Home Forums Am I a Fauxtog? You'll Never Be A Great Photographer

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    When I as in art school, on my first day of my art 101 class, my professor told me that the majority of us would probably pass the class with a C, some will get B’s and the remainder, a very, very small percentage of us would get A’s. Only a small handful will ever do exceptional work. At the time I thought it was incredibly harsh. It took me years to realize that she was absolutely and unequivocally correct. I live in the land of a million photographers. It has been incredibly difficult to find work, maintain clients and stand out among all the others and I consider myself a really good photographer. Not a great photographer nor exceptional.

    The sad reality is that you will probably not be anything more than a good photographer either. The demographic of this site seems to be composed of a large number of portrait and wedding photographers who at it’s very best, has ok work that looks just like all the other good photography out there. One of the most ridiculous comments I’ve read on here was that originality is not important. Originality is what separates the great photographers from the good. And while I don’t consider myself a great photographer, I do aspire to be great. I aspire to be original and compelling in my work. I find that there are occasionally attitudes on here that don’t share a similar view point and I find that sad and unfortunate.

    Harsh criticism is a reality when you’ve decided that you want to put your work out there as an artist. It is very difficult to take. It turns many people away and they end up going off to do other things not being able to handle the pressure and rejection. If you can learn to handle the harsh critique early on, you’ll probably benefit later on in your career. College was barely a help to me. I was not able to apply the knowledge from college to real world situations. I had to adapt to the real world. If I had it to do over again, I would have taken a bunch of business, language and art classes at my own leisure in lieu of a full degree while assisting. I would have traveled to unknown places in the summers, picking up odd work when I could. Learning is a life long endeavor. It cannot be summed up in four years. One thing is for certain though, if you find that you are several years into it and you’re not getting better, it’s probably a good idea to start thinking of a different career path.


    I posted in another thread my thoughts about you before reading this, but after seeing this I got the impression that you do have at least some humility after all. Whether this thread was precipitated by a need to justify your previous posts, a need to tone it down after all the criticism you’ve been getting lately, or something else completely, only you can say.

    I will never compete with the Adams, Petersons, Leibovitzs or McNallys of the world (do I get ridiculed for the names that inspire me?), but I’d like to think I can take a decent photograph every now and then. I will never consider myself a professional and I know all too well what it takes to be great so I’ll just be content being where I am with the drive to improve, but it will be at my own pace. Photography has, and will continue to be a creative outlet for me, and if some of the shots I take bring pleasure to others, so much the better. If there are offers of compensation for what I can provide, then great, but I will never solicit myself as a pro or ask for money until I can gain the respect of the photographic community. I’m perfectly content providing for my family in an IT capacity and I don’t see that changing anytime soon.


    Ebi – I think you are showing your cards.

    I thought this post was very insightful into why you critique the way you do.  I think it is fine to tell it like it is, but for some that is too much.  Like I said before, I would rather someone tell me what they don’t like about my photography instead of just getting that gratuitous “great job” or “nice pic.”  When I hear this, I just cringe.  Real world criticism is hard to take for some, but it’s REAL!

    Some of this can be chocked up to taste.  Baskin Robbins has 31 flavors.  So like ice-cream, not every person is going to like your photo, but if you get 31 reviews and they all say the same thing, then it’s not taste, it’s you!

    I knew this one photographer, met her at a book store and we started talking.  We exchanged info, I like to network with people and I checked out her work on her facebook page.  Cringe!  [Wish I still had the link to her page]

    She had an eye for making good photos, but failed miserably in the execution.  Flowers with dead leaves, subjects out of focus or focused on wrong part, color and skin tone variances and even something simple like a level photo.  I made one tactful comment about her photo, boom de-friended.  Oh well, her loss.

    She obviously could not take the criticism.  All her friends all had great comments of her work.  I was like, what are they freaking high?  Freaking Helen Keller could have taken a better photo, and she was blind.


    Okay, I’ll stop before I rant and spare you all.  🙂



    @Sharra, i only criticize the love of leibovitz. But I have personal issues with her. Ansel Adams was the shit. The man was a genius.

    I’ll just be content being where I am with the drive to improve, but it will be at my own pace.

    I believe people need to be pushed to be creative. By being harsh you push them to either move out of the way or get with the program. I probably don’t need to be that rude and I don’t typically start out that way, but when I get excuse after excuse why something is the way it is, I find it annoying. A great example is the girl who said her color temp was a “look” she was doing and “we all can’t do the exact same thing” but her look was inconsistent. It was a mistake, she wasn’t paying attention to detail. She was being lazy and then trying to bullshit her way out of it. Bullshit works really well in this industry if you can pull it off. (I’ve seen photographers actually get jobs in Fiji b/c they said, “they have amazing clouds in Fiji, we have to go there for this shoot”.) But she wasn’t bullshitting the bullshitter in this situation. It’s the same with the MWAC in my very first post to this form in which I was called rude for a very mild comment. Since then i’ve been criticized for not giving a thorough enough critique and just insulting people. It is true that I have been somewhat insulting at times. I, however, will not critique work that is messy and disorganized. Just as when you are in art school you can fail a project just for horrible presentation – improper cutting, mounting, centering of the work on the board, etc. So I will simply say, your work is not good (or it sucks), you’ve got way too much stuff, edit. And this particular person did make a pretty decent edit before she took down her work completely and it worked much better. It made her look less sucky than she actually did. AND then I critiqued every photograph.

    I will never solicit myself as a pro or ask for money until I can gain the respect of the photographic community.

    You shouldn’t really be looking for respect from the photographic community. I don’t have respect from the photographic community. But I have clients that I work with regularly who continue to hire me to shoot projects for them. I’ve been sent all over the world, on their dime, to shoot travel stories…and they pay me for it. I’ve shot two books this year and was referred by the publisher of one of those books to shoot an ad campaign for a very well known travel company…that is all the validation that you need. From the family portrait or wedding perspective, it has to be more about getting referrals from other people. I don’t know what kind of photography you do so I cannot give you an accurate example. My work is both editorial and commercial. People on here can tell you what works and what doesn’t and help you to improve yourself in various ways but they cannot get you work. And work is the ultimate validation. I don’t really care about the “fauxtogs” featured on this site. They aren’t really working. they are making scraps from people who have not taste and/or have no money. They aren’t going to last. They are no threat to anyone, really.

    – I feel all you get in this industry is no feedback, no call back. People would rather not be confrontational. So the best response you get is: “We decided to go in a different direction” if anything at all. Her friends were kissing her ass. You were truthful, she wont’ get anywhere with that attitude. I recently made a small, tactful criticism of a friend and she defriended me as well. I found it really strange.


    I came across this today.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PHKa6GB5nS8   He doesn’t seem to have a very good impression of the school he dropped out of.



    Ebi, It amazes me that you can come across as such a harsh bellend in other topics yet so intelligible and sincere in this one…
    I’ll therefore continue my reply in response to this topic and it’s language only.

    Critiquing people here isn’t as cut and dry as you make it sound. You don’t know the people here or where they are in their journey. If someone doesn’t mention that they have been doing photography for 12 months you can’t assume it’s been longer and so critique as if they have been doing it for 5 years. That’s not entirely your fault, you just seem to jump the gun a bit which is why you come across as unfair and harsh. Props to you for wanting to continue to improve and be greater, a lot of us do. I know I’m not where I want to be and I always critique my own work and know where I can improve and be more original. I would love to have such a creative mind that I come up with a new fashion in photography. Will it happen? Who knows. Maybe one day I’ll have an epiphany when I press that shutter button and stumble across something never seen before.

    In a totally sincere way, i would love to see some of your work. Instead of telling people everything that is wrong with their images, why don’t you share some of yours and inspire them to become better? My site is and always has been linked under my user details here at YANAP. I have asked for critiques and has some very sound advice from users which i then put into practice. I DID learn something and now I’m the better for it.

    As an aside – Some people may be happy where they are, making a wage from happy clients every month. If they don’t want to be great you can’t force them to be, so don’t waste your energy trying.


    Ebi, you made some good points and wrote it in such a way where I wanted to read it, without calling me an idiot, but maybe you were still thinking it. But this is exactly what Bill, Thomas, and I have been trying to stress—if you take the time for formulate your thoughts in an engaging manner, we and others will be more apt to want to read what you have to say. If people don’t want to hear what you have to say or they’re defensive and make excuses about your comments, that would be the time for you to move on and let them continue as they have been if they don’t value what should come across as insightful help.

    I should clarify about the names I mentioned. I’m not a fan of everything any of them shoot, including Leibovitz. There are just some shots from her and the others that I find quite amazing and others that I don’t have much interest in. As with everyone, there are those photographers that catch their eye with some of said photographer’s images. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are photographers who have select images that invoke an emotional response from you, too.

    When I talk about getting the respect of the photographic community, like Bill, when I hear from people that I have an great photo, it’s usually from family and friends. I learn nothing from that. But if such praise comes from a group of other photographers at a local gathering or submissions to an online forum or contest, I’m of the mindset that if those people find something in those photos, then perhaps I can expand on that and begin pitching my services to potential clients. Maybe that’s the wrong approach to take, but I suppose I’m just not comfortable yet in going up to someone and saying “Hey, let me shoot your wedding!” unless I have the validation from others that I could make a go of it, perhaps not full-time, but a gig here and there.

    As with Thomas, I’d still love to see some of your work. You mentioned shooting a book in another forum and I thought you had mentioned writing a couple (perhaps it was just shooting them, too?). In any event, if you want to share the book titles, that would be great, but I’ll leave it at that if you would rather not say.

    You still may not give a fuck about what I think, but I still felt something needed to be said to clarify my previous posts. In no way am I trying to monopolize the conversation.


    That video is really interesting CC – though I don’t agree with everything he says, I do like what he says about motivating people. But then again I disagree that art/photography education is a waste of time for all. Perhaps because I taught art for years before  becoming a full time MWAC lol! It’s like everything in life, it will suit some and not others – some thrive in educational environments while others work better when they get out into the field. One thing is for sure, you never stop learning.

    My problem with photography education – though I’ve only studied it to a basic level so maybe it changes the higher you go – is that it never seems to incorporate both the technical and the artistic side, for me these are equally important. For example, all the basic courses I did, in adult education were only about the technical side, we never covered anything that would remotely suggest it’s an art form. Then I did A Level and we ONLY learnt about the art side – we didn’t cover one technical thing lol – it was a joke. Photography is an art but obviously the technical side is much more involved than most other mediums, so the art side and the tech side need to be taught in conjunction – which has never been my experience, and something I’ve found frustrating.


    I don’t think John Free is saying art/photography education is a waste of time.  He is saying you should qualify the school by looking at the instructor’s work before signing up for classes.  He is unfavourably impressed by instructors who don’t show their work and/or abuse students.  It’s not the diploma that’s important, it’s what’s in your head that counts.

    I think he firmly believes in education since he teaches.  This is from his About page:  “I am a social documentary photographer. I have taught classes and workshops at USC, UCLA, Pasadena City College, Newport Art Museum, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. I have worked professionally at this craft for more than 30 years. For my personal work, I do street photography.”

    I thought many of his points were salient to the critique discussions here.

    The last Art class I took was in grade 8 and I have never taken a photography class, so I can’t comment on what schools are doing.  In his video he says learning comes from within and he stresses the need to be able to work the camera quickly and effortlessly because in street photography the critical moment is gone in an instant.  Perhaps his classes would meet your expectations.


    Thanks for putting me straight CC. I didn’t look at that but will have a look now. He does seem like he’d be an awesome teacher!

    Actually I lied before, I did study very briefly in the states and that seemed a much more balanced course. Maybe it’s just the way it’s taught here.


    My first two photography course were taught by a brilliant photographer. I remember one of my classes happened around 9/11 and we had an assignment based on it the following week. There was a lot of unbelievably bad photography that week – mine included. (I’m kind of cringing while that entire semester plays out in my head right now.) Anyways, he brought in a bunch of really amazing photos – snapshots, btw – of his time in Afghanistan in the 80’s. He said the people were really friendly and he didn’t feel threatened at all. He said it would probably never feel like that for a white person in that land ever again.

    After that semester he left for something bigger and better and the photography program went to shit. I wasn’t a photography majore though. I was a graphic design major. I continued to take photo courses here and there but I was trying to prepare myself for a more lucrative career. By the end of my college career I had enough with design and wanted to still be a photographer. Here I am 10 years later…


    I think every arts student and grad in the West did cringey work around that time!

    What a memory those photos of Afghanistan must be – a now bygone era.


    I also did some really shoddy photography while in college. It proved to be more valuable afterwards. My photography professors were pretty good at touching both on the technical side and the creative side, but I also took numerous fine art courses other than photography and some digital software courses focusing on Adobe programs. I believe formal education  does help a lot, though I have known some self-taught photographer who never had formal education who were very motivated to learn and do just as well. It just depends on the person.


    The benefit to formal education in this field is that it forces you to improve and learn over a shorter period of time. One of the main goals of university is to get a degree at the end of your studies right? Well you are going to have to work hard and fast to get that degree if the course spans say 2 years. So you have 2 years to cram in as much learning as possible and to fulfill assignments to a standard which enable you to achieve that degree. A formal education may teach you some things you wont learn outside of it, but not all of it will be relevant. Formal education simply pushes you to achieve a better standard more quickly.

    I said in a previous post that I hated school, so the thought of a higher education was hellish to me. It wasn’t the learning that bothered me, it was other people and my state of mind when I finished at 16. Since then I have gone on to learn about things I want to learn about. I don’t know everything about everything, but I know enough to feel satisfied that I’m not a complete dunce.

    When you hit a stage in photography that all the technical stuff becomes second nature, that’s when you really start to have fun with it. You aren’t thinking so much, your mind is free to create and let go. You are free from your tools and are able to concentrate on everything else that goes into making an image. That’s a damn good feeling  :o)


    Save for a few random photographers, all the technical stuff tends to land on the responsibility of assistants. I’m of course talking about my world. I still handle all my own digital (b/c my clients know that I don’t really need a digital tech) but I have an assistant for every shoot handling the light for me. I don’t have to think about it. He knows what I like. We are “sympatico”. If I had to do it myself, I could, but I would just prefer not to. It all really depends on budget whether you get an assistant or not. I would rather take a pay cut to have the help I need than to do it all on my own.

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