiving 2014. We went to Clearwater Shepherds which is where she got the picture of the Crain on the water. She spent four days at my place. All text and pictures to prove it. I have said before she went to Alaska the past week with she said her whole family. I cant confirm exactly who but its what she says. After Alaska we spent the evening in a Hilton at Arundel Mills mall where we had beers at Duclaw brewery before headig to the hotel for……well you know. I will not be commenting anymore on Danilayadultery and danileighphotography she knows the truth and everyone will see. If she is pregnant well will just have to see about that. I apologize to Frank if he does not know but I did not either. Sorry bro! Good luck with that. I had to handle this here as I feel she is pregnant and this is the only true way I will find out. #thesecret danileighphotographyReplyCancel

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