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

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    @MBC A lot of what you say makes sense and you write very well—much like a friend of mine who is very passionate about photography but doesn’t feel he has the skills yet to call himself more than an experienced amateur. For him, and for me, preserving the memory is by far more important than winning the Pulitzer for Photography or something akin to National Geographic’s or Life’s Picture of the Year. Yes, I agree that clients expect a reasonable quality of photos, but that is inherently tied to their budget. I’ve read some of your comments where it seemed you were a little hot under the collar and you wanted to reach through your screen to the person you were commenting about and scream some things to them that meet your photographic ideals, and only yours. That is hardly constructive criticism and I’d be willing to bet you’re still learning even after 32+ years of being in the business, as we all learn new things every day no matter what profession we’re in.

    This site is much more dedicated to “your photo f***ing suck”  types of responses and, as a result, constructive criticism is hard to come by here. To me, the idea of constructive criticism is not a total stripping down as you say you’ve been through. Comments like some of those on here are real ego deflators and passion killers, but there are certainly times when things need to be said to get the submitter’s head out of the clouds or think they are God’s gift to photography. I’ll give you that much, but not not by being malicious about it for the sake of it. I also think that your comment (used a few times) about being in the business longer than someone has been alive has an air of pompousness behind it, but that is just my opinion.

    It’s far too easy to say thinks like “your lighting is bad”, “your composition stinks”, “your backgrounds are distracting, your subject is out of focus, etc.” but a lot of the comments stop there. There is very little of the WHY and “here’s what you can do to make it better.” Books can only tell you so much and content is more often than not geared toward the technical side of photography, ie: here’s a photo and here are the ISO, aperture, and shutter settings to make it better. There’s no WHY in that text. Photography is much more than numbers for the exposure triangle, meter readings and lighting ratios or GN numbers. I know you understand all that. But to have malicious comments on here with nothing to back it up amounts to nothing more than cyber-bullying, plain and simple. It’s far too easy to blast away at someone from behind a screen than it is face to face. I think you are just as guilty of that but at least you have the decency to say it more tactfully than most of the others on here. It’s up to the person receiving those comments to interpret them as they fit, but if that information is taken negatively, you tried your best to help.

    I for one would like to see what 32 years of experience and dozens of magazine covers look like. I dare you to post a link and and any descriptive text you like to the Photography Showcase forum. You may get some flack from those who have nothing better to do than criticize because it makes them feel superior, but I’m sure there will be a lot more positive comments and questions on the how and why you shot something one way as opposed to another or what type of lighting you used and where you placed it, exposure settings, lenses used, and anything else behind the whys of even more. As harsh as IHF can be, I’m almost positive that she and many others would like to see and read about all that. Unless, of course, you feel that contributing in that way violates your business sense because you’re not being compensated for your “online instruction”…

    I invite you and any others who see this to read the Pricing post in the main YANAP discussion forum and post your thoughts about it there.


    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.



    I looked at your images and passed the link on to my friend. I’m in no position to critique them and I don’t think he will be either. I think they are very nicely done, but I was wondering if the shot with the woman having the sphere coming out of her elbow is any better that having a lamp post growing out of one’s head that professionals and amateurs alike frown upon. And I thought when I saw the face in the rippled glass (at least that’s what I think it is) that “Hmmm, I’ll have to try something like that.” As for meeting my friend, you’ll have to make a date to come see the Calgary Stampede or stop by on your way to Banff or Lake Louise, either for skiing or summer vacation. I know he’s overly critical of himself and I think he has the impression that there’s maybe a half dozen images in the thousands he’s taken that are worth anything. I tell him he needs to have more confidence in his abilities but maybe he think he’s another GWC who knows the technical details but has problems with the artistic side. Like you, he is VERY good on paper, even with creative writing, but photography is a whole different thing altogether. Like me, he is a software developer so I suppose our left-brain logic far outweighs the right-brain creativity, if that makes any sense.

    It was your comments about the reprehensible nature of shooting women without any concern for dignity that got me thinking about your type of criticism. I do agree with you that shooting women needs to be done with a lot of respect to them; I just took exception to the way you replied. I also don’t think rattling and tearing down are very different from each other because there are times when both do more damage than good. I also addressed what you thought were my misconceptions about photography and pricing n the pricing thread.

    When I read your responses to MeriLeighPhoto, I was thinking, “YES! This is the way photographic discussion should be!” The way you took the time to explain filters and other concepts to her is very commendable to say the least. It’s not wrong to be harsh, but there are times and places where it needs to be done. I’m not saying everyone needs to be treated with kid gloves or be treated as a total neophyte to photography either. I suppose you and I don’t agree on what some of those times and places are for being harsh, but they are pretty close for the most part. I’ve heard about the 20 terms you mentioned in another thread but admittedly didn’t know them all (I got 17).

    It was not my intention to be sarcastic, but I have to wonder about the passive-aggressive thing. There is a video on YouTube that has several thousand comments where the term appears in several hundred that I know of. It’s about a person in one country that calls the other country insignificant and stupid and of course the thousands of comments are petty bickering about which one is better. There is another video that talks about the peace and great relationship these two countries share. The countries in question are the US and Canada. You’re American and, yes, I’m Canadian, but I have to wonder if all Americans think Canadians are passive-aggressive? I don’t take offence to it but that is a topic that shouldn’t be discussed in a photography forum and so I’ll leave it at that. If you or anyone reading this would like to see which videos I’m talking about, search YouTube for “Tucker Carlson calls Canadian retarded” and “Tom Brokaw explains Canadians to Americans.” Any guesses which one I like better? Just out of curiosity, how close do you live to Tommy Jordan? 🙂

    All in all, I would like to thank you for your candor. If you continue with your advice and doses of harshness where you think it’s appropriate, I know I’ll be back to seek them out. I’m thinking there’s a lot I could learn from you, too. Are there any other forums, like Digital Photography School, that you regularly contribute to?



    Your  question about merging is valid. Merging with the head or any part of the body that makes it look inappropriate is always wrong, the body coming into contact with things in the background is a much grayer area. In this case, I don’t have a real problem with it. If I had it to shoot again, I would have set the shot up a little differently, but I don’t feel it breaks the shot in any way. The other image you mentioned was actually a sample photo I shot for a photography competition I’m in charge of. The theme was “Picasso in Four Dimensions” and I chose to use something fluid to both represent time (the fourth dimension) and to provide me with the Picasso like distortion of the features. She is actually posing behind a cascade of water.

    Concerning your friend, I wasn’t actually talking about a face to face meeting, I kinda meant that you were welcome to tell him he could contact me if he’d like any help. Good passion is hard to find. I sincerely doubt your friend is a GWC. “Guy with Camera” is a derisive term for a no-talent photographer who uses his camera to get women to take their clothes off.

    Passive aggressiveness is a term that get’s thrown around a lot, and it is definitely not just a Canadian thing, we Americans are plenty good at it too. The comment “Unless, of course, you feel that contributing in that way violates your business sense because you’re not being compensated for your ‘online instruction'” is the main one I considered to be a little passive aggressive. It does not, if deconstructed, say anything negative, (passive) but it is clearly meant as a challenge (aggressive). Your direct dare to post my work was much more palatable. I merely intended to point out the irony of you giving me a hard time about being harsh when you were being passive-aggressive. Most arguments have a few passive-aggressive comments creep in, especially when you are trying to be polite and get your point across. It’s not big deal, really, but I thought it was worth mentioning so that you would be aware of it.

    I am very glad that we can agree to disagree. And I’m glad you can understand that I don’t make the decision to be harsh lightly, and I do it with the intention to help rather than harm. Generally speaking, I don’t do a lot of commenting online. When message boards were a new thing, you could talk photography on the boards. These days it seems like the photography boards are all about Photoshop and focused on complicated fixes for things that could be fixed in two seconds in camera, and when you post a comment to that effect, you get ignored, so I pretty much stopped. The only reason I started posting here is because I enjoy the blog, and thought I would post in the forum to help get it started. I have greatly enjoyed posting here, and I have devoted more time to some of the posts than a person with my schedule probably should, but I justify it because a couple of the posts here will be adapted into essays when I finally get by blogging engine written.

    Since you’re a programmer you’ll appreciate this, I’m working on a blogging engine that is designed to be completely modular and completely customizable, i.e. it has no defined structure within the programming itself. The user defines a cascading set of HTML snippets for each datapoint which will recursively populate themselves out of the database when called, and even the datapoints themselves can be freely rearranged to meet specific output requirements. The idea is to set it up so that you can call the entire blog, where it will recursively work its way through the entire system and generate the HTML output for the whole page, or you can call the individual modules and integrate them into the page where ever you want them, allowing you to conform the blog to your existing site design for a seamless integration.


    It goes to show what I know about artistic talent when what I thought was glass is actually water. 🙁 Now that I know what it is, it makes perfect sense. I told my friend about your offer. I’m doubtful he’ll take you up on it, though, because he’s really self-conscious about showing anything. He doesn’t have a website or even a Facebook page for his photography. He has never uploaded photos there and the only pic he has there is a profile pic that is 5 years old!

    May I ask what type of equipment you use for a typical shoot? I know the equipment really has no bearing on what can be produced that meets all the criteria for a good photo, but I guess I’m just wondering what I should be aiming for. I doubt a Nikon D300 and the 18-200mm kit lens make the grade anymore.

    Your software project sounds interesting; I hope it works out for you.

    I feel bad that we’ve been monopolizing Kylie’s thread, especially since my tirade on IHF, which she really didn’t deserve after I read her “Why I’m here” thread in the main forum, so if you’re reading this, IHF, I apologize for my rudeness. This conversation can certainly be taken elsewhere if it makes everyone more comfortable…


    I have four words to sum up the three pages of posts here: Too Long, Didn’t Read!



    As a consumer who does have a knowledge about photography, I may not hire Malula exclusively to take my wedding photos, but I would definitely feel comfortable with her as a second shooter and I would choose her take my kids birthday pics for sure!

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