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Perth newborn photographer admits to ripping off clients

Perth newborn photographer, Melissa Sheed, has admitted to ripping off four families, who spent upwards of $1500 for baby photos they never received.

Melissa Sheed leaving court. Source: 7News.

Sheed pleaded guilty to four counts of accepting payment but failing to supply goods, and has handed over unedited baby photos to clients awaiting images. She was initially charged with six counts, but two were withdrawn.

Inside Imaging reported in December, 2020 that clients were unable to contact Sheed after having their child photographed and paying a full fee.

WA Consumer Protection published a public warning in May 2019 following nine complaints that clients failed to receive a package after the promised three month period. After Consumer Protection prosecutors failed to issue Sheed a court summons, an arrest warrant was filed and the photographer was arrested.

‘It’s been a frustrating experience for the mothers as well as for Consumer Protection as it has been a prolonged process to bring the matter before the courts,’ said commissioned for WA Consumer Protection, Gary Newcombe. ‘While the images obtained by us are the raw and unedited versions, I’m sure the consumers concerned will be extremely happy to finally get them. We advise consumers not to pay the full amount upfront for goods and services and only pay a small deposit, the balance payable upon delivery.

‘This reduces the risk of loss and also gives the consumer some bargaining power with the trader if there is a delay in delivery. We would remind traders that, if they get into difficulty supplying goods and services, they should come to us and we can assist in sorting out outstanding matters before the situation escalates.’

7News Perth reports that Sheed initially planned to fight the charges, but ‘changed her plea’.

Sheed’s client, Sarah Sandy, had been waiting ‘several years’ for the photos, which cost her $1600. ‘This was my second son, so I decided to relax and enjoy the process and all the cuddles with my baby and didn’t take as many photos as I normally would have,’ she said. ‘I thought I can rely on these newborn photos to come. When they didn’t come it was pretty upsetting.’

Another client, Zara Edwards, told 7News the newborn photographer sent her a proof sheet back in 2018, and that was it. When she heard about the plea ‘I just got goosebumps and started crying, having tears straight away. It means I can put all of my boys photos on the wall and there won’t be one missing.’

Inside Imaging has reported on several cases of misconduct and fraudulent activity committed by professional photographers. But this case is different. Ordinarily, misconduct is perpetrated by photographers who are unqualified and inexpereinced business owners, or outright scammers. In many cases they are semi-pro photographers who decide to start business by offering rock bottom prices, and find themselves way in over their head.

Sheed, however, is a capable photographer, with one of the impacted clients a return customer who previously had a good experience. She had already conducted the photo shoots and had the pictures ready to edit. There was only a few more steps before the job was completed.

It’s difficult to grasp why she would destroy her business and put her clients through this nightmare, resulting in her arrest.

Sheed will be sentenced in November on four charges, and other clients may still pursue legal action.

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