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You MIGHT be a Fauxtographer…

Okay – so maybe your pictures have graced this page and maybe they haven’t – maybe you’ve been revealed as a Fauxtographer, and maybe not. The truth is – it might sting a bit, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be a good photographer – just stop showing what are essentially your practice shots on the internet! Remember, people have been taking hilariously bad photos since George Eastman started mass producing roll film cameras in the late 1800’s. The difference between now and then is social media and how easy it has made it to get just about anything to the masses. There is no longer a critical reviewer – an agent, or a book publisher, for example, to separate the below average from the excellent. This shift has blurred the lines between professional and amateur so much that people get confused.  Even though I primarily read YANAP for laughs – I also think the page is making an important point about the current ‘anybody can do it’ attitude towards photography. When people have work displayed on this page, it’s not because they are beginners, it’s because they are beginners REPRESENTING themselves as professionals. Here are my top six ways to stay off these pages forever:

Only Show Your Best Work

I once was asked to join a beginning photographer’s Facebook page. Although he had potential, the first thing I noticed was that he put every picture he took up on his site. He would go for a fifteen minute walk in the woods and post 65 pictures. Frankly, it was boring, and I stopped looking after 10 or so pics. Don’t make your audience choose the best picture from your entire photoshoot– YOU do it. Less is more. Three great pictures are way more impressive than 15 okay ones.

Examine Other People’s Work Carefully

What is it you like about another photographer’s work? Is it Joe Mcnally’s exquisite lighting? Jeremy Cowart’s great composition? Moose Peterson’s mastery of natural light? When you really think about why you like a photographer’s work you can start figuring out what’s important to you.

Hang Around Other Photographers

I once took a picture I loved of my daughter on some railroad tracks. The whole point of the shoot was to practice using off-camera flash in hard outdoor light.  I showed my favorite to a bunch of people and got lots of positive comments. I showed it to a photographer friend who also liked it, but then said – “the railroad tracks are sort of hot” – meaning I had overexposed the highlights. You know what – he was right! I wasn’t looking at the whole picture – just my subject. Other photographers won’t always stroke your ego – but they will often sharpen your skills.

*A word of caution – don’t hang around overly critical photographers who never have anything good to say. Often they are trying to hide their own insecurities and they will suck the fun out of it for you…

Don’t Be Too Creative (at least right away)

Sure creativity is much appreciated and sought after – and I admire creative photographers like Jill Greenberg or Anne Geddes greatly, but your first paid gig may not be the time to get too crazy. YANAP is filled with pictures done by creative people who lacked the skill set to pull off their ideas. They soldiered through anyway – and the results were, of course, disastrous. Get your light right, do a couple of ‘typical’ poses first and get the basics down before you go nuts. There is a reason some poses and shots are done over and over again – they work!

Don’t Be Afraid to Give Up

About a week after I got my first digital SLR I had this great idea to shoot a girl baking and dropping eggs. I rigged up a glass panel on the floor of my kitchen and wriggled under it with a camera. I had my one of my daughters dress in an apron and we covered her with flour. She would drop eggs onto the glass panel as I shot. We did a lot of shots and had to clean the glass between each one. The kitchen was a mess. My daughter was a mess, I was a mess. In the end, though, the shots were… well, terrible. I had no idea how to light them properly and the angle was all wrong. I wish I had copies of the pictures to show you – sort of… The moral of this story? Effort doesn’t always equal results. Sometimes even good ideas don’t work out. When this happens – do NOT watermark the images and display them on your webpage. Delete them, apologize to your wife for the mess in the kitchen, buy your daughter an ice cream cone and chalk it up as a learning experience!

Practice

Practice a lot and you will get better. Don’t show off the majority of your practice sessions. Oh yeah, and don’t charge people to help you practice! As a largely self-taught photographer, I have found the work of improving my skills to be immensely satisfying. Part of the fun is you’re never quite finished – there is always more to learn!

27 Comments
  1. I would add one thing: LEARN. Take courses, classes, schooling. We do not tell people to “practice” brain surgery without first going to school to learn brain surgery. Why do Fauxtogs tjhink they can pick up a camera, read a few web sites, and be a photographer? Absurd.

       15 likes

    • Thomas Thomas says:

      I don’t entirely agree with the “schooling” thing. I HATED school as I was bullied and left with a severe case of depression by the age of 16. I have spent far more time learning the things I want to learn since leaving, and have only taken one course to do with photography. It was a Photoshop course earlier this year and I left after a few classes because I knew more than they were teaching in it. Everything I know about photography and my equipment has been learnt online (blogs, articles, reviews, networking, critique) and through trial and error. Photography cannot be compared to brain surgery. Did every great painter or musician go to school to learn their craft? Using a camera is like using a hammer, it’s a tool, albeit a more complex one. I’m not saying you shouldn’t go to school, college or university, I just don’t believe it is a necessity.

         20 likes

    • Chris says:

      That is a very ignorant statement. Quite a few of the worlds greatest photographers never went to any form of art school. What’s important is PRACTICE. Practice and LEARN from your mistakes.

         13 likes

    • T.R.Stewart says:

      Actually, I find anything you learned in school, you can learn on your own. All of the resources are available to you online. There’s this myth that in order to be successful, and make a career out of anything, you need to spend $50,000-$100,000 for a piece of paper that says you’re good at what you do.

      Frankly people can be self-sufficient, as long as they can motivate themselves.

         5 likes

    • cameraclicker cameraclicker says:

      School is one path. There are others.
      Bill Lear (of the Learjet business jet) made it to grade 8! He was awarded a patent for the car radio and a slew of patents for other things. He credited not having heard of an academic who “proved” a radio that small was impossible with his being able to press forward and develop the radio!
      Bill Gates dropped out of university, as did Steve Jobs and Larry Ellison. Factors beyond school seem to be more important to success.

         3 likes

  2. Thom Thom says:

    I would suggest putting the down the camera in general until you make at least 50 trips to an art gallery.Look at paintings. Look for longer than 2 minutes per canvas.

       13 likes

  3. Missy says:

    Good advice, however,I wouldn’t suggest that one give up. I would encourage people to keep learning.

       0 likes

  4. Susan says:

    I agree and would add, look at the work done by true professionals and people who are generally recognized as among the best in their field. Look at it critically and compare your own work to what they are doing. That does not mean you should copy every pose or idea they have, but learn from what they do. Looking at near-perfection gives you a yardstick to measure your own work by.

       1 likes

  5. Jimmy says:

    Just because photoshop makes the action, doesn’t mean you have to use it. Or don’t overuse it. There is a local photog that appears to have just learned solar flare, and you can tell she loves the action, but doesn’t know how to use it. Practice your actions before selling them to clients. She has the flare on the wrong side of the light source, even coming from the ground in a few. Never stop learning, and learn the science behind photography, and shoot film every now and then so you remember the basics.

       2 likes

  6. Foq says:

    I’d also say grow a thick skin, and don’t dismiss critique.
    I see a lot of idiots who put out their subpar “art”, and claim that those who provide feedback are clueless or get a panty in a bunch.

       0 likes

  7. Spike says:

    My advice…. don’t do weddings. I mean it. And I don’t just say this to the novices out there who might get in over their heads. I say this to the ones who know what they’re doing but don’t know what they’re getting themselves into. Take photos of babies instead. Take photos of animals. Take photos of tornadoes and volcanoes and minefields. You will encounter less drama and while you may not get rich, your portfolio will be more interesting.

    I want to become a divorce photographer.

       19 likes

  8. GypsyWoman says:

    This is a very helpful, kind essay. I’ve taken many pictures of my nose. Either my nose is long or I have some learning to do.

       0 likes

  9. Jackd says:

    It’s got be embarrassing as an admin going through trying to cherry pick comments to delete because you can’t handle user feedback.

       1 likes

  10. Fuzzypiggy says:

    I’m not sure it was here or another forum but I saw a comment/story to the effect that people are too afraid to speak the truth these days. Tell someone, “I’m sorry but your not that good right now. Shot A, you need to do XYZ, you need to think about composition in that area, consider your use of highlight/shadow, yadda, yadda.”. Nope, these people get an endless stream of fawning comments to the effect of “Oh you’re so great!”,”Oh what a wonderful picture!”. Sad thing is, you make one constructive comment about someone else image and next thing they raise the armies of damnation ( alright they get 25 of their so-called online friends ) to bombard you with nasty comments just ‘cos they’re so feeble minded they can’t take constructive criticism.

    You’re not the best, stop kidding yourself. Get into a few shit-hot forums and you’ll soon see where you stack up, I did and it knocked me on my arse seeing what I had match.

    Stop looking and start seeing. Get your ass down to some art galleries and look, really look and study what makes great images so great. We look after 200 year old paintings for a reason!

    Practice, practice, practice until you’re sick of it. Practice when it’s good and practice when it’s bad. However, always, always practice with a purpose. I am an amateur landscaper with no intention of selling but I try to get at least 10 hours a week minimum practice. No beginner ever believes you when you tell them photography is about practice, well it took me close on 4 years hard work before I learned that the hard way!

    A few more of these “fauxtogs” need a severe beating with he “reality stick” sometimes!

       4 likes

    • scruff10 says:

      Great points, though I think the term ‘amateur landscaper’ does not really apply to the work I see on your website. “Stunning” works a lot better… Very impressive portfolio…
      I tried one time to make a VERY gentle suggestion on a former students’ Facebook page, but only after he asked what I thought. He apparently wanted me to fill the page with hyperbole, not make suggestions for improvement, because I think he blocked me or something shortly after… There seem to be some fairly strong societal ‘norms’ dictating what type of comments you can make on social media -they must ALL be positive.

         1 likes

  11. Tom says:

    Another road that I’m starting to take right now is printing, mounting and framing some photos. You see your image differently when you have something you can hold on to. Yeah, Maybe not print out the ones that are more towards garbage, but the ones you think are good, well then get em printed, see how it came out, and do better next time. Also, some images look awesome small, but others look amazing when big and you can’t get as much of a perspective of the size unless it’s printed, imo

       2 likes

  12. […] video via DIY Photography + location scouting 101 at FStoppers + you might be a Fauxtographer at You Are Not A Photographer (actual article, not snarky […]

       1 likes

  13. Noamsayin says:

    So what if the rails are “kind of hot?!” Take the picture on a cloudy day with ‘ideal light’ (if there is such a thing) and get gray lines. I like the rails the way they are.

       0 likes

  14. Areal photographer. says:

    Hang around other photographers…why? So I end up being influanced by their style!? fuck that walk your own path and get your own style and don’t even bother listening to the crap sites like this say about your photography every photo has a buyer and a hater you may hate it but some one loves it. And in the end I got paid so I don’t care as for other photographers fuck’em I don’t need their respect to do my photography or the get gigs. I’ll shoot more in the next two weeks then any one on this site will shot in a year and earn more too. Ego get’s you in the door and ego keeps the people coming back because they think it’s how it works that’s the real secret. I have gotten more gigs off of word of mouth as being an egotistical asshole but does magnificent work. I get paid you bitches get poor and I luagh.

       2 likes

  15. b says:

    FIrst of all, this irks the crap out of me, “PROFESSIONAL” just means you get PAID FULL TIME for what you are doing. SEMI PRO is if you get all of your income from HALF.

    As for the level of work that is up for debate….There are thousands of AMATEURS that would blow half of the work supposed PROFESSIONALS make out of the water.

       3 likes

  16. nicci says:

    I found this website by accident and was quite appalled. You say and I quote, “Okay – so maybe your pictures have graced this page and maybe they haven’t – maybe you’ve been revealed as a Fauxtographer, and maybe not. The truth is – it might sting a bit, but it doesn’t mean you can’t be a good photographer – just stop showing what are essentially your practice shots on the internet!” If this is the case why make this page in the first place, are you not doing exactly the same thing by drawing attention to those same images, it doesn’t help people, it is demeaning and for some possibly sole destroying. You have to remember that we all start out somewhere, there wouldn’t be a professional photographer (person’s engaged in an activity as one’s main paid occupation rather than pastime) out there that could say their imagery hasn’t improved with time/ practice & experience and I am quite sure we can all look back at some images and cringe. If it annoys you so much to see imagery that YOU personally do not like would it not be a better idea to offer constructive criticism by sending the ‘fauxtographer’ (as you like to call him/her) a personal message offering helpful hints, professional advice and/or guidance OR just ignore the images altogether. Most professionals work hard at what they do and usually value their time too much and are too busy to be snooping around other sites looking for images to critique in such a derogatory manner. Photography like art is subjective, personally I don’t like the Mona Lisa does that make Da Vinci a bad artist, I think NOT. If you are a professional then it saddens me that you find this an Ok thing to do.

       1 likes

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