Home Forums Am I a Fauxtog? Let's see if this ends in tears…….. Reply To: Let's see if this ends in tears……..


Hello Sharra,

I admit I was momentarily confused by your request for a link to my work, but then I took a look at my own profile and discovered that the link to my website I provided when I signed up is not listed there. It had been my understanding that anybody who wanted to could go look at my work, and for that oversight I must apologize. The sarcasm and passive-aggressive asides, though, are not appreciated.

Before I post the link, however, I wanted to answer a couple of your points in order to correct a couple of misconceptions you seem to have about me. First off, I completely understand that there are times that the memory of the event is more important than the quality of the photograph. But for me, this only applies to event photography, as a result, I only evaluate images that are portraits, group shots and the like (this includes on the fly portraits taken at events). There is no way I’m going to throw away the shot of the bride’s grandmother giving her great grandmother’s handkerchief to use as the “something old”  if it is remotely possible to tell that is what is happening. That memory is too precious to throw away because the focus is a little off.

I have said several times that what I know constitutes a very small percentage of what there is to know about portraiture, and even less if we consider all forms of photography. I have also stated that I learn something from every shoot I do. Let me give you an example of what I’m talking about from my own experience. When I went pro, I was lucky to be noticed by someone who had connections and was hired into a staff photography position, as a result, I spent 20 years working almost exclusively with professional talent. When I retired, and the burnout had subsided a bit, I started making moves toward building a new portfolio for a little local studio I wanted to start up. I could not use my existing work because, one, it technically didn’t belong to me and, two, it would be a misrepresentation of my work when I was trying to attract clients who didn’t have $10,000 budgets for a single shoot.

When I scheduled my first test shoot, I realized in minutes that I had completely forgotten how to get a good pose  out of someone who didn’t know how to model. After that realization, in spite of all my experience, I didn’t shoot for a paying client for almost a year. That single gap in my skill set was enough to make my work unacceptable, and as a result, I could not in good conscience charge for it. Today, I’m still not quite up to where I’d like to be, and as that bar is constantly rising, I know I never will be, but at least I know without a doubt that when one of my clients hires me, they will get more than their money’s worth and I can go to bed with a clear conscience.

Likewise, I do not demand anything approaching perfection in a professional. All I ask is that they know their craft well enough to be able to promise consistent, quality work that is worth their client’s time and money. Admittedly my standard for quality is high, but I have met very few photographers with 5 years experience that couldn’t live up to them, and very few with 3 years that could.

That being said, please feel free to check out my not perfect, but pretty darn professional fashion gallery.

Now, on to the main crux of your concerns.

Let us separate for a moment, my harsh words and the one thing that really gets me “hot under the collar.” I never get mad at anyone for lack of photographic skill or knowledge. The only thing in photography that gets me riled up is when people take advantage of their clients ignorance and use it to steal from them. There are many things about photography that are debatable, but this is the one issue that I am confident that there is a single right answer to. The details can be debated, what constitutes good work, what constitutes money’s worth, but at its core, every working photography has a responsibility to actually, honestly give their client exactly what they are told they are going to get. To do any less is dishonest. Were it possible to establish a legal definition, it would fall under the category of theft by fraud. My sense of justice makes my blood boil when I see a person knowingly take advantage of another, and you are absolutely right, my response is definitely corrective, rather than constructive.

In all other instances I completely understand your points, there are definitely gentler ways of going about this. I will attempt to explain my reasons for approaching things the way I do, but I will not apologize for them, because I do believe that it is best to do it this way. Please understand that when I dress someone down, I do it out of a sincere desire to help them and see them grow, not out of any kind of ego or “maliciousness.”

You yourself admit that some people have their heads in the clouds. From my point of view, believing that work that wouldn’t muster a passing grade in a high-school photography class is worthy of charging a client good money for is having one’s head in the clouds. And let me be perfectly frank. I’ve had real clients (i.e. clients that I do not know at all prior to their hiring me). I’ve had real clients that were unhappy. Believe me, nothing I say even compares to what you’ll get from a pissed off client. I’ve avoided a lot of this by working in commercial photography my whole career, but my mentor had his tires slashed and car keyed by the overzealous brother of one of his clients.

I have posted 5 reviews on this site, three were positive and constructive from the get go, two were harsh in the attempt to rattle the posters into reevaluating their skill. (Plus one that was a rant on treating women with respect and dignity when you shoot them, but that wasn’t really about the photography, so I won’t include that here.) I don’t dislike posters who rushed into business, I don’t even blame them, I can see how alluring becoming a fauxtog must be: praise and respect from your peers, the promise of an easy income doing something you enjoy, the prestige of being an artist. When you talk about my comments being a passion killer, is this the passion you are referring to? This is false passion. Puppy love for a hobby when naïveté has not yet allowed them to know the true nature of the world that “love” must survive. This is already going to be squashed at the first glimpse of the real world, and so I take little concern for it. True passion, the kind I talk about when I talk about passion, is not the mere dream of the gold medal, it is the passion that gets someone out of bed to practice every morning at 4am for 10 years. True passion is undeterred by such mundane things as criticism, pain, or hard work. You could fill a book with the stories of people who used to be photographers, or who used to want to be a photographer, but in almost every single one of their stories there would be one recurring theme. It was just too hard.

I understand the anger in their reactions, I even expect it. I was furious the first time I got a real, honest, unbiased review of my work. But through the emerald eyes of hindsight, I now see that it was that moment of pain that made it possible for all the growth that followed. You accuse me of cyber-bullying, of being malicious. That implies that it is my intention to tear them down. Indeed, if my intent were to get some ego boost or malicious pleasure, it would be far more effective to let them go and watch them eventually fail. There is no result of my words that is worse than letting them continue unawares, on the contrary, it is possible that a kind word would only boost their confidence in their ignorance and speed them on toward destruction. Truth offered frankly is more painful, but less damaging than a lie spoken in kindness.

You talk of giving general answers to their request for a general review. If they ask no questions, the best I can do is point out areas to study further. I do not say, “your lighting sucks” I say “you need to work on your lighting” and I admonish them to go out and find the answers. If offered a single image, the type of detailed review you refer to would be possible, but the space required to give a comprehensive review to someone’s portfolio is in the order of hundreds of pages then going on to offer remedies with full explanations would quadruple that. And besides, that type of review is best provided by an experienced mentor in small digestible chunks. Unless you happen to live within a stone’s throw of Winston-Salem, NC, I really can’t help you there. (not to mention I have three photographers I’m mentoring already)

Constructive criticism is only useful if the foundations you are building on are solid.

To tie this in some way back to this thread, I will point out that I am fully aware my reaction was much harsher on Kylie than it has been on others. Even though she assures me this isn’t true, I still question if she posted that her pictures were not paid for in an attempt to garner praise and avoid criticism. She has indeed failed to answer the simple question that would dispel this belief. What purpose was there in posting that comment and not mentioning that she is in business if not for the reason I’ve stated? But, even if all that was true, I realize that I was overly harsh in her case. I felt that she had not only taken advantage of her clients (which she most definitely had, if it was knowingly is debatable), but that she had lied to us about it, and as such, my usual wroth for those taking advantage of someone was compounded by the dishonestly. You do not need to tell me this again as though I am unaware, and besides I have apologized for it and explained my intentions to her.

I also want to add one note to dispel the misconception you seem to have concerning price and photography. Fauxtogs are a fairly recent phenomenon and photography survived quite well without them, and people didn’t go without pictures of their important events. Every good photographer that I know will work with any client to get them something in their price range, they will even recommend a photographer who does decent work who is less expensive if need be. A real pro’s goal is always client oriented. I will work with someone to build a package that fits their budget, no, they won’t get the super-mega-ultra-deluxe package of awesomeness, but they will get me long enough to get what they need. They can earn money toward their package by referring other clients. If all else fails, in my studio, if they still can’t afford me, they can hire one of the photographers I am mentoring, even though they are not up to scratch to do it on their own yet, I supervise the shoot, check the output and advise the photographer as he or she goes, shoot a little coverage if necessary, essentially acting as insurance for a photographer who isn’t ready to fly solo yet.

Incidentally, if my writing really does remind you of your friend, I would very much like to meet him and see his work. If he has anything remotely like the passion that I do for photography, he must have developer in his blood and he probably needs to be shooting, I’d love to give him help in closing that gap from experienced amateur to pro if he’d like to make that transition.