What is a fauxtographer?
It’s a photographer that misrepresents themselves to clients by appearing like they are a trustworthy business when their galleries are made up images that are not their own creations or they are vastly misrepresenting their experience and capabilities. This may be someone who is experienced in one form of photography and is trying to break into another side of photography (i.e. a newborn photographer wanting to shoot boudoir, or a product photographer wanting to get into weddings, etc.)
Since 2012 a wonderful fellow professional photographer in Northern Ohio, Corey Ann, has been running a great website called Photo Stealers and every day I’m more and more amazed how many photographers there are that are not using their own images to “sell” themselves to a client. Instead these faux’s are using Google Image Search and picking some of the great images on the web to put in their portfolio in hopes of getting a client and making a quick buck. While it is becoming a well known, and disturbing, occurrence in the photography industry, the people that are hurt by this are their clients. The Photo Stealers blog is dedicated to the hopes that the word gets around. I check the Photo Stealers “Wall of Shame’ often and am amazed at the gall some people have to try and make a dollar at the expense of someones cherished moments. If your reading this, hopefully, you won’t become a victim to what the photography industry calls a fauxtographer.
Here are a few things to watch for and what to ask to flush them out:
1. Ask to see an entire wedding.
ANYONE who has shot a dozen or so weddings should be able to put together a good compilation book of wedding photos. A great shot of the getting ready times, another good ring shot, a nice ceremony image, a sunset, and a toss photo. Your impressed – right?
It’s not that easy to fake an entire wedding. When looking to hire a photographer, make sure that you’ve seen at least one (if not several) example of a wedding they photographed from beginning to the end. Ask to see not just the 60-80 select images that made it to an album but an entire set that the client was presented with.
This not only will ferret out the photographers that took a few good images from a wedding online but also will show you if they have the skillset to photograph under the various lighting conditions they will be presented with throughout the day. If possible, ask to see a wedding that was at the venues that you plan to be using the day of your wedding.
You can take a look at dozens of my past weddings, in their entirety on my proofing website HERE
2. Ask for references.
Reviews on the photographers own website could be fabrications. While reviews on the Knot and Wedding Wire are a decent representation of one work, it is best to ask for emails and/or phone numbers and names of past couples and follow up to see what their views were of working with the photographer you are thinking of booking. Of course the best way to find a photographer is by word of mouth! Ask your friends and co-workers who they recommend.
3. Look for growth and change in their images.
Photography is an organic beast – things change over time. I look at my weddings from a decade ago and think “All those filtered images (that were all the rage on Instagram at the time) are down right ugly. If you look at the progression of my galleries (link HERE again) you will see me getting away from that to a much more contemporary, clean look, but it didn’t happen from one wedding to the next, it was a gradual thing over time.
If you take a look at a photographers work and one wedding is one style and the next is a drastically different style – chances are that they may be stolen images. Fauxtographers notoriously will also use stolen images in ads for mini sessions or for a new branch of photography they are trying to go into i.e. weddings or boudoir.
4. Facebook comments.
When looking around on a Facebook Page you should see comments from clients on the images shown, keep a keen eye out for people being tagged in the image. While my clients don’t tag themselves very often, others do and if they don’t, they still generally share the gallery and friends and family comment below about the image(s). One that can tip you off about a fauxtographer is if they have a lot of really great images on their Facebook Page, but there are little to no comments beneath the images, especially missing is a comment that is from the pictured client or loved one.
A link to my Wedding Photography Facebook page HERE.
5. Too good to be true.
If the price for their services is too good to be true often there’s usually a reason for it! Most fauxtographer’s rarely charge market standard prices, typically they start around $500 for entire wedding coverage (or $50 for portraits) yet are showing images that are simply breathtaking. The old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true more often than not in photography.
Im not the cheapest photographer in Columbus, but Im not the most expensive either. My price list can be found HERE. Compare it with the top 10 photographers that come up on Google for Central Ohio. I think you will find we are all in the same neighborhood of pricing.
6. When in doubt, Google!
If you think you’ve found a fauxtographer, you are welcome to email me or you can easily search yourself. Go into Google Images and click on the camera icon where you can either upload the image or insert the URL and Google will show you all the places where that image shows up online. It doesn’t always work but it usually gives you a pretty good idea if the image is stolen or not. There is a really great extension in Google Chrome that allows you to right click and search most images with Google Image that I highly recommend.
If you email me, Im not going to bash anyone, especially any of my fellow pro’s – there are dozens of wonderful photographers in Columbus, all with varying experience and talent, but I will tell you if I have never heard of someone and a few more things to look out for 🙂
7. Are they hiding behind a big company?
There are a number of nationwide and regional companies that offer wedding photography services. They typically have a heavy advertising budget and are typically at the very top of the Knot and Wedding Wire searches. They have hundreds of reviews and stunning images. Typically these companies charge less than $1000 for an entire wedding. How do they do this, when other pros are charging many times that – easy, they are hiring a weekend warrior who is happy making an extra $250 for the weekend shooting a wedding. But those weekend warriors come without the needed equipment and the needed experience and can hide behind someone else in another city. You don’t get to meet them until the day of your wedding, and you never get to see them again, instead dealing with a customer service rep in another state who has no vested interest in your day or your overall experience.
Sure I understand, everyone has to start someplace, and if you don’t mind putting the most treasured memories from your special day in their hands, go for it. Don’t get me wrong – you may hit the jackpot. I know a number of starting photographers that are simply AMAZING (and sometimes I use them as seconds), but for every one of those, I also know dozens more that are struggling with composition and basic technical abilities.
I hope that you never stumble across someone you suspect is a fauxtographer and have to use this post! Sadly though in the digital age it is all to easy to fake-it-til-you-make-it in photography with a few choice right clicks and a new SLR.
Here are a couple of other articles and websites on pseudo-photographers: