Freelance photographer warns others about Boston-based sports photography company

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. -- Cole Sales knows a thing or two about photography. He's got great gear and a good eye. He uses them both as a freelance photographer to help pay his college tuition. That's why he's so frustrated about a freelance gig in November that was supposed to pay him $50 an hour.

He was hired by Gameface Media to shoot participants in a 5K race outside Arrowhead Stadium. Gameface Media contracts with amateur sporting events to provide free photos to participants. Gameface hires the freelance photographers to shoot the photos. The Boston-based company makes its money -- which according to news reports is in the millions of dollars -- through digital ads on its website.

Sales said he was required to submit samples of his work and proof of the type of camera gear he uses before Gameface would even consider hiring him.

"I figured they were a solid company," said Cole.

He said he shot hundreds of photos during the race. The photos were placed on Gameface Media's website a few days later where they could be downloaded by runners.

Sales said a representative of Gameface Media promised him he would receive payment in about two weeks. But more than two months later, Sales is still waiting to be paid the $150 he's owed. He said multiple emails to the company have prompted only vague responses. An email he received this month stated: "While I don`t have specific details, work is still going on behind the scenes to get everyone what they are owed."

Sales isn't the only one complaining. An internet search shows there are similar complaints from dozens of other freelance photographers some of whom are owed $1,000 or more. A few photographers have posted that they eventually did get paid, but had to wait three months or longer. Others wrote that it's been a year and they are still waiting for payment.

A Boston business article from 2014 quotes Gameface Media co-founder Dave Lavalle as saying the company anticipates "swift growth and is projecting revenue in the millions."

Lavalle did not return calls from FOX 4 Problem Solvers.

Just this month, Gameface Media ran two ads requesting freelance photographers to shoot two upcoming races in the Kansas City metro. That has Sales concerned. He doesn't want to see anyone else in his situation.

"I just want to get the word out," he said. "I had no idea (getting paid would be) an issue."

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