I’ve written about so-called “gig services” in the past. You know, those websites that promise to send you leads and photography jobs that will help elevate your portfolio … and make you more money.

There are several legit options out there — Thumbtack, Canon’s new Image Connect platform, Upwork, Fiverr and Fash, just to name a few. But there are a growing amount of services that promise a great opportunity, only to end up taking advantage of photographers.

The latest case is with a company called OCUS. They targeted me pretty heavily on Facebook, pushing me toward becoming one of their food photographers.

The problem with OCUS

OCUS promises a great game, saying on their website, “OCUS is a complete photography solution, offering brands a global network of creators, automated workflows and advanced BI tools.”

But what immediately raises a red flag for me is there’s no real landing page for photographers. If you click “Join us” at the bottom, it immediately takes you to an application page. They provide no information about how the platform works, including what potential fees they charge or take out of your earnings. You simply don’t know what to expect.

The other thing? In my research I found that OCUS was a French company, formerly known as OuiFlash. While I have no problem with the French, their laws are different. Meaning, you might not be protected the same way you would be in your home country.

Shady copyright terms

One of the big red flags for me with these types of platforms is whether or not the photographer retains copyright. This is often buried in the terms and conditions … just like it is with OCUS. With OCUS, they require that the photographer transfer ownership to OCUS, stating:

“The Producer transfers all ownership rights to all of the images produced in the context of each assignment exclusively to OUIFLASH, as and when they are produced.

“The transferred ownership rights include rights to reproduction, representation, adaptation, translation, and transfer to a third party of all or part of the transferred rights, by any method and process known or unknown at this time, for the period of protection of copyright according to French and foreign law as well as current and future international agreements, worldwide.”

If that doesn’t scare you away … it should. You should never have to sign your photos away. In most legit services, you just provide the customer full rights to use the photos, or usage rights to use the photos in the way they described upfront.

Note how OCUS hasn’t even bothered to change its terms and conditions to even reflect its name change.

Look at the reviews

The last straw for me, with OCUS anyway, was looking at reviews from photographers. Check out this “glowing” review posted on Glassdoor:

“Out of 10 shoots, I got paid only for 2 shoots over the span of 4 months. I am still not paid for 8 shoots and the accounts team is coming up with innovative excuses for the delay in payment. I am sick of following up and disappointed that I am still not paid for so long.”

Alright, one bad review might not be a big deal. But the company as a whole has a 2.1/5 rating on Glassdoor. Check out this review, which really dives into the photographer experience:

“… The management at Ocus would keep lying to me, saying the payment for invoice has been processed, when it was not, they literally had no clue what was going on. After I complained, they unlawfully suspended my account to get rid of me, instead of helping me and paying me on time … Another issue is the low price per photoshoot, they are the lowest in the entire industry, that’s probably how they got the deal with UberEats who are Ocus’s main partner. The last factor I’d like to bring up, the editors ruin the hard work of all the photographers! The editors completely ruin each photograph! I’ve even had meetings with UberEats Territorial Managers who accompany photoshoots sometimes, and they said they personally edit the images themselves after receiving them from Ocus!! Can you believe that?! If you’re thinking of joining Ocus, do not, because you deserve much better!”

Photographer beware

When you deal with middleman companies like OCUS, you risk a lot … and you might not know that going into it. Look into the fine print and make sure you’re signing up for something that you agree with. Otherwise, you might end up working for free or without control of your images.

Lead photo by Muhammad Raufan Yusup on Unsplash