Newfoundland photographer sorry for mall meltdown at Santa shoot

He's sorry for blowing up in front of kids, but a Newfoundland photographer says he's tired of customers taking his work to a cheaper competitor.

Robert Thornhill pulls service from Carbonear mall, says customers getting prints at Walmart

Robert Thornhill recently pulled his mall Santa Claus photography service from the Trinity Conception Square Mall after he was told customers were getting photos reprinted at Walmart instead of by his service. (Facebook/robertnthornhill)

A Newfoundland photographer is apologizing for a temper tantrum while taking pictures of children with a mall Santa Claus, but says he had a good reason for losing the Christmas spirit.

"I wouldn't necessarily agree with [calling it] a Grinch moment. I had a human moment. I'm honestly sorry," said Robert Thornhill.

He blames his outburst on the fact that too many of his customers get their photos printed at the mall's Walmart instead of using his service.

I did lose my temper that day, and I am sorry.- Robert Thornhill

Thornhill has photographed children with Santa at the Trinity Conception Square Mall in Carbonear for the past few years.

"I loved that job. Seeing kids' faces light up for Santa Claus is the most amazing feeling," he told the St. John's Morning Show.

That is, until last week when he decided to quit.

The final straw was when a woman blatantly told him she only wanted one photo instead of a multiphoto package because she planned on going straight to Walmart to scan it and print more.

"Admittedly, I did lose my temper that day, and I am sorry," Thornhill said.

Getting a child's photo taken with a mall Santa Claus, like the one in this file photo, is a popular tradition for many families. (Lindsay Carroll/CBC)

He said there were two families there at the time, and he's apologized to them for lashing out the way he did.

"When pushed against the wall, I don't know what to do. There were very few people there; it's not the way people are making it out to be. There was no lineup of people or anything like that," he said.

"I am sorry, and going forward I am trying to provide a Santa Claus for people at other locations. But I can't have Walmart enable the copying of my pictures."

The Trinity Conception Square Mall has confirmed with CBC that it has found a new photographer to take Santa photos.

Claims it's copyright infringement

Thornhill says he was offering to print a single 4x6 photo for $5 or a package of four for $15.

He says at Walmart, people can get a print for 20 cents, which is frustrating because he simply can't compete with those prices.

Thornhill claims the Walmart photo lab is "enabling" the reproduction of his work, and he's actually in talks with a lawyer to see if he has a case for copyright infringement.

The Walmart at the Trinity Conception Square Mall in Carbonear. (Google Maps)

"I went up to Walmart and asked to speak to the manager and they basically said, the answer I got was shrugged shoulders saying 'well, there's nothing I can do,'" he said.

"It's not just me as an artist. It's artists in general. Anyone that takes a picture, if you're copying their work, you're taking money from their pocket."

In a response to CBC, Walmart Canada said it is aware of the situation, and is open to discussing the matter further with Thornhill.

It also said the photo kiosk is a self-serve machine that's available to anyone to use at their convenience. Walmart doesn't monitor the kiosk and has no control over what photograph the user decides to reproduce.

While he's still mad at Walmart, Thornhill admits he could have handled the mall incident better.

He will still photograph children with Santa at other locations, where he said there is less of a chance that he will be undercut.

With files from St. John's Morning Show