Photographer Offers Groupon Deal Using Stolen Photographs, Chaos Ensues

It looked like quite a deal — a photographer with an impressive portfolio of photographs offering a $500 photo package for $65 on the social buying website Groupon. The offer was so enticing that all 1,175 packages quickly sold out, generating over $76,000 in revenue. That’s when people started noticing something fishy about Dana Dawes and her photography.

After hours of chatting with Dana in the discussion section [update: mirror here] of the deal, people started noticing and commenting that images from her portfolio were actually stolen. Here’s a back and forth between Dawes and a commenter named SP:

SP: Groupon, you are dealing with a thief here. This photographer does not own all the photos on her website.

I looked at her website and realized that as a pro myself, her lighting and conversions didn’t match up. I then took one of her images off her website and un-distorted it, and then placed it through a recognition software that brought up this – — THIS is the owner of the photograph, not Dana Dawes. I would suggest you refund the money to all of these people because this person is using photos that aren’t hers to try to bring in clients. In other words, she’s a fake photographer.

Dana D.: SP.-Let me assure you that I am not a thief. Many of my pictures have been taken in other states as well as many that I took while studying in Europe this past Spring.

SP: Groupon – one major clue that the business is fraudulent is if they offer a deal like this, that cannot be physically fulfilled by a true professional photographer. I’ve seen these deals pop up countless times on groupon, and no one is verifying that these are legitimate businesses that can fulfill their promises. It is physically impossible for a pro photog full time to do 1,000 sessions in a year (and on location at that).

At this point, Dawes begins to remove the galleries and photographs from her website and Facebook page, but not before commenters had already taken screenshots of the pages and reported the fraud to Groupon.

Within hours Groupon refunded the 1,175 people who had ordered the deal and removed the deal from the site.

Dawes page soon began displaying the message,

Due to an error made by my Webmaster in developing and creating my site, Groupon will no longer be offering this promotion… If you would like to keep your appointments, I will be charging $50 for the exact same offer

Needless to say, this generated even more discussion on Groupon. If you have some time, the massive discussion thread [update: mirror here] over there is a pretty interesting read…

If you’re looking to start a photography business, this is probably the opposite of how you want to kick it off.

Update: It looks like Groupon deleted the entire discussion thread. Luckily, we saved a copy.

Thanks for the tip Maurice!

  • amy

    are you a professional troll hunter? i don’t disagree with your sentiments, but after 10 posts or so, maybe you need to go get some fresh air and sunshine, yeah? you seem to be a little bit obsessed.

  • amy

    are you a professional troll hunter? i don’t disagree with your sentiments, but after 10 posts or so, maybe you need to go get some fresh air and sunshine, yeah? you seem to be a little bit obsessed.

  • Tanya Shields

    Where is his comment??

  • Julie Bernstein

    I can’t seem to link to an individual comment directly; just go to the main story link and search for “Andrew Mason”.

  • danielg

    FYI, if you look on her yelp site there are 8 reviews filtered out. All of them are from July and August (and are profiles created at that time because they say “yelping since July 2010″ e.g.), and some of them have just one review. The ones with two reviews all review the same other business: a makeup salon in New Rochelle, NY.

    This strengthens the case against this being an innocent mistake. In an early post on the Groupon thread she says she has “been preparing for this day for months.” I think she and/or Andre tried to plant these reviews in advance of the Groupon deal in case people tried to do any sort of due diligence on her. And, novice that she is, she didn’t realize that Yelp has a system to filter out suspect reviews.

  • zygor guide

    Sounds like a free advertisement for Groupon.Maybe it’s a good thing,who knows?

  • Alyssa J. Hampton

    You didn’t read that anywhere? Interesting that it’s posted in the article above………..

  • Alyssa J. Hampton


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  • Amy S

    You seem a bit troll-y yourself “amy”. I seem to be a little bit obsessed, and you seem to be a little bit dense. Piss off.

  • mb’ti

    nice blog…visit me

  • Dave

    Or maybe she’s just posting them herself. It seems she’s previously offered to make up to seven fake Yelp reviews for people’s businesses for $5. There’s a Google Cache of an offer from a user named “dkdawes” here:

    Or, if homework is more your thing, you can buy test answers and homework solutions from here on this site:

  • Dave

    This woman STILL has other people’s photos online.

  • maryelle st. clare

    Amazing, her “Web designer” who she’s now blaming for this disaster ALSO messed up her personal Mobile Me gallery! She must be the most-hacked person in history. /sarcasm

    This stupid woman needs to get an ounce of brains and change her name and move to another country. Her “career” as a photographer is over.

  • Owl Jones

    It’s not hard to tell the stolen images from her own, is it? Most of her work seems to be of the selective color variety, and frankly the subjects used in those ….well, let’s just say it’s not the most flattering effect. I remember seeing her website last year, when searching for local photographers to compare my own work against and I thought to myself – ” Wow. I have some pretty stiff competition.” Well, no wonder. I’m a humble guy, but her own stuff that’s up there now is pretty sad. Sorry Dana, in this amaturer photographers opinion, you should take up golf. Or bank robbing, perhaps? Seems it’s all about the money to ya.

  • maryelle st. clare

    Yes, the difference between the stolen photographs and those that are apparently her own is very obvious to me, but a lot of people think some of the effects she uses indicate mad skillz at photography. Most actual photographers and retouchers these days groan at selective color; it’s an overused cliche at this point that for some reason a lot of rank beginners are drawn to. It was cool about 10 years ago when the first person did it. To each his own taste, of course, but the point is that the stolen photos show a much higher level of skill at lighting, composition, model positioning, and processing than the supposed actual work of Ms. Dawes.

    I have written to Tanya Shields to let her know her work is still up and being advertised as “Dana Dawes Photography” work.

    And I have screencaps.

  • Tara956
  • Julie Bernstein

    Thanks for posting this. Wow, “generic” photos posted by her webmaster… even though she said she takes responsibility for not checking and removing those, that’s just a ridiculous excuse.

  • Corey

    I just got off the phone with her. A photog she stole from called her while I was on the phone. Very very interesting. She’s still blaming the template site (Portfoliositez) claiming the images were placeholders and she has “no idea” how they got onto her mobile me account because she didn’t know she had one. What the heck ever.

    I guess she was interviewed on the news…

  • Julie Bernstein

    Good thing you screencapped, as that link is now showing an error page. More cover-up attempts; pathetic.

  • Tara956

    Funny how the second she finds out we know about Mobile Me, they disappear….No wonder she doesn’t want her face shown in case her daughter finds out the FRAUDSTER that she is!

  • maryelle st. clare

    Ha, she “didn’t know” she had a Mobile Me account? Anyone who has a Mac knows how they’re set up. Nothing happens automatically; you have to specifically create the Mobile Me gallery. It’s not like pictures just get uploaded by themselves.

    Let me guess, her web designer did it! Or she was hacked. Yeah a lot of hackers go around creating Mobile Me accounts for other people. It’s the latest thing in crime. And if she didn’t know she had a Mobile Me account, then who just took it down? Wouldn’t someone trying to discredit her just leave it up and maybe add even more stolen pictures?

    It’s astounding she is still trying to claim she didn’t know a thing.

  • Tara956

    The hacker she had a) hacked into her website, uploaded stolen photos. Then when called on it, went back in, took the photos down.
    b) Uploaded those SAME photos to her Facebook business page. Then deleted that when people asked her about it.
    c) Uploaded the photos to her Mobile Me page. Then deleted that the second she found out about it. Funny how she never mentions ANYTHING about the hacker to the reporter.

  • Kathy Wynn

    Amazing…she stole one of my baby images too and removed the watermark from the bottom before posting it on her mobile me. Then in her news video says some generic images were on her site….removing my watermark somehow made it a generic image? It was an image from a clients sneak peek not in any way a “generic” image, whatever that is?

  • Kathy Wynn

    Amazing…she stole one of my baby images too and removed the watermark from the bottom before posting it on her mobile me. Then in her news video says some generic images were on her site….removing my watermark somehow made it a generic image? It was an image from a clients sneak peek not in any way a “generic” image, whatever that is?

  • Tara956

    Used Google’s cache to get some interesting screenshots of her business Facebook page before she deleted it

  • Julie Bernstein

    Good find! It’s the cached Greek version of Facebook, but her content is easily visible. Here’s the Google link for others:

  • maryelle st. clare

    Incredible – didn’t she claim earlier that someone “hacked” her Facebook and put those pictures up? Then WHY on the Greek site cache that Julie Bernstein put up above are there pictures put up in MAY?? The picture at the bottom was posted May 11 –

    “11 Μαΐου στις 5:44 π.μ.” in Greek means “May 11 at 5:44 am ”

    What’s she going to say now, that a hacker recoded Facebook to change the dates? It’s obvious she’s been stealing and scamming people for MONTHS and didn’t get caught until she was so stupid as to publicize it to hundreds of thousands of Groupon users.

  • Caleb Sommerville

    Alrighty. To sum up, we’ve got someone who works in the IT department for the school district in Cobb County who routinely posts other people’s work as her own and denies it like Peter from the Bible. She also sells test answers and fake Yelp reviews.
    Dana Dawes, you’re done for.

  • carlos benjamin

    Most likely she never intended to fulfill the work, just collect the payments.

  • carlos benjamin

    Seriously? How do the stolen images possibly generate any exposure for the legitimate photographers they were stolen from?

    It doesn’t seem like an honest mistake at all when she continues to lie when asked about it.

  • KKS

    Wow… Really! First of all, this is terrible. Second of all, this is ignorant. Third of all, this is stupid. Terrible because it is discrediting of anyone who is, has, or will attempt to start their own photography business and the hard work and TALENT that go into it. Ignorant because as a photographer myself I have image searched on google before to look at images and get the gears rolling for ideas to build off of and have seen several of the images in the screen shots on some photographer’s sites that I admire and aspire to be as good as one day. Stupid because, she has ruined any attempt of ever being able to build a legit business or career out of photography. Of course, the idea of making $76,000 in ONE day is amazing however, the amount of work that she would have to do for that is impossible to accomplish in that time frame. Anyone who is truly involved in photography can see that. jkda;fjkdBlah! It is just aggravating and irritating. I understand that the ones defending her are saying that she was young and didn’t think of the consequences, she has learned her lesson, etc. etc. Really though, if you are a professional, you take pride in your work and the images you produce and the profession you represent. For someone to steal an image is just as bad as stealing from a store. There is a point in time when you can distinguish right from wrong, a five year old can do that. So I don’t think that her age has anything to do with her lack of knowledge. I don’t believe that there is a lack of knowledge here. It is a lack of respect.

  • RaShea Jenkins Drake

    I totally agree. I’m 21 and started my business and things like this are just COMMON SENSE. Age has nothing to do with it. Business is business and if you can’t do it right or legally then you shouldn’t have one yet.

    Hopefully this doesn’t damage the rest of the photographers out there who are legit, actually talented, and work so hard.

    There’s no excuse for stealing images. NONE.

  • Jodie O

    I am JodieO/SP that originally outed Dawes. I’m personally sick and tired of people claiming to be business owners and screwing up my industry. Here’s a breakdown of some information on this case – chain of events but also this COMMON SENSE that seems to be lacking. Dawes went on CBS news Atlanta to “set the record straight” (wonder which reporter she knew and how she got in there – CBS didn’t even investigate this or talk to the victims) as well but here’s all the links and information for more to the story….

  • JodieO

    Tanya – she refused to give Andres name to Charlotte who also had her images stolen. I talked to Charlotte this weekend. She refused to give the name of her webmaster. I think Andre (probably a friend of hers) backed out of taking the fall after he realized he could be held responsible for this theft.

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  • Katmandu

    no one has left her a bad review on yelp yet (well, I just did, so there is one at least) and I think others should follow suit as well!

  • Outraged
  • Anon

    What you fail to see is, these FUCKS take whatever they want and claim as their own.

  • Anon

    What you fail to see is, these FUCKS take whatever they want and claim as their own.

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  • Paula

    Thank you, Outraged for that email address. I’m only 2 hours away from Atlanta, so this is ridiculous to me! I will certainly let him know my thoughts.

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  • Groupon Clone

    Groupon… the best way to city deal without paying full price.

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  • Kate

    The same thing has happened here in the UK today. If you look at todays Nottingham/ Derby deal we have a photographer called StudioBlink using Stock Images and passing them off in their Groupon offer and their website. I only came across the US scandal a couple of days ago too. I emailed Groupon about it hours ago, and have posted on their Facebook pages, but alas nothing has happened and it is still selling.