consumerism customer service

On Customer Service: Walmart Photo Center

Before Rosario and I got married two years ago, we hunted around Tijuana for a photographer and video production crew. The photographer we chose wasn’t terribly artsy or creative, but he did offer one thing no one else did: digital originals of all the photos. Most photographers guard originals with their lives to keep couple’s coming back for prints. This guy even gave us a special price for the DVD-R of images because I think I was the first person who ever asked for it. The video crew we hired also offered to sell me the original tapes for the cost of the media only. The source material is priceless to me, and luckily, I found a few people who didn’t realize it.

So the other day, we wanted to give some wedding photos out as gifts. I used Walmart’s online photo service to upload and order the prints (I’ve been impressed with the quality/price/speed of their prints). An hour later, a guy from Walmart calls to say he can’t print the photos because they are “professional.” He explains that they will print the photos if I bring in a signed release form from the photographer. “I own the originals,” I explain. “I bought them as part of the photographer’s services. He didn’t give me a release form, he gave me the images.” He repeated, “You’ll need to bring in a release form or I can’t print these.” I tried to explain the situation in simpler yet increasingly louder terms. He regurgitated company policy again and again like a robot stuck in a loop. After I was just about ready to tele-strangle the guy, I gave up and asked for a refund instead. “You’ll have to come in to the store with the receipt you printed to get the refund.” They couldn’t even refund it online where I’d ordered . . . I debated whether the gas to drive in plus the exasperation was worth the $7.81 refund, but I decided it was.

Moral: Buy a good photo printer or go to a local non-franchised print shop.

96 replies on “On Customer Service: Walmart Photo Center”

Oh, another thing. My sister is getting married this month. Because I’m in the wedding, I can’t do the photography (like I did for my brother), so I hunted around to find someone online who will do it and give us the original digital files. I found someone and she is going to give them to me raw, no processing. I’m to handle any processing and printing of the images. I will not be using Walmart. We’ll see how this goes.

Kind of an old thread but WOW! I don’t understand how someone can in the same post, call Wal-Mart associates rude, AND complain that they’re non-professional, minimum wage, power-hungry idiots. Kind of contradictive, much? I work at a Wal-Mart photo lab and get yelled at, cussed out, and complained to about this all the time. I don’t get to make the policy. I don’t get off on the power of telling 80 year old Martha, who bakes for the homeless, that she can’t have a copy of her dead son’s school photo.

As for the definition of “professional”, I think of this definition: “Engaging in a given activity as a source of livelihood or as a career”. We have some professional photographers who develop their photos through us. They are super nice!! When someone asks me to sell them a “professional” (looking or marked) photo, I always think of it as stealing from a photographer just like them if I do.

I have never made minimum wage and am offended that someone would assume I do. As for being an idiot, I am only working at Wal-Mart as a temporary job while I finish college. I am studying computer programming and upper math. Also, I have to agree with DKir about not being taught, just being expected to know answers. They throw a few basic, trivial training screens at you and then throw you out there. And I agree that MOST of the associates do actually know what they’re talking about.

I’d be REALLY REALLY interested to know what “profession” some of the above people complaining have.

A lot of people act as if I’m forcing them to use our services. I think Valerie is taking the right actions. She was unsatisfied with Wal-Mart so she is choosing a different store. That’s her right as a customer. If only more people would realize that then they might not be as angry.

As much as I am not one to defend Walmart in any way (no offense, but long story), they did the right thing by not printing any professional pictures. It is the photographer’s fault for not providing a letter of consent….that is standard. Speaking as the owner of a professional portrait studio, it is too easy these days to take a picture, scan it or whatever and then have additional prints made. How do you think it feels for us to have someone pay say $20 for just one picture, then run off and get $100s of dollars worth printed somewhere else? We have done all the work and now you are taking food out of our children’s mouths by doing that.
It can be a fine line to be able to tell of a photo is taken by a professional or not. I personally digitally copyright each and every one of our pictures.
Let’s put it another way…we go to a school for grad pictures….students pay a sitting fee of $25.00 which allows them 4×6 proofs to choose their order. If photo labs do not follow the law, what is stopping these people from just taking their proofs, scanning them and printing from there?

I shot a wedding two weekends ago and gave the bride CDs of the originals along with a letter stating she could copy them and a filled-out Walmart brochure, stating she could copy them. After seeing the brochure, it’s actually kind of funny, I guess, because it would be SO easy for someone to easily fake that, forge a signature, fake the info, and have “permission” from Walmart to copy.

It’s all really a no-win situation for anyone.

Why would you want to print professional prints at Walmart? If you’re going through the trouble to hire a pro you should use professional print shops. Walmart is for point and shoot not quality files.

Kristen, I don’t know where you get off saying that WalMart is not for quality files or pictures. I am not a professional photographer, but I have taken pictures at weddings that the people told me were better than those taken by their high-priced “Professional”. I have lots of pictures of politicians, including one that an 11″X14″ of hung behind the U.S.Congressman’s desk all the time he was in Congress. I also have hundreds of pictures of musicians, including most of the Bob Wills Texas Playboys, which are as good as any professional pictures taken by anyone. I have over a dozen high-quality cameras and ALL OF MY WORK IS DONE AT WALMART. Occasionally they do a not-so-good job, but they will do it over at no cost. I have two rolls to put in now, and that is where they will be done. I have never had a problem with them.

A couple years ago Walmart refused to print pictures I took of a friends son for graduation. At first I was iritated and jumped all over them. The manager said please think of this as a compliment, your pictures look very professional. All I had to do was come in and sign a release. I did and there was no problem. I did take it as a compliment and now sign a release in advance. They did a very good job.

A couple of weeks ago I went to Walmart to make a copy of a picture of my daughter with Santa Claus. They told me that they will not copy ANY photos that have Santa Claus in them. This picture was taken in 1984 when my daughter was three years old. It was a POLAROID and had the date stamped on it! I argued and argued and finally the manager let me make the copy. My argument was to her that if there is no copyright on the photo then there is no legal right for them to refuse to let me copy it. She finally relented. This is just ridiculous. My daughter took some photos in that my son-in-law took of my grandson at the beach this year. The film was developed at Walmart!!! They told her she could not have the copies because they looked professional!!! Then the little photo guy looked at her and smiled and told her in a sarcastic voice that he was shredding them as they spoke. This is what we are talking about at Walmart – not copyrighted pictures.

Pam, to be fair, every photograph is copyrighted in some way, but you are right, your Walmart is being incredibly unfair about all of it.
I am horrified that they didn’t give your daughter the opportunity to sign a release to say she’s the copyright holder and just shredded the photos right then and there. If I were you, I’d tell her to go back there and demand to speak to a manager. The general manager if need be. Tell him/her that she was denied opportunity to prove they were her photos and that they were destroyed right in front of her and that she demands they be reprinted… for free.

It’s also absolutely ridiculous that they claim they will not copy any photos whatsoever with a Santa Claus in them. That’s absolute bull and their way of trying to not have to deal with the issue. Sure, there are some people who will try to copy photos that were taken by the mall but how many more just have photos of their grandfather dressed up as Mr. Claus? I know we do!

This is ridiculous that you are all talking about this issue for some time now. Wal-Mart’s policy is what it is. Now calm down, and go somewhere else. Not everyone needs their photos in One Hour… you just are getting greedy!

@Anna. Are you kidding me? Greedy? How is any of the discussion here about greed? Just because someone might want photos in an hour, that’s greedy? Hmmm… let’s see. If I have to ever get prints made off of my old negatives you can bet I’m going to have them done in an hour to reduce the very real chance that that negative will be lost forever. Oh, yeah, Walmart has done it to me before in send off! That is not greedy, that’s protecting my personal property.
Furthermore, I don’t believe that this discussion is ridiculous despite it being two years old. It’s age doesn’t change the fact that Walmart’s policy is wrong, whether “it is what it is,” doesn’t mean they’re right.

Why do Professional Studios give out customers CD’s with their prints on them? When they do this, customers will obviously just go to one of those photo labs and try to print them. And of course the Photo Lab is correct by not printing the pictures that “appear to look professional”.

The only reason I think these Studios give out CD’s is so that if the customer wants to come back and order some more pictures it would be easier to print them from the CD, then it would to dig for them somewhere on a hard drive or some other type of backup device. Rather than the business going to the hassle of saving everyone’s work, makes sense for them to give the customer a CD and say come back with this for prints..

I agree with the Photo labs for not printing pictures that appear professional. Not all photographers go to the trouble to save some copyright notice printed on the back so duplicates cant’ be made. They feel since businesses like Walmart, Walgreens will follow the law; they don’t need to go through the trouble of stamping it with some disclosure on the back.

Those Santa pictures are indeed professional. There is a PAID-photographer there taking the pictures and when your done with your precious child’s pictures instead of paying the money for extra copies, you usually print like one and say, “I’ll just go to CVS and make extras”. Sorry you CANT!!!

Walmart, Walgreens and others in fact do regulate the machines that print the pictures and refused ANYTHING that is against their policy. It’s your problem as the customer to obey their rules, if you don’t like, TOUGH. It’s absolutely is in most cases is a judgment call when pictures appear professional and the worker tells you NO. Sorry

Hi Nathan… as this thread is nearly 3 years old, I’m sure you have solved all your problems by now. But since I didn’t see much input from professional photographers I thought I would drop 2 cents for those still reading this page.

I have the same issues you do getting my own prints printed. I have to issue a release form to the printing house with every order. See the issue isn’t whether the photographer gave you the digital files, it’s a question of who owns the copyright. Traditionally, photographers maintain their copyright “ownership” of the images, but give you copies of the digital files, and a signed release form giving you the right to make reprints under certain restrictions — maybe a one time reprint, etc..

So if a photographer ever tells you that after the photo shoot you will “own” the digital files, then you need to have wording in the contract which transfers full copyright and ownership to you (eg. a “work for hire” type contract), then you can sign your own release forms as owner/photographer, and you have the legal documentation to back you up if the photographer tried to contest your rights. In fact, you could sue the photographer if you caught him publishing your images in marketing materials, selling them to magazines, or publishing on a website.

Finally, if you have wedding photos or whatever that are 10 years old, were taken 5 states away, and you truly don’t know how to contact the photographer, then just print your own release form and list your name as Nathan Gibbs DBA Jones Photography, and sign it as the photographer.

Walmart or Walgreens isn’t going to launch a manhunt, they are simply covering their ARSes from lawsuit… If this photographer were to surface from the abyss and discover that you had prints made at Walgreen’s in Smalltown USA, and try to sue them, the liability would be diverted to you for forging a release form. (This applies to the lady reprinting photos from the 1960s of her dead grandmother).

I’ve read posts on here where some Wal-Mart employees stated that their jobs are to “inforce”, (I’m pretty sure they meant “enforce”), the Law. Really? By what Local, Regional, State, or Federal authority are they operating under? Yes, they may be COMPLYING or ABIDING by a Law, but by no means are they ENFORCING any type of governed LAW. There are policies, regulations, and protocols that their agency may require them to comply with, as well as all applicable laws, but in no way are they ENFORCING THE LAW, regardless of how important that they may think and proclaim they are. The only exception to this would be if they were, in fact, a licensed Peace Officer acting within his/her authority and jurisdiction. The majority of the Wal-Mart employees that have posted here seem to have an “air” about them, hinting that they are Super Crime-Fighters, (Wonder Wallies), constantly battling with persons intent on committing evil crimes against humanity by doing the unspeakable act of having that old 1930 portrait of dear Ol’ Granny reproduced. I’ve had two experiences with these types of employees at the Marble Falls, Texas, Wal-Mart, regarding their “interpretations” of my photos, (that I took with my Nikon), being that they were “professional.” Gee, thanks for the compliment! Both instances resulted in them refusing to give me custody of MY photographs. I was not given the option of a “waiver” form in either case. When I went to pay for the enlargements of MY photos and the women behind the counter saw the photos, they instantly “puffed-up with importance,” and, yes, RUDELY demanded to know and see the CD from where I had downloaded my photographs. I did notice where one of the above posters, (Colleen – Nov. 3, 2007), had a very civil, courteous response to the subject. In no way am I categorizing her with the majority of these Wal-Mart Photo employees. With her intelligent and understanding attitude, she is probably a Regional Manager or higher by now. (The majority of the Wal-Mart employee posters were indeed rude, with one even using some pretty colorful words, which only highlights and substantiates proof of their common negative attitudes towards customers.) I realize that the Piracy Laws are in place for a very good reason and I wholeheartedly agree and abide by them. But for a Wal-Mart employee to ASSUME that I am a liar and a criminal and professing to be an “enforcer of the Law” is a load of bull. It’s not really so much of their abiding by the law, as it is their demeanor towards me. Everyone out there has been wrongfully accused of something before. When you’re wrong you know it and when you’re right you know it, too. And for them to have a “sense of glee and satisfaction” from destroying your rightful property is wrong. Wal-Mart needs to do some serious “house cleaning” with their employees and focus on Customer Service for a change.

here, here.

it all really needs an overhaul. Recently, someone I don’t know or authorize took in a digital image of mine – an engagement shot of my sister-in-law and now brother-in-law, and printed it into an 8×10. Apparently the Walmart employees tried to stop him from obtaining the photo (a compliment to myself of course) but he simply lied and stated that he was the photographer and they let him have it.

Yeah, the whole thing is just full of holes…

Hello all.

I realize that the age of this post may mean that no one will read my comment, but I wanted to add my thoughts on the matter. I am a dept. manager for a Wal-Mart Photo Center and I am also an amateur photographer. I have been treated both rudely and politely by associates over their copyright policy. I fully understand their job because I am one of them. I however know the correct way that copyright situations are suppose to be handled. I was lucky enough to have a trainer who had found a way that worked well with dealing with works that appeared professional. The way that the photo techs should approach the issue would be by making a simple statement and asking a simple question. “These are really great looking photos, may I ask who took these?” Yes it sounds corny, but most of the time it works well. If the customer says that they took the photos then you are suppose to say something along the lines of, “They look really great. Could I possibly get you to fill out a copyright release form? It is basically saying that you are the person who took the photos and that you are allowing us to reproduce the images.” Some people also tell the customer that it is also taking all legal reliability off of the company. It depends on the associate. I have had people cuss at me, throw pictures at me, cry, threaten me, and of course some that handle it really well and say they did not know or that they will try and get ahold of the photographer. I completely understand the anger and frustration over associates who do not handle the situation correctly. And yes Valerie, the whole thing is full of holes. Unless the image is stamped with a well known company name, such as Olan Mills, a customer can lie and say that they took the image. I can not and I will not call them a liar, whether that is what I am thinking or not. I have had a customer say that she took the picture of her at the alter of her own wedding. While in my head I was thinking “sure you did”, I could not say that to her. I could only have her fill out a form saying that she is the one that took the image. I also agree that it may not be the best practice for the associate’s opinion to be the sole basis on what appears professional, but with very few companies putting stamps on their images anymore it leaves little else. For instance, I had pictures taken at Sears and they gave me an image cd. I also had the free pictures that came with it printed at their studio. They were printed on an inkjet with photo quality paper in it. They did not even use the paper that some use that say “copyright, do no copy” on the back. It was normal paper. While most of them were obviously studio shots, there was one that was extremely iffy as to its origins. There was no stamp and no other identifying mark, so all the associate could do was use their judgement. We always offer the customer the choice of us holding on to the copies that they made for 60 days to see if they can get a release. We also will give our fax number if they would like to see if their photographer can fax something over. I have had a studio chew me out over not being able to take their word over the phone that they give permission. I have also had some appologize and say that they forgot to give the customer the release. We also have studios like Sears that put the release as a text file on their cds. We simply put the cd in our computer and print the text file out. The lab should not have required proof that you are the photographer. What is proof? I could scan in any image and put it on my compact flash and take it in to print. I could also make a fake business card or letter head if I needed to. All the lab is allowed to do is ask who took the picture. If the customer says that they did, then they fill out a release and the lab will no longer be held liable. If they said that any one else took the image, then we would need something from the person saying that they give the customer permission to reproduce the image. I have had customers go out to their car and write something up with a phone number on it and bring it back in and say that they got the release. Yet again, I can not call them a liar so I must take it at face value. For those of you that were treated rudely, a simple call to 1-800- walmart would have had the situation looked at a lot more in depth. It is counted as a letter to the president in most companies and management has to talk to the associate, their direct manager, and any one else involved to get the other side of the story. Then either the manager calls the customer or home office calls the customer and will respond accordingly.

I apologize for the previous “paragraph” not having a lot of structure. I tend to jump around in my thoughts. Needless to say, for those of you that were treated rudely, that is not even close to how the situation should have been handled.

There really isn’t all that much that can be done in protecting the photographer’s rights to an image in this day and age. What little can be done is being done in photo labs, though not well in some. If you are treated rudely, ask to speak to a manager. If you still feel like your issue is not resolved and you feel as though it will not be resolved, then find a different processing lab. I work for the company and I will not go to certain stores due to their associate’s attitudes. It is really very random as to whether you will get a polite associate or a not so polite associate. The same thing goes for any profession. Does it make it right to be treated poorly? No it does not, but it can happen anywhere. Sometimes the associate is completely in the wrong and action should be taken to fix the issue. Sometimes the customer is angry about not being able to come in and do what they want and they view the associate as rude. Photo techs are following company policy by asking who took the photos, after that some apparently deviate. The best way to have a manager speak to you without the associate getting involved with the manager first, is to go to customer service and ask to speak to one. This way the tech will not give their view first. It will generally push the manager towards their response prematurely. Most employees will listen to (and believe) a fellow employee first before listening to the “complainer”.

In my case Walmart did not reproduce the pictures I took. I reproduced them it the quickie machine. They just refused to give them to me. They are my pictures, wether or not Walmart charges me for them is theit perogotive. But the pictures are mine.

“wether or not Walmart charges me for them is theit perogotive. But the pictures are mine.”
Really Dominic? That’s like saying, ” I pumped my own gas at the machine. Whether or not 7-11 charges me for it is their perogative. But the gas is still mine.”
Until you pay for the paper and ink, the picture is not yours. It is WalMart’s. Regardless if the image on it was taken by you. And, if you decide to take it because it is “yours”, that is still stealing.
If the tides were turned and you were the associate, would you honestly be willing to risk your job and getting a $10,000 fine all so the person screaming at you across the counter could have their .28 picture?

Wal-mart does have you bring in a release or sign a paper ,give adress and put down your licence number if you want to take the rap if they are investigated.I have worked in a Walmart photo lab for 5 years.I am leaving as I am on my 2 weeks.It was very hard work and sometimes your alone.Being 61 and back problems not fun.I liked my job and all the people I helped.I laughed and cried with some,hated saying you can’t your pictures, but it is the law and was my job.I was called names by young people, picures even thrown at me and the best was a woman who kept banging her carraige into my back and swearing at me.The manager escorted her out the store and banded her 1 year.I felt bad for her more then me.So sad with all the other things going on in this world.Good luck.Sorry for the mistakes in spelling, I am not feeling well.

Very interesting thread. All we are doing is trying to keep our jobs. I appreciate some of the suggestions about what questions to ask pertaining to pictures. If the people in the photo appear “posed” and there is a backdrop, we can’t print it without permission. Either get permission or fill out a release if you took the pictures. How hard is that? And to the guy who just wants to walk away without paying, be my guest. You stealing isn’t any skin off my back. As for the stories of people throwing pictures, I can attest that it’s true. A “gentleman” threw pictures at my assistant manager a few months back; yes, it was over the copyright policy, and she called 911 and pressed assault charges. When we have to put up with that type of abuse from animals like that, it’s hard to keep smiling.

However, if the photo is very old, we usually print it regardless. I enjoy old pictures/portraits :)

Most of us are not idiots, many of us have college degrees. And Walmart does pay more than five dollars an hour, lol. Thank God this job is temporary. We get looked down on every day, although there are many great customers who realize we are peers that deserve respect. You wouldn’t believe the idiocy we encounter on a daily basis, though. Always good for a laugh. Thank God for the customers who brighten my day and make things better for the next ones. Ripples on a pond….:)

I love to take photo as a hobby… in the film days, Walmart told me my photo looked too professional, so i gave them my negative…. but today, my cousin called me and said, i need to go with her to walmart because they won’t let her print her pictures that i took with my digital camera (just a XSI)… so now i have no negative to prove that it was me who took the picture, so this is how i found this site… found some helpful info, i didn’t know that there’s a release paper that we had to sign, even when we are not professional…. so with the forms that I printed, i hope it will be a better experience tonight in getting her pictures from Walmart.

I worked at a photo lab for 4 years.Last September I retired.I liked my job because of the custumers.I made only 12.97 but that was fine.The thing I hated was telling people they couldnt print pictures that looked pro.I understood the fact that the copy righted ones could not be.Sometimes on the Kodak machine people would steal or copy a pictue that they copyed on thier home printers from a copyrighted picture and we knew it.They would say that it wasnt,it was thiers.Yes, one bad apple spoils it for everyone.I got spit on,sworn at and given the finger.I saw it all.I am a 62 year old lady.It seems the high class or they thought they were did it the most.Anyhow rules are rules and that is why we had to follow Wal-marts rules.I am glad I dont deal with that anymore.Now I just care for my sister who has terminal cancer.That is something that means something important,not fighting over a pictue .

WELL, this may be true, but I can tell you, I have tried to copy pictures that were not copywrited and run into problems. One picture we took in front of the wall of my grand daughter dressed up for her quinceanera, and no way would they print those. This is very frustrating, CVS did print them. One my grand daughters picture a friend took of her in front of her high school, she messed around with it on the computer and made it half white and half colored, wal mart would not let me print it out. They finally did when I said I’d bring in the origional from her cell phone. What really irks me is old photo’s, LIKE MY gr grandfather from the civil war, I print these out on my home printer. its easier to do than argue with walmart. I have many pics over a hundred years old, its pretty hard to get releases on these. Jane

I am with you Jane.I went to the store and asked about the old antique pictures and how the copyright could be found.They didnt have copyrights a hundred years ago.I guess its a catch -22 Wal-mart has gotten sued for printing pictuers that had a copyright on them.One guy came into our place and wanted to know why we printed out pictuers that a customer came in with.He was testing us by sending this guy in to try and print these pictures,he said he would sue.We dont know who excepted them but in Wal-mart fassion we were all questioned and put on warning.Believe me,many nights I went home thinking that I would be fired.I worked with a woman who was a photographer.She made most of the decission on pro pictures.Was she wrong sometime, ? YES.I went to a wedding watched the brides aunt take the pictures .She bought a very expensive camera and took lessons,not a pro.The bride came in this other employee said No,these are pros, I said no she argued with me.I told the bride to call Wal-mart president or write a letter.She did and she got to print pictuers for free as many as she wanted.I was happy to take this other woman off her high horse.
As you see some places turn a blind eye like CVS, but they could loose thier jobs and the store could.There is a copyright law to protect the photographer,thats so they can charge thier prices or buy an outright CD for from them for 100 to 200 outright.They make money and you have the proof.
God bless you.

Jane, if the pictures are over 100 years old, there is probably a 99% chance there is no remaining copyright on them and that they have entered the public domain.

If anyone is having trouble printing photos, check out I use them for all of my printing unless I’m in a bind and have to have them now. No, I am not stealing anyone’s photos, I AM the photographer. And since I am doing more photography for people here lately, I am also giving them a CD of the original pictures and then a printed and signed paper that says I took the photos but I am authorizing this person and this person, etc., to make as many copies as they want. So far, no problems.

But, and I think I’ve said this here before, it really is pointless. I did engagement pictures for my sister-in-law. One of her friends went in to Walmart and made an 8×10 of one of my photos, they gave him a bit of trouble, he lied and said he took the photo and they let him have it. I mean, really, the policy is full of holes.

And on the other end of that, one of my friends did work as a pro photographer but she doesn’t currently. She did senior pictures for her daughter and they ordered a bunch of them through Walmart. When her daughter went in to pick them up she was told, “you can’t have them” she said her mom took them (and had placed the initial order) and they wouldn’t capitulate. So she said, look, I can go get my mom and she’ll come in here. She was then told, “nope, we already ripped them up and threw them away.” The woman treated her with utter disregard and disrespect. Her mom went in there and told her “look, I would have come in or signed something,” etc., and now Walmart has lost many more customers for life. The family printed them at Walgreens.

Really, I don’t see why Walmart can’t have everyone who orders photos through them sign a release that if they are found to be copying illegal that THEY are responsible and Walmart is released of liability. I mean, if someone were copying my stuff without permission I’d be going after that person and not their copy machine, which is all Walmart is in this case. Logically, it’s ridiculous to go after Walmart about it because how can they know who’s lying and who isn’t? They can’t.

T HEY DO HAVE THAT OPTION BUT NOT ALL OF THE MANAGERS WILL LET THEM USE THEM.When I worked there I did do that but they were so paranoid they said no more.Its a shame but we did try and protect the profesional photographers and thier lively hood so we lost .

Do you know customers don’t need copyright release form for professional pictures?

I work for Wal-Mart 1 Hour Photo. We have very strict and by-the-book policies that we HAVE to follow, else we are threatened with a hefty federal copyright policy fine. Fair or not, according to the company guidelines, it does not matter how old the picture is, it doesn’t matter if there’s a copyright or photographer symbol of any sort on the front or back of the picture, and it doesn’t matter if your crying or not. If the photo appears to be ‘professional’, we CANNOT sell it without a signed piece of paper leaving your hands and entering ours. Wal-Mart is protecting itself and the photographer from infringement and piracy. Even if you have a copyright release form or letterhead, pay attention to what it says as well, because it may not give you the rights to reprint the pictures.

If it has a backdrop, has posed portrait-style photography, or looks even slightly Photo Shopped, WE HAVE TO HAVE SOME KIND OF WRITTEN PERMISSION.

Think of it this way. Do you think it’s okay to buy a DVD movie, make a copy of it, and sell that copy to your friend or whoever? If you think it’s okay, you’re wrong according to Federal Copyright Laws, and you can be persecuted for this piracy. Now, if you have permission from the owners of the DVD’s rights, as in permission to make copies any way you see fit, then wouldn’t you feel a lot safer? You may be thinking, “Well, I bought the DVD, it’s mine, and I can do whatever I want with it.” Sure you can throw it, break it, watch it, EVEN COPY IT, but once you make a profit from someone’s artistic work, YOU ARE BREAKING A FEDERAL LAW, punishable up to $250,000.

I know you may get pissed. I don’t care honestly. I have made old women cry and been cussed out so badly I had to walk away. No, I am not stupid. I was Valedictorian of my High School Class. I am an Eagle Scout. I am working towards a Computer Networking Degree and CCNA Certification. I am not cocky, but I do know what the hell I’m talking about.

BTW, here’s some more info to bitch about. Photo’s containing nudity (which are determined by strict guidelines as well), child abuse, and child pornography are completely and utterly unsellable and unacceptable. If you have child pornography, your identity will become aware to the local police force. However, it is okay to print other obscene or illegal things, such as murder, autopsy, even drug use. I once printed a guy’s marijuana plants on some 4×6’s with a cop standing right next to me. I couldn’t do a damn thing!

Uhhhh I just have to say that policy or not, does not make it the law. Telling me that it doesn’t matter how old the photo is is absolutely ridiculous and I think you need to research actual copyright law. Unless a copyright is expressly renewed, it WILL expire when the photo becomes of age. So, yes, it does matter. Are you also telling me that if I take in to copy a photo that is in the public domain as per the Library of Congress, I can’t do that either? Furthermore, just making a profit off of someone else’s work is not the only way to be guilty of copyright infringement. Again, do some research.

And nice attitude, not caring if your customer is upset. You’re the type of employee I’d want, huzzah!

Finally, why are we “bitching” about child pornography, exactly? What does that have to do with ANYTHING anyone is discussing here???

And, thanks, I was Valedictorian and have CCNA certification, too. Doesn’t mean diddly squat in the real world.

This is so old. How cares anyone. If they tell you NO, just fuckin do it at home. Its 2010, if u don’t any a scanner. Get one.

It seems crazy not to print pics over 100 yrs old. But you can take them somewhere else and they will do it. In fact several places will do it, as long as Copyright is not on the pictures. People don’t like to guess if its copyrighted or not, now with a good camera you can’t tell what is or what is not. Or better yet, if there is a dispute do it at home. and by the way, some walmarts don’t care either. and will do it. I had copies made by walmart in Las Vegas, they didn’t blink a eye and copied them, they were Quinceanera pictures that looked professional but actually were not. Our walmart here never would have copied them. This is what irks me when You know you took the darn pictures yourself and they won’t copy them. Jane

@JOEN. Seriously? No one asked for you to read here or give your input. Don’t like it, go somewhere else. “How cares anyone”??? No need for your filthy mouth here, anyway, go somewhere else.

@Jane. Yes, that is crazy, when they are that old, unless they’re famous pics, you can really bet that the copyright has expired. Technically all photos are copyrighted (by the photographer) whether or not they’re registered, but that does expire.

Really, I haven’t used Walmart for printing anything in a LONG time. I use Walgreens now if I have to have it NOW otherwise I use my professional printers if I can wait a few days to get it. But yes, it is most irritating when they don’t give a consumer the chance to show and sign that they did take the photos themselves. I’m still burned up about a story I mentioned above where Walmart ripped up photos without giving the girl a chance to have her mother -the photographer – sign something or even state that she took them.

Look I know all of you have some bad experiences with walmart photo centers. As a 5 year law enforcement officer and 3 year photo department manager. Some of these stories could’ve been resolved fairly easily. With the rise of digital cameras now up to 14 megapixels and the ability to do HD photos it’s very hard to tell whats professional and whats not. As the background goes its a bit harder. I have to follow the law or I would be doing a disservice to the public. Many of you should’ve been able to print them but it is very hard for us to truely tell anymore. I always have try to make sure that the customers are happy within reason. I however will never apologize for upholding the law. If you were to tell me that you were the photographer I would explain to you the penalties if you didn’t take them. I personally would give you a form to sign and ask for a number for us to put down on the form. If you refuse to do both I don’t sell you the pictures. Its a very big interpreptive law that is a bit confusing. The gist of it is that noone can make a profit off of someone elses work without written consent. The person whos making the profit off of it is walmart. No matter if a customer signs a form stating they are the copyright holders, walmart still can be sued if they didn’t have permission to print them off. Thats why the policy is if it appears to be professional we need a release. There are so many people doing the get rich by suing major organizations. The bigger the company the bigger the payout. People who are breaking the law makes it harder for people who aren’t. Please understand not all employees aren’t that rude or obnoxious. I may be an ass but I never treat anyone with disrespect. Just know if you do have problems you can always call the market and regional managers too.

Actually, a former Walmart employee said they thought this was a rare occurance. I just experienced the same thing. My husband’s cousin took our wedding photos for free and surrendered the copyright to us along with the disc of digital images to do with as we wished. I too was hot by the end of the conversation. I needed a couple of the photos for a funeral in a couple of days. The Walmart employee , manager, gave me the two photos I wanted for free. By the way, they used the excuse that they were obviously posed-no kidding-and that’s why they couldn’t give my pictures to me. My husband is writing for a permission slip as it were right now. But they can sit and spin on the photographs they wasted printing as far as I’m concerned. I will never buy photos there ever again. As far as I know most photos at family events are “posed”.

Lisa, I have to just ROFL at “posed” – that’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve heard yet! Glad you got your photos! Try sometime – just takes about a week, though.

I work in the Photo Center at a Wal-Mart. I also went to school and received a Bachelors degree in Photography. I know I am repeating many people by saying this, but it is a FEDERAL LAW. You will get the same if you go to Walgreens or Rite Aid.

We see so many pictures coming through the lab, we can tell if something is professional. We also have professional photographers who come and get their photos done through the lab. Most pictures that come through the lab that we find copyrighted, we’ve seen the type of work before and pretty much know who took the pictures. All we ask, is if the photos are copyrighted, for you to give us a release. If you did take the pictures, by all means we will give you the pictures, after we have you sign a release form stating that you are the author of the photographs. This way if a customer isn’t telling the truth and just signing this because they want their photos, and the photographer comes after us for it, we have proof that the customer stated these things. But like I said, we see so many photos coming through the lab, we know whether or not they are professional or not.

If you have an issue with the policy, contact the federal government.

I for one am sick of the crap that customers give us for doing our job. Some of us like our jobs and intend to keep it.

Others are aware of the things going on in the Economy and want the stability and need the income.

It isn’t just walmart, try walgreens, rite aid, kinney’s and other stores. If they give you the photos, then someone needs to contact the federal government because it is once again FEDERAL LAW!

If you understood as much about the law as you seem to claim, you would also know that EVERY photo, EVERY photo, is copyrighted, no matter if it says “copyright” on it or not.

Yes Valerie, you are correct. According to Federal Copyright Law, it states that [quoting form the Federal website] “… a WORK that is created…”

The whole copying thing is relevant when a person tries to copy or print (or even scan to a CD) something that THEY did not take themselves, without (quoting from the Federal website again) written permission from the photographer or studio/business.

The reason why Walmart (and other places that try to follow the copyright law, like Riteaid, etc.) looks for and only pursues action on only professionally taken photos, is that even though aunt Aggie ~could~ sue if her nephew copied the cute photo of himself in that cute cowboy outfit, odds are that she wouldn’t. They use their best judgement (and follow company policy on making thus judgement to protect themselves and the company… what’s so wrong with that!) to determine if a photo was taken professionally, and if it was TAKEN within the last 100 years (again, Federal website), customer is refused.

Common though would be snatching that spectacular photo off of a website, and putting it onto a thumbdrive, and taking it in to a place [like Walmart] to get printed. Yes,you probably would get away with it, because it doesn’t ~look~ professional, but still, as by the copyright law, someone ELSE did create it, and thus is protected, and would be breaking the law if copied or printed. Anywhere.

Don’t think the Walmart employee is mean, not wanting to let a person copy a 50 year old [professional] photo someone brings in who needs it for a funeral tomorrow… I’ve lost both of my parents already! I have a heart! But I also have to follow the law and my job’s policy.

I thank God for the [rare] nice customers who understand the policy and even though are disappointed, are not mean to us in return.

Yes, I am a Walmart Photo Employee. Been one for 9+ years. Been in the photo retail business for 19+ years.

The bad thing is situations like this: My son-in-law’s mother went to Walmart to get some copies made of some photos that HER SON took of our grandson and they told her that they were professionally done and that they would NOT let her copy them. She told him she couldn’t help it if her son was a very good photographer. I mean, that is really ridiculous.

I do truly apologize for situations like this (for what ~my~ apology is worth…)… it IS difficult for both parties involved.

I have also seen this situation happen many times in our Walmart photo center, especially in the advent of easier, cheaper, better cameras coming out the last year or so. It is now possible for quite a few people to shoot ~professional looking~ photos by simply ‘pushing a button’ (no insult intended to the son taking the photos).

In our photo center, I am the oldest person there (50), with the most years of photographic background skills/training/knowledge behind me (19+ years in the photo business, about 25 years pursuing photography as a serious hobby, About a year in there as a professional wedding photographer) – thus, if we have a photo brought to me by one of my co-workers, in question ‘is this professionally taken… we can’t tell!’ – it has gotten harder & harder for me to even tell in many cases if it was professionally taken! I am now [and recommending to my fellow Photo associates] to take the policy ~if you can’t tell, as the person reproducing it If they say ‘no, it was not professionally taken’, then let them do it. If they say yes… then, they can’t do it.~

Thus, (and unfortunately this upsets many customers), we then have to return to Walmart’s policy [which is explained in literature available at any Walmart photo center, as well on Walmart’s website (photo section)] that even it a photo ~appears~ to be professionally taken, we will not reproduce/print/copy it.

As much as this may anger customers and many people on this post, it is in effect to cover/protect Walmart legally, as well as us the Photo associate themselves.

IF (and yes, it is probably a 1 in 100,000 chance) we were to print a professional photo, and IF then the pro photographer were to find out it was done without his release, Walmart would be sued (and now days everybody is suing Walmart… successfully) as well as the associate would lose their job, and would also be legally responsible.

I am not going to put myself in that position.

I have looked several times, and I am not wearing a button on my lapel that states ‘I am mean, I am cruel and uncaring’. Walmart associates have a life beyond their job, and [most of them at least] do have a heart. I truly care about each customer, and do my best to serve their needs to the best of all my abilities.

Rare occurance? I just expericenced a dramatic employee about the yada yada copyright. And this is 2014. Maybe Walmart should give up the photo business if they are going to run off customers. Because I’m done with Walmart. Same story, same drama, why explain.

Oh and to Walmart employees. It’s not that we feel you are treating us like criminals. You are stealing our joy plain and simple. Most of us don’t know the law, and there is a more positive and professional way to explain in than hastle and make us feel guilty for you whining about losing your jobs. I don’t want to hear it. Sorry if that makes you feel unappreciated, but I’m not shopping to make your life happy. I’m shopping to make mine happy, so stop stealing my joy. I want to be that happy mother that comes in the place to pick up my legal photos without hearing a bunch of drama. It’s that simple from the customer. If you don’t like the customers the way we are, find a better job because trust me, you deserve to be treated better as an employee being underpaid to put up with a load of drama.

My case in point.

Definition of killjoy: a person who deliberately spoils the enjoyment of others through resentful or overly sober behavior. Thanks for the example Chole. I do appreciate your time in reading and responding. Customers have the right to complain and gripe. Drama was my first Masters Degree. And drama and being dramatic is how we get the point across. But telling me to just get over myself? First of all, getting over myself, would not take much distance since I’m right here, and I could just do a cartwheel. There I’m over myself and still laugh at the idea. lol I love getting over myself. Now, the part about customer service. I don’t think employees are put in a fair situation at all. But I do think something positive can change. I’m not just going to conform. So what you want me to do is just conform to the current situation? Is that what you want to do? Is that why you are reading and responding to the unhappy customers? You want the whole scene to stay the same? Is that the advice we tell everyone, just deal with it and stay the same? It’s not going to get better if people are told to just get over it.

And just a added note. I did have my legal paperwork. I provided it to the employee at Wal-Mart. I got my photos. Why am I contacting cooperate office? Because I don’t like the way I was informed that’s why. I don’t want to do business with anyone who says they will be fired at my expense. It’s not the employees as it is the policy. It is how the policy is presented to the customer and the employee, creating a negative set up. bye bye Wal-Mart Photo shop. I’ll do something better than print it off at home. I’ll go to your major competitors and get their business. I heard I’ll be treated better. But I do hope for your change and improvement, because when it improves, I’ll go back to get photos. thanks :)

I workin the photo lab and it is Walmart’s policy we cannot release pictures that are copyrighted without a release. We are only following the rules

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