…and how can you spot one?
The Fauxtographer/Photographer debate has been going strong for a while now in photography circles. Everyone has a different opinion of what makes someone a ‘professional’ and what makes one a ‘hobbyist’.
By definition, a ‘professional’ is someone who earns a living, or at least a portion of their income, from their chosen career. Most people would also agree that a professional has established a legal business in their chosen line of work, or is employed by a legal business. A professional also pays taxes on the income made from their work.
However, I personally have viewed *horrible* photography work created by people who I know to be running legal photography businesses and paying taxes. Just because you’re running a legal business doesn’t mean you actually possess photography or retouching skills. On the flip side, I also know people who have fantastic photography skills but no desire to operate a business.
So since there are a lot of gray areas, I’m going to define Fauxtographer as it relates to commentary on this website.
In my opinion, and for the purposes of this website, being a Professional Photographer is more about mastery of the photographic medium and quality of work produced, as well as the work ethics, business practices, and customer service standards adhered to, than about what someone charges – but you do tend to get what you pay for.
A Fauxtographer, then, has any/all of the following traits:
1. Lacks technical skills. A camera is a tool. Nothing more. It doesn’t operate itself. It doesn’t automatically take awesome pictures. Technically sound, pleasing images are produced because the person holding the camera has taken the time to learn how to operate it. Fauxtographers put the camera on AUTO and “Spray & Pray” – take a bunch of pictures and hope some come out ok.
2. Doesn’t understand that they lack technical skills. This is the part that makes Professional Photographers absolutely whacked-out crazy annoyed. Fauxtographers really seem to think they do good work – or maybe they just don’t care that their work is crap. Most Professional Photographers that I know agonize over our work. We pick it apart, try to figure out how we could have made a given shot better, and never ever say “I’m good enough.” With their heads firmly planted in dark spaces, Fauxtographers seem to think that all of the wisdom of the photographic universe was bestowed upon them when they opened up their DSLR on Christmas morning.
3. Has poor work ethics. To me, the equation is simple. If you lack technical skills, then you don’t have mastery of your craft. If you don’t have mastery of your craft, then you cannot produce quality work. If someone is accepting money, in any amount, in exchange for producing work for you, and that work is of poor quality, then that person has poor work ethics. People with high work ethics don’t settle for producing poor quality work.
4. Has poor customer service. Corollary to #3. It’s not possible to simultaneously provide exemplary customer service and sub-standard work. Period.
5. Undercuts – or even bashes – Professional Photographers. I’ve seen it many times – Fauxtographers marketing their work and saying things like “Who can afford those expensive photographers? Their prices are ridiculous! I will shoot your family session for a fraction of the cost of that other photographer. You’ll get the same thing for a lot less money.” This displays a complete lack of understanding of the costs involved in operating a business. It also solidifies the fact that the Fauxtographer doesn’t even possess the skill to accurately assess their own work – she thinks she’s producing the *same thing* as the Professional Photographer. Please see our Professional Photographer Pricing page for more info on the labyrinth that is pricing – but know, too, that a very cheap photographer is likely worth exactly what you pay.
6. Does not have professional resources. What if you want gallery-wrapped canvases to display in your home? Suppose you have an album of family images, and you’d love to find another similar album to put smaller images in. Imagine that your parents are crazy about watching slideshows of images and would love to have a CD slideshow of your family session to watch over and over. The Fauxtographer often has no knowledge or experience with vendors that provide professional quality photographic products. Additionally, most of those vendors require a tax ID number or other proof that their clients are legal businesses, which the Fauxtographer likely doesn’t have, so she couldn’t use those vendors anyway.