His Friends Hired a Fauxtog

From our email:

“You guys might have a suggestion.

Two close friends of mine got married and had a wedding three years ago. They paid $1400 for a photographer to take heavily HDR’d photos with a fisheye lens. There were about 80 photos of the same positioning… They have some pretty decent photos on their website, but I’m not 100% sure its theirs.. they didn’t use any external lights whatsoever in my friend’s photos, yet there is evident talent behind their lighting on their webpage. The photos she got were atrocious. Not even excusable as an amateur’s.
Any suggestions what to do? Or how to address it in the future?”
Have at it.

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  1. I would always ask if the photographer coming to the wedding is the actual one who took the photos on the website and get that in writing on the contract. Many wedding establishments book multiple weddings and send what basically amounts to summer interns to do the actual photography with a borrowed pro camera and very little training on it. It sucks, but it happens a lot.

    • This is great advice- this happened to me with my wedding DJ- we met several times with our dj- or so we thought- on the actual day someone else showed up and he didn’t know what he was going. He didn’t even have out list of music for the day! My sister in law’s entire wedding shoot was lost by her fauxtog who later asked her why she was so upset when another professional (meaning me) also shoot the wedding! I was just there with my Pentax 35mm and a crappy flash I borrowed from a friend! THANK GOODNESS I brought it and managed to get images from all the different events- she got her album from ME- for free.

  2. I actually just watched a Judge Joe Brown with a case that had a woman sueing a fauxtog for breach of contract. The contract said she would take professional photos with ….(insert photography jargon that I know nothing about) and she took crap photos so she was sueing for a portion of her money back. She said she was not sueing for all of the money back because she thought it was fair for her to pay a little for the ‘togs time. However, Judge Joe realized the photos were crap and definitely not professional so he awarded the woman ALL of her money back. So, apparently, a lawsuit might be an option.

    • DG Freeman

      don’t take advice from a tv judge ;(

      • Seconded, different country’s, different markets, different perceptions.

        What is acceptable to one person is not to another, I can name a photographer near me who’s work is of a seriously low standard by my own perception but the clients are happy with what he produces, so why should I question him?

        Complaints can range from “some one isnt looking straight” to “the photos make me look fat” or anything else in a rainbow of options.

        And I use those 2 examples that alone don’t obviously indicate anything technically wrong with the work produced.

      • I actually saw this episode. He knew what he was talking about… asked her what f/stop she was using and she said a telephoto lenses. She didn’t know the speed and it was very obvious that she shot on automatic the entire time.
        He use to be a photographer for a national magazine. So, this was the wrong judge to not know how a the shutter speed and f-stop work.

      • … and I should have read that before I sent it. It kind of hurts to read. Hopefully that made sense. haha.

      • Actually this ep is on you tube if you’re really curious

    • Mike Love

      I saw that clip a few weeks back! Turns out Judge Joe is/was a bit of an amateur photog, and knew what he was talking about, so he lit into the “professional” and revealed her embarrassing lack of knowledge. Was actually quite funny!

      • sandra young

        i saw that one too..he really knew what he was talking about and totally blew the fauxtogs outta the water!

      • he didn’t know much at all.

        he just knew a bit more than the fauxtog

      • I agree with Mark. It sounded like he knew a fair amount way back when. But times have changed for photographer and more so for digital photography. He had also, obviously, never been a part of the wedding photography world. 70% of church officials that I have ever dealt with have rules regarding photography during a ceremony. I have had one flat out not allow any and another require that I stay back in the balcony area during the wedding. Flash is almost never allowed in any of these more picky official’s ceremonies and in dark churches this can be an issue. I have all of this covered in my contracts and have numerous discussions with my clients about lighting of the ceremony and reception, the official’s requirements, etc…I have excellent equipment but that doesn’t mean I’m expected to perform miracles. I also do not use a tripod. I often work solo and in an 8-12 hour day carrying around the gear I do have with me can be exhausting(I never leave any gear behind anywhere as I have had things stolen from me) I’m not going to carry around an awkward tripod trying for the perfect shot in the minutes it would take to set everything up. I have lenses with IS and a steady hand. I move quickly(no one likes to stand and wait in a large group for a photog to set up their gear) and then snap through those group shots without an issue and move to the next item on the couple’s must have list. If I have more than one photog on wedding that would be a different story, but I rarely do. The only time it’s an issue is when I’m shooting in near pitch black and then I’m creative and still make it work. So Brown’s comments show his lack of up to date knowledge about wedding photography. I also believe he was out of line with his behavior towards the fauxtogs and his awarding more than the asked for amount just for no other reason than not liking them. They were obviously fauxtogs and did not earn the price they charged for subpar work but then the bridal couple obviously did not do their homework on the photographers. Paying back a portion would’ve been fair.

  3. first of all i am not sure what “your” role in this is other than being a friend of the bride….as far as what you should do or how you should address this in the future seems an odd question….did the bride ask for your help or are you just nosing in? and no i don’t mean to be “pissy” about this, but i am not understanding what you are wanting? it wasn’t your wedding and “how should i address this in the future” concerns me….how many more times in the future is your friend getting married? LOL….if you did NOT get what you paid for, give them a chance to fix and or make it as right as they can, if they can’t and or refuse to, take them to court….

    • It came up when me being a photog came up. She showed me the pictures and I was blown away, especially after learning of the price.

      I’m kinda nosing in, we talked about what they can do, if anything… turns out not to be worth it.
      I’m going to try to get some cute shots of them so it doesn’t ring so badly in their memories. I know a few other friends that are getting married and I’d like to know how to deal with it in case it comes up with them.

    • @ Karrie: “give them a chance to fix and or make it as right as they can” you mean like that guy that wanted his wedding re-shoot even after he got the divorce and the ex was in Russia? hahahah no, you cannot do that with a wedding, that is the whole point!

      • There is still things you can do to re edit them. Not use HDR, and try to correct some of the lens distortion from the fish eye in order to get more “normal” looking pictures.

    • You’re entirely too pissy for this type of site…

  4. Casey Wood

    That’s terrible!! Unfortunatly, there is proberly not alot you, or your friends can do other than ask for a refund and possibly take it legally of you get no response as you may be able to go the photographer on false advertising or something of the sort!!

    Wedding photos are so very important and I would normally suggest to shop around and don’t be too focused on price – their are other things you can go cheaper on so you can afford the best for you money!! It’s the one thing you get to keep from your day!!

    I’ve had clients come through my business who were disappointed with their wedding shots and I’ve gotten a make-up artist and hair dresser into my studio and we’ve gone and re-created their wedding shots!! Some people have just dressed up nicely – but I’ve had several clients go the whole hog and get in their wedding dress and tux!! I’d suggest to your poor friends that maybe they could look into something like that, it’s never the same and is no concelation but at least it’s something to hang on the wall!!

    It’s very disappointing to find that there are photographers out there that are happy to play with people’s memories like that! Although it’s proberly another case of, one buys a ‘professional’ camera, one stumbles their way through using the ‘professional’ camera and then uploads images to FB or another public forum of some kind and then ‘friends’ say how wonderful they are and they should start a business and bada-bing-bada-boom – they have a fb business page and are taking bookings for weddings!! So so sad and Im devistated for your friends!! 🙁

    • Casey Wood

      Might I add – the people coming through my business with shitty wedding photos were not done by me and I re-shot their wedding for them!! Lol

    • Thanks, I actually contacted the business about doing just that (the reshoot, not the refund) and they pretty much said that the photos were okay’d by her and they wouldn’t be willing to do a reshoot.

      It’s a couple, and the wife took the photos, I guess most of the photos are from the husband(?). Their website itself is still unfinished (e.g. pages that still have the sample text of what to write on the About Me page). I left it, I’m not confrontational, but I was incredibly disappointed in them and their service.

      And I understand the entire fool with a camera and business… but usually they don’t swindle you out of more than a few hundred.

  5. I think most decent wedding photographers will have complete albums that you can view BEFORE you make the commitment. I know mine did, I saw 3 complete albums, and plus he regularly (usually weekly) updates his blog with his latest wedding. But I really suggest viewing a full, completed album. Because most photographers will only upload a handful of shots, probably the best ones from the day. So at least by viewing a complete album you’ll get more of an idea of what you can expect.
    I also agree with the above, make sure that the person you speak to IS the photographer, and that the work you are viewing is theirs and not someone elses that may have worked for them.

  6. I would have asked for referrals, looked at their equipment and certificates or diplomas from any photographic schools they may have attended.

  7. Technical expertise is 60% of a good photo but a photographer can learn how to light and shoot properly without ever having to attend a paid program. Making sure your wedding isn’t in the beginning of the photographer’s learning/experience curve is important. Hiring an ACTUAL wedding photographer is also key- they know what to shoot and how to talk to people to get shots you need. I found that the detail and candid party shots were more important than the hundreds of posed shots of my husband and I. Also ask about the shooter’s equipment- how many cameras do they have? What do they use for extra lighting? If they get in a car accident right before the wedding- do they have several back ups? This actually happened to my best friend’s wedding photographer guess what- he had 3 back ups- the man was a SUPER HERO! What he didn’t have was a diploma- just a website full of great shoots from the weddings he personally shoots every day.
    As for the friend here- is the couple happy with their shots? If so, MUMS the word!!! No need to point out how horrible their shoot is and get them angry about it 3 entire years after the fact. They have a slew of new images I’m sure they love- it’s just PHOTOS- the marriage is more important (especially now).

  8. My friend’s sister had the exact same thing happen to her – with both her video and photo package that was booked through a popular DC firm, and my friend was devastated when showing them to me. I asked her to get the raw footage & proofs so I could at least ATTEMPT to correct some of them – and I told her to ask for all of her $ back. I like what Robyn said, and I wouldn’tve thought of that: “I would always ask if the photographer coming to the wedding is the actual one who took the photos on the website and get that in writing on the contract.”

  9. 1) get the contract out and see what if any rememdies are listed in there. Most contracts limit the amount of damages to the amount paid.

    2) like others – not sure what the “how can I avoid this in the future means” – does it mean you as a client or you as a fauxtogher? As a client you avoid this by doing everything suggested above –
    a) ask for references
    b) ask to see more photos
    c) ask what their experience is
    d) who is going to shoot the event? If it is not the person showing you their photos – that is a red flag – demand to see photos shot by the person doing your wedding.
    e) ask how they learned photography. This is different than asked to see a degree or certificate – many very good photographers never have taken a course in their lifes. Many very bad photographers have taken a ton of them and have certificates to prove it.
    f) Gear – don’t ask them what kind of camera or brand they shoot – you can get good photos with any camera – Ask instead – do you have backups? Cameras, lenses, flash, cords, cards, what do you have backups of…
    g) avoid fads – hdr is a fad, spot color was a fad, high-key is a fad, etc… Good photos will last a lifetime. Bad photos look like they were taken in a certain year and have an expiry date on them.

    As a photographer you avoid this problem by:
    a) don’t promise what you can’t deliver
    b) see the list above of client questions – if you can’t answer it or provide the information don’t do weddings for money.
    c) have a contract that spells out EVERYTHING.

    • d and e are exactly what i was looking for. Thank you.

    • As I read through the responses, I like yours the best so far. It list out good points.

      One point that saves me from posting that you write, “a) don’t promise what you can’t deliver”. If what you are promising is a lie, don’t cry faul when you get exposed. One cannot assume that when they study other people’s work that they can reproduce it without practice or experience.

      Having other more impressive work on your site with images STOLEN from other establish photographers amounts to fraud in my opinion. It’s like booking a 5 star hotel in another country and showing up to a rundown inn with dirty sheets and a tube tv with a cracked screen. This is a real crime what some people do and they should be punished and realize it is not an ok business practice.

      There are areas of photography where I have a lot of skill and experience and others that I have little to none. Because I have a camera doesn’t make me an expert in all areas of photography. I have a sound understanding of how to compose and light many things, maybe not all. If I know that what is being asked of me is not what I have enough experience, I will be dead honest and say so. Shooting weddings is NOT something to learn as you go along. That’s why many start as assistants, seeing what is done by the photographer, then become second shooters and then main photographer.

      I do not regularly travel the globe taking photos of various cities, so I do not promote myself as a travel photographer. I rarely go out with the intent to shoot nature, or random people on the street and call myself a nature/wildlife or street photographer.

  10. See if the contract the photographer wrote up (if there even is one) says anything about liability in case of poor performance?

  11. IF you want revenge then see if the fauxtog is a real business – permits, license, did he charge sales tax? If not, report him to your state tax office. Most state’s require that sales tax be listed separately on receipts. Call the state’s attorney office for fraud. He showed one thing and delivered another.

    ***NOTE: if you are a real photographer you have permits, licenses, paid tax receipts, insurance (gear, location, unable to do the job coverage), a contract, and a lawyer on speed dial. The revenge attack won’t work.***

    If you want the money back for a re-shoot, see what the statue of limitations is and take him to court.

  12. As far as degree/formal education goes, I think that’s the least important requirement. I became a wedding photographer way back in 1997 because I was too cheap to hire a professional and relied on family/friends. The photos came out so bad that I won’t even post them as a cautionary tale. When I broached the subject to my fauxtographers, they all said “let’s see you do better then”. So that’s what I did – set out to do better.

    Also, be careful when you make references a requirement. I personally would be pissed if I hired a professional for *anything* and then they later gave out my phone number to prospective clients. Sure, you can ask your past clients ahead of time, but what if the prospective client is a complete jerk and burns a bridge with your previously happy client? Even worse, what if the prospective client is a fake – another wedding photographer looking into your business practices?

    I recently had a situation in which a prospective client was asking for references via email, but refused to speak over the phone. I ended up letting that one go.

    Likewise, I’ve always felt a little iffy about sending out complete galleries of hundreds of personal photos to prospective clients. I’ve done it before in my studio (never via email), but I have to ask myself: “what if they love my work, but aren’t that crazy about this one particular wedding?” Likewise, were I to get remarried, I would NOT want my *entire* gallery with all those personal moments being tossed around.

    Blog posts definitely give a good impression of a tog’s skill – look for a ‘full’ looking blog post that has highlights of getting ready, ceremony, portraits and reception events. If they throw up five random shots, that’s a concern, but if they pack it with 20-50 and blog often, you’re probably going to be okay.

    Privacy, respectability and trust is a two way street – the client has to trust and respect their wedding vendors, but at the same time can’t come across as a prima donna or a suspicious jerk. You can’t create art from behind a wall of indifference or animosity.

  13. Another suggestion – add your photographer to facebook. More than likely, they’ve got dozens or hundreds of past clients there and it’s a great way to see what others think of your photographer without invading anyone’s privacy with a midnight phone call 😀

  14. Aside from the fact, already mentioned, that nobody understands your role in this, despite you supposed clarification above, and the possibility that this is a spoof question I think it’s worth addressing.

    isn’t it a bit obvious that someone is not on top of their game if their website still has template text in it?

    As a ‘tog who is trying to organise a wedding fair I have seen a lot of really bad web sites from other “wedding professionals” such as florists that don’t even have contact details on – they get away with it because there are fewer florists – but Photography is so competitive that we are streets ahead of the norm.

    When every idiot with a camera thinks they are a pro photographer and there are thousands to choose from why on earth would they think that the only one with “Lorem ipsum . . .” or whatever in their about us page would be the one to choose?

    I hear pro photographers banging on about how they are being put out of business by people like this and it makes my blood boil. It’s not the fauxtogs that are the problem, it is the customers. I have no idea if $1400 is cheap as I live in the UK and markets vary enormously but they were certainly a little naive (the french word for “%£^$£” stupid” if they chose these people. If it is too good to be true (“I was blown away, especially after learning of the price”) then it isn’t true.

    Frankly they deserve everything they got (or didn’t get):
    1. They did No research into the people they used – they didn’t even get info from the “about us” page because it was . . . err . . .missing!
    2. Not comparing to other photographers (except on price). I bet they were feeling great; “We got this great photographer and she’s only $1400”. Well, guess what . .

    It’s a shame their gamble didn’t pay off but that’s what it was – a gamble

    • Oh I totally agree!

      $1400 is insanely cheap in my eyes, but a lot of it depends on the market. In the cheap wedding capital of the world (Las Vegas), wedding couples are only looking for the lowest prices, to the point where I don’t instantly cringe when I see someone charging $1400.

      We’ve been shooting over 14 years and while shooting in the midwest we easily commanded 5k+ for a wedding, we’ve been stuck at the $3000 (and less) mark in Las Vegas for so long that I’m contemplating moving out of wedding photography entirely.

  15. Tineye.com is your friend in this situation. Run images through it to see if they are just using stock photos.

  16. I picked my wedding photographer based on the images she had on her site (ones featured all over her marketing material too). When it came time for our final consultation, I brought in the images from her website I really liked and asked her to take ones like that and she laughed and said, “Oh- those pictures didn’t really look like that- that’s all photoshop!” Then she told me she outsources all her photo correction, so she couldn’t even photoshop the images lie that for us. I paid over $4400 thinking she’d take pictures for us like she had on her site. My advice is to bring in the kind of images from their site that you want when you’re making your initial decision, and keep track of all of your correspondence, especially if they make any promises about what kind of photos (and what finished product) they’ll give you. I had an awful experience, and my “amateur photographer” friends took WAY better pics from our wedding than our expensive and high-maintenance “pro”.

  17. smbdysangel

    I have a similar issue. I hired a pro to shoot my wedding this past May. She said I would have several hours with her and a second shooter. I should have asked who the second shooter would be then but I didn’t. She ended up bringing her SISTER… who is not a photographer. The photos that my initial photographer took are awesome but the ones her sister shot are obvious. :/ From what I understand she often gets fauxtogs to second shoot for her for free to “build their portfolio”. That way they’re not getting paid and she takes all the money. Soo frustrating!

  18. heavily HDR’d? does that mean… keeping it gritty, and the light smoothing on its lowest setting, or what? that looks horrible. HDR looks best when kept as subtle as possible.

  19. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Lz-07D5KoE&feature=related

    Judge Joe Brown Knows what he is talking about when it comes to photography.

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