One of the great things about technology (other than it helping us run our studio more effectively) is how accessible photography is to the general public: any average person can pick up a digital camera at their local electronics shop, snap a few photos and upload them online to share with the world. However, this has created a culture wherein everybody thinks they are a professional photographer! Now, we LOVE sharing our knowledge and talking shop with other folks in the photography industry, whether they’re complete newbies or seasoned pros. And we’ve been known to hire and help total beginners– that’s how you learn! But we’d be lying if we said we never snicker and cackle at the expense of certain wannabes. Hear us out!
We recently stumbled across a hilarious website called You Are Not A Photographer. They troll the internet (especially Facebook) for photos posted by folks who are charging money for their photography services, but lack some of the very basic skills (or basic gear…you know, like an SLR camera?) of the art!! These photos are re-posted (anonymously) for your amusement. So are we sharing this website just so that we can all point and laugh at the Fauxtographers? Not exactly. There is some truly legitimate advice, and lots of lessons to be learned from these photos. Pursuing your lifelong (or maybe week-long?) dream of making money from taking pictures is not a decision that should be taken lightly. It certainly shouldn’t be as easy as registering for an Official Fauxtographer’s Facebook Page. In fact, you should take all of the same considerations that you would take with any independent business. What product are you selling? What is it’s worth? Does your pricing accurately reflect your offering? Do you have any professional experience in this field? Is your business a worthy competitor for others in the same category? When starting up a business, it is a good idea to take a long, hard, critical look at yourself…because Chances Are You Suck.
(This is Patrick’s setup for his son’s first day of school. Kid you not. Pun intended.)
Photojournalist Kenneth Jarecke who indeed, does not suck, wrote this very insightful article about social media and the culture of praise that creates Fauxtographers. Although these budding businesspeople may have a lot of strengths, it is their inability to examine (and improve!) their weaknesses that will stop them from becoming Real Photographers. Jarecke makes an excellent point: “If nothing is bad, can anything be good?”
Now, after checking out You Are Not a Photographer, and hearing that Chances Are You Suck…you’re probably a little paranoid. Am I (or someone I know) a Fauxtographer!? Here’s a link to a few questions to ask yourself, and some advice on How Not to be a Fauxtog. Some other things to add on to that list:
- Educate yourself! Whether you take classes, read books, watch tutorials online, or ask good photographers great questions, you always have the opportunity to learn more about the craft of photography. And with technology improving and changing everyday, even the old school (shooting with film, developing in a darkroom) can learn from the new (culling techniques, digital post-production).
- Work! You are not above volunteering, assisting, or second-shooting. This puts you in a prime position to learn from folks who have been doing this for years. In fact, our own Patrick was recently a second for a shoot in London. It’s fun, it’s low stress, and a great way to get even better at what you do.
- Be Prepared! Know where you’re going, what you’re doing, what you’ll have available to you when you get there. Although you won’t always have a perfect photoshoot condition (in fact, it’s likely you won’t) you need to be able to handle yourself. You may have seen the recent scandal over some poorly posed and lit Olympics pictures. Now, the photographer claims that it wasn’t an ideal situation– but as a professional, you need to be prepared for that.
- Listen! Though praise and admiration will make you feel great, some good ole fashioned critiquing can make you BE great. There are undoubtedly people in your life willing to tell you the cold, hard truth about your work and what you can do to improve it. In fact, the PWP crew is known to be brutally honest with each other…we can be brutally honest with you, too!
- Practice! You need to be consistent. If someone hires you based on a portfolio of images you’ve shown them, you need to be absolutely sure that’s what you can deliver. If you are poor at posing people, get a friend and help them get comfortable in front of the camera. If you aren’t so great at extreme lighting situations, visit a dark museum or a bright garden and mess around with your settings. And if you’ve never taken pictures at a live event before, well…get out there and do it! Don’t wait until you have a check in hand before you realize you’re in over your head.
(This is what Patrick brings as carry-on on the plane when flying to an on-location shoot. We won’t talk about the 2-3 other suitcases he checks.)
In all seriousness, everyone with the interest and the passion has the ability to become a good photographer. It’s a lifelong learning process, and we’re grateful to those that shared their knowledge with us, and proud to pass it on.