A few years ago, I closed my photography business. I had been picking up clients from the portrait studio where I used to work. They had changed their business model and went super high end before ultimately closing. So, from time to time I accommodated some of those clients.

I also had a fair amount of business from local clients, and word of mouth spread quickly. Around the holidays, there were very few weekends I had free and I was so grateful people thought so much of my work to recommend me to their friends. My business model included a session fee with a full resolution disk for the client.

I went out on a limb, and thought that if my clients wanted to order prints, I would have that as an option too. Some folks liked to have the convenience of ordering, but most used the disk. I still opted to use the Shutterfly pro gallery as an option, which I had been told I could use in conjunction with the free “share site” by their customer service people.

The pro gallery was expensive, nearly $200 a year, but I thought I would probably make that up in print sales. I also included the fine art photography in the same share site, with all the necessary file restrictions I was advised to use. I hoped to make my money back and break even.

After the first year, I had put lots of content up, but no purchases ever showed up. I figured, with the economy, perhaps people had better things to do with their money. My clients probably used their disk to print, and I chalked it up to that.

It wasn’t until my father commented how he had ordered five of my fine art prints and couldn’t wait to hang them up, that I began to watch closely the sales reports on my pro gallery. Nearly a month went by, and nothing showed up. I asked if he had received them and indeed he had.

When I inquired about this discrepancy with Shutterfly customer service, they indicated that they did nothing wrong. I had set up my site incorrectly to sell the prints through the regular Shutterfly print service and was not entitled to the pricing that I had set up in my pro gallery. As such, they would not give me anything towards the sales of my photography.

Even though I had put up a copyright notice on my page, restricted the files and done everything right from my end, it was still my fault. I requested a full accounting of every image they had printed and sold from my account to anyone but myself, but was told that was “simply not possible.” I’m quite sure it was possible, but realized that they probably had been selling my photographs all along through this loop hole.

Frustrated and feeling ripped off, I immediately pulled all my images down and shut down my site. I closed my account and decided that since there was little more than a month left on my pro gallery membership, I wouldn’t push it any further, knowing they held all the cards and I wouldn’t get anywhere with them.

I’m irritated because they have a great site, and their products are nice. I hated having to find another option, because frankly, theirs is one of the most commonly used ones. I found another vendor for prints and such, but the quality isn’t quite the same, and the cost is a bit higher. It’s depressing because I have no idea how much money I was screwed out of by this loop hole, all the while they collected my $200 a year membership fee.

I never even got so much as an acknowledgment of this error from Shutterfly, and as such, I’ll never give them so much as another dime. This was further fueling my disillusionment in the endeavor to be a photographer, and in the end was part of my decision to close my business for good. There’s no room out there for the little guy, and I learned that lesson the hard way.