………and to always beware of the Fauxtographers
…..just because their pictures are better than you can take, doesn’t mean they are good.
The Fauxtographer/Photographer debate has been going strong for a quite a while now in photography circles. Everyone has a different opinion of what makes someone a ‘professional’ and what makes one a ‘hobbyist’.
I’m a real photographer, and have been, for over thirty years. But beware, there are tons of fauxtographers out there, below are a few tips on how to spot them.
By definition, a ‘professional’ is someone who earns a living, or at least a portion of their income, from their chosen career. Most people would also agree that a professional has established a legal business in their chosen line of work, or is employed by a legal business. A professional also pays taxes on the income made from their work.
However, I personally have viewed *horrible* photography work created by people who I know to be running legal photography businesses and paying taxes. Just because you’re running a legal business doesn’t mean you actually possess photography or retouching skills. And just because their pictures are better than you can take, doesn’t mean they are good. On the other hand, I also know people who have fantastic photography skills but no desire to operate a business.
In my opinion, being a Professional Photographer is more about mastery of the photographic medium and quality of work produced, the ablity to be able to get along with and work with all types of people (I’m comfortable in a boardroom, a pre-school or a biker bar), as well as the work ethics, business practices, and customer service standards adhered to, than about what someone charges – but you do tend to get what you pay for.
A Fauxtographer, then, has any/all of the following traits:
1. Lacks technical skills. A camera is a tool. Nothing more. It doesn’t operate itself. It doesn’t automatically take awesome pictures. Technically sound, pleasing images are produced because the person holding the camera has taken the time to learn how to operate it. Fauxtographers put the camera on AUTO and “Spray & Pray” – take a bunch of pictures and hope some come out ok.
2. Doesn’t understand that they lack technical skills. Fauxtographers really seem to think they do good work – or maybe they just don’t care that their work is bad. Most Professional Photographers that I know agonize over our work. We pick it apart, try to figure out how we could have made a given shot better, and never ever say “I’m good enough.” With their heads firmly planted in dark spaces, Fauxtographers seem to think that all of the wisdom of the photographic universe was bestowed upon them when they opened up their DSLR on Christmas morning.
3. Has poor work ethics. To me, the equation is simple. If you lack technical skills, then you don’t have mastery of your craft. If you don’t have mastery of your craft, then you cannot produce quality work. If someone is accepting money, in any amount, in exchange for producing work for you, and that work is of poor quality, then that person has poor work ethics. People with high work ethics don’t settle for producing poor quality work.
4. Undercuts – or even bashes – Professional Photographers. I’ve seen it many times – Fauxtographers marketing their work and saying things like “Who can afford those expensive photographers? Their prices are ridiculous! I will shoot your family session for a fraction of the cost of that other photographer. You’ll get the same thing for a lot less money.” This displays a complete lack of understanding of the costs involved in operating a business. It also solidifies the fact that the Fauxtographer doesn’t even possess the skill to accurately assess their own work – he/she thinks they’re producing the *same thing* as the Professional Photographer.
6. Does not have professional resources. What if you want gallery-wrapped canvases to display in your home? Suppose you have an album of family images, and you’d love to find another similar album to put smaller images in. Imagine that your parents are crazy about watching slideshows of images and would love to have a CD slideshow of your family session to watch over and over. The Fauxtographer often has no knowledge or experience with vendors that provide professional quality photographic products. Additionally, most of those vendors require a tax ID number or other proof that their clients are legal businesses, which the Fauxtographer likely doesn’t have, so she couldn’t use those vendors anyway.