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We've had this problem ever since the 1990s when computer hobbyists started making websites about their camera hobbies. These guys talk up a storm about cameras and technique, but they can't shoot.
Today there are zillions of people proclaiming "I'm a pro, listen to me!"
A pro is someone who earns 100% of his income through the sale of his pictures, but online, anyone can call themselves a pro.
I wrote this article in response to an increasing problem: fauxtographers created by and then paraded around by lesser camera companies to pitch those brands.
We've all seen the guy with the blog, website, facebook page or youtube channel who goes on about being a pro and award-winning photographer.
He'll try to sell you his books or workshops.
He'll try to get you to do as he says and calls everyone else an idiot.
He's paraded around by a camera company, telling you all about why he switched to their brand, and because he's such a world-famous pro, why you should use the same camera, too.
Just as often, these guys are lone wolves with fancy websites and youtube channels — but never any great photos to show for themselves, just lots of random camera facts.
How do you tell the fakes, the "fauxtographers," from the guys who shoot all day for a living and feed themselves from the quality of the images they sell, as opposed to some guy paid by a camera company to make appearances and sell workshops?
Actually, it's pretty easy:
All you do is look at his portfolio; his Gallery section of his website. No Gallery? Then you've found a fauxtographer.
The internet is loaded with fauxtographers. Zillions of guys have failed out of the computer industry, started websites and hand out information.
As you look at these websites they seem like great sources of information, but oddly you'll discover that they've never made a great photo. Knowing about cameras, computers and software has nothing to do with actually being able to use them to make a great picture, and if they don't know how to make great pictures, they don't know what's important in a camera.
Guys who shoot for a living rarely have time to lead workshops. If they do, it's not more than once or twice a year.
Of course some guys like Jay Maisel and Ansel Adams shot for a living for decades, and then they decide to kick back and give back. That's fantastic — but they have huge portfolios, too.
Guys who shoot for a living rarely have the time to write about it. Those are writers, not photographers. Why do you think this site looks so amateurish? Because I don't have the time to make it look like a real website.
Guys who shoot for a living have client lists. Look for that on their site. I don't have the time for that since I have enough work as it is, but my two most recent image sales were to McDonald's and to Merck Pharmaceuticals — and those are merely my most recent sales. Getty Images invited me to sign, but I declined.
No real clients, no real agency, and you have a fauxtographer.
Guys who shoot full time shoot full time. They don't have other jobs. If a guy only shoots on weekends, then obviously photography isn't his real skill: you have a fauxtographer.
Winning real awards is good. Real awards are Pulizers, grants from arts institutions or winning open juried art competitions. Winning is first place or grand prize, not an honorable mention or second place.
Fake awards come from camera makers, or groups of other photographers. If someone wins an award from WPPI or the PPA, those are just trade groups handing out awards amongst themselves. Not that those award winners are bad; it's just that these groups give awards to the images that most look like everyone else's in the group.
Today we're barraged by fauxtographers spewing free information. Be sure to look at their work before wasting too much time with them.
If you want to make pictures as they do, pay attention, but if they have nothing to show for themselves, run away.
Likewise, if they're sponsored by a camera company, be very cautious. They may have some good tips, like the Nikon School instructors or Canon Explorers of Light who usually are real photographers, but the lesser camera companies are now gearing-up with their own copy-cat programs using fauxtographers to pitch for them.
Stop worrying and start shooting. Just don't pay any heed to dime-store fauxtographers, who with their camera-company sponsored fancy websites are there to twist you to paying money for things you don't need.
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