Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Dirty Little Secret of the Photography Industry, Pt. 2

There are a lot of photographers "faking it" until they "make it."

Since some people misinterpreted my last post on percentage of full time photographers in our industry, let's be clear about what I mean by "faking it":

  • suggesting that a portfolio full of images created at a workshop came from hired jobs
  • telling clients that you've been photographing weddings for 5 years when 4 of those years you were just attending as a guest and bringing your camera along
  • creating styled bridal shoots and wedding set-ups and passing them off as real weddings
  • using images created by other photographers to represent your own professional portfolio
  • using models that you've done trade work for and claiming they hired you
  • claiming you're an award-winning photographer without actually receiving an award
  • selling with images from photographers that are no longer part of your company, or are not a regular part of your photography team
  • passing off your images as a second shooter as if you were the primary shooter

Deception of any kind is just wrong. What makes me sad is that there's a lot of it floating around in our industry and because clients and newer photographers can't tell the difference between what's real and what's not, they can get sucked into it like a moth to a flame.  I've even heard of workshops that advocate people "fake it until you make it," but I really don't see a lasting business strategy in that.  Having confidence in your abilities wherever you are- yes, but saying you have experience that you don't- no.  The minute your colleagues find out what you've been doing- you've lost their respect for you and your business because they won't know what else you may be lying about.  Also, you're only putting yourself in a really awkward situation when you claim to have more experience and then find yourself in a situation in which other people are taking a financial risk on you bringing that to the table, but you can't.

I have so much respect for people who are humble about their situation and can sit down with a couple and say, "look, you're my second wedding and I'm giving you an awesome rate because you're putting a lot of trust in me." I really don't see the need for people to lie about where they came from or how long they've been in this- if people like your work, they really aren't going to care how long you've been in the game- so why lie about it?  There's actually more power in being real and honest- which helps clients be more understanding and knowledgable of when and if something goes wrong, and establishes a level of trust and respect built on honesty.  That honesty helps you create a better connection with your local photography community- which becomes your first line of help if something goes wrong and you need a backup.
An honest business will always outlast a business built on a foundation of lies.


  1. I completely agree with your identified list of unethical and deceptive tactics. However, I think you're taking a rather harsh view of "fake it until you make it." You don't have to engage in deceptive practices to "fake it." Faking it can be about branding, social media, networking and a number of other marketing tools that don't involve lying within your portfolio. It can be about putting forward a professional image without resorting to deceit.

  2. Being authentic in your branding would mean you aren't faking it. Being genuine in your social media and networking would mean you aren't faking it. While I understand the idea of "faking it" may just be a mind game to help some people get over their own lack of confidence- it's too easily taken to mean actually faking something through deception. People will only gain self-confidence in their work by being authentic and genuine about who they are and what they know. When people are in the mindset of "faking it"- they are not practicing authenticity to themselves or to their art. There are so many people "faking it" - why not give the world something truly original, which can only come from being authentic to yourself.

  3. Anne - I have enjoyed your last two posts. You examples of "faking it" are very clear cut; however, I think there are deeper examples that cut further into our industry. Over the years, I have seen beautiful "best of" portfolios only to be followed up with inconsistent blog work or complete wedding imagery through the entire day. I think at the heart of the conversation is can a photographer consistently deliver the level of work they show in their portfolio or marketing materials in any location, with any given couple, and lighting situation on any day of the week?

  4. Again, I totally agree with being genuine and conducting your business in an truthful manner. I think I simply disagree with Anne's definition of "fake it til you make it." To me, it's about projecting confidence and optimism which should improve your chances of actual success.

    P.S. I really like this "dirty little secret" series. It's a welcome balance to the common sugar-laden portrayal of the industry.

  5. Bravo2. Hard to add anything there. True pros can consistently DELIVER professional level work, one EVERY job. No matter what's going on behind the scenes, over deliver, under deadline and under budget, provide more than expected and be there years down the road ready with files of memories long lost to time.

  6. Love this. I'm so tired of seeing dozens of set up shoots being 'passed off' i.e. not being said they are set up shoots with models, a team of hair/makeup, prop stylists, etc and clients thinking that those are real.

  7. Actually, this definition of "faking it" is a completely different one from the first post. Not so much a "clarification."

    What you are listing here is lying about qualifications versus what you suggested before, which is what MANY photographers do before they make it full-time, and let me assure you that there is a BIG difference between the two situations.

    I followed your blog a couple months back because of a really helpful article you wrote about calculating photography service rates based on COGS and desirable income, I keep waiting for more helpful articles like that but I think that for now I will just unsubscribe.

    After all, I don't read photography blogs to learn about WPPI after-party etiquette or really petty negative reviews about photography workshops.

  8. the camera never lies. but photographers can lie. so you choose which one. own work or other pure

  9. thanks, good points.

  10. Give honesty and you will get honesty! With fake photos, usually one can tell just by looking...

  11. I completely agree with this post. Deception of any kind or in any way is bad. Yes, you can find a lot of clients in the beginning through deception that you have been in the field of business photography, fashion photography, wedding, nude photography, etc. However, expertise and experience in photography can be proven by the results and not by words. Earn the expertise and experience and you'll surely earn the reputation of being an expert in the long run. So, why fake it when you can make it real?

  12. Yes you are right i am totally agree with you..
    Thanks for sharing dirty little secret of the photography industry..

  13. I can understand "fake it till you make it" in the sense of acting/dressing for the success you intend, but lieing and misrepresenting your work?! Wow! That's just wrong!