“Fauxtographer” (according to Urban Dictionary): A person that claims to be a good photographer when in reality they just set their camera to automatic mode a start shooting. This person also happens to fumble over photographic terms or has no knowledge of the terms or switches the color mode to monochrome and calls it artistic no matter what the hell is in frame.
It’s a word that we hear a lot in this industry. Even I at times have used it when referring to newer photographers. I was recently looking through some pictures of my old work that I had pretty much blocked out and was actually pretty shocked at how bad I was. Like, I was bad.
I shot with a hot pink point and shoot camera and obviously only shot in automatic mode. I edited with Picnik and by “edited” I mean “destroyed every photo.” Lens flares shooting out of eye balls, selective coloring, even going as far as to completely changing a clients hair and eye color. But I thought I was amazing, like I thought my work was Vogue quality. Even typing that is making me have a little chuckle fit in Starbucks right now.
I remember shooting one of my first shoots and showing off the CVS printed photos the next day in school, casually and arrogantly saying “let’s just say, I think I’ve found what my talent is.” I probably did something douchey like wink and then walk away, just leaving them all stunned with the beauty I had just presented to them.
But what I didn’t know: I was a fauxtographer. I was the definition of “fauxtographer.” Did I know what ISO, shutter speed, aperture, or even what lens I was shooting with? Nope.
Were there times that I boosted the saturation up to 100% but it still wasn’t enough, so I had to save the photo and then reopen it so that I could boost it up even more? Absolutely.
No one starts off with the experience of a pro. We all had to experiment and figure out what was good and what wasn’t. For example, in the very beginning I decided to do a newborn shoot. I have no clue why I thought that was a good decision but I charged a whole $15 an hour for a shoot and I needed the money. I’m sure my monthly subscription to Picnik was coming up so I decided to book this inquiry.
Well, I start researching newborn photos and what I saw was a lot of little babies laying on big huge piles of junk. So I figured I’d give that a go! I pulled out some suitcases, wooden crates, globes, vintage cameras (pretty much anything that was “vintage”) and stacked it all up into a 4-foot-tall pile and laid a little pink blanket at the top of this mess.
I then find a list online of things photographers should have when doing a newborn shoot. One of the items was a hair dryer, it didn’t really explain why you were supposed to have a hair dryer but you better believe I had one there!
Then the client shows up and there I am, standing in front of what looks like some kind of garage sale, holding a hot pink point and shoot in one hand, a hair dryer in the other, and a big ol’ smile on my face. Her eyes nervously jolt from the “set” to me, back and forth, kind of like a squirrel on a road seconds before you run it over.
I could read her expression, “this psychopath is about to kill my child”.
I tried to reassure her with my calming voice (another thing on the list for newborn photographers was “a calm, soothing voice”) and said “I know it looks a little sketchy but I promise I know what I’m doing, I see this type of thing on Facebook all the time. I’m a professional”. She glances at my pink camera from Best Buy then back at me. Nervous laugh.
“Ok, so what do you want me to do?” she says, obviously still plotting an escape route in her head.
“Just stick it up there on that blanket.”
It! I called her precious angel baby child “it”!
She lays the baby down and the pile begins to shake a little. She’s obviously about to pass out. She’s now sweating and kinda had this weird little twitch thing happening with her left eye. I look at her and say “ok, now let it go (called the child “it” once again) and you can go sit in that chair over there”.
“Wait, what? You want me to just lay her here? I can’t at least keep one hand on her and you can crop it out?”
“Hah. She said ‘crop.’ She clearly knows nothing about photography,” I think to myself.
I convince her to step a few feet away and begin to work my magic that the Lord gifted me with. I assumed that the hairdryer was for the baby to stay warm, so I am now photographing the child with my pink camera in my right hand and shooting it in the face with the hair dryer in the left hand. The kid wasn’t pumped about 50mph, 100-degree winds hitting her so she began to cry and move.
The pile starts violently shaking. It’s about to come down. My garage sale set is about to crumble to the ground and it’s going to bring a 3-day-old child down with it. Mom jumps in, grabs her, and says something like “Okay, I think we’re done here,” and walks out. She leaves and I’m annoyed. I start packing up my props and call my photog friend who is a newborn photographer.
“OMG. Like seriously this mom was just so annoying! Like she was so uptight and didn’t trust that I knew what I was doing at all!”
“Well, what were you trying to do?”
“That thing where you put the kid on a pile of suitcases and stuff.”
“Why did she not want to do that? Did she not know that you were going to composite it?”
“What’s a composite?”
“Umm… Where you take a photo with her hands holding the baby, then one without the baby, and then overlay them and erase out her hands.”
“Wait? What? Does Picnik even do that?”
“Oh my God. Hunter! You just stuck the baby up there by itself? Thank God you didn’t hang the baby in a net from a tree or something!”
“Calm down! I would have never done that!” *Puts net in bag*
My point is that I was a fauxtographer. I was the definition of a fauxtographer. I literally almost killed a child. But I grew out of that and gained more knowledge and experience. The fauxtographer in me slowly went away (sorry about the title, I’m sure you’re now realizing this isn’t a post of me complaining) and I became more and more knowledgeable about this career.
And every single professional photographer reading this once was a fauxtographer but it went away for them too. So why do we now make fun and insult people just starting out? I mean, yeah, there are people out there who don’t really know what they’re doing right now, but have they almost killed a child? Probably not.
We are the “creatives”. If the world were a cafeteria, we would be the weird, indie table in the corner. The table full of kids with pink, spiked hair and tattoos of geometric shapes that mean nothing. We don’t exclude people, we include everyone! Because we’re cool like that. We can’t be so scared of competition that we put people down and poke fun at them. That’s what the douchey, other tables are for. There’s room for everyone here.
If someone ever calls you a fauxtographer, just say “Well at least I’ve never almost killed a baby like the Three Nails guy did” then twirl on them and walk away. (I bet y’all thought y’all had made it through this whole post without one Beyonce reference. HAHA NAH!).
Here’s a few examples of some of my early stuff compared to my newer work:
About the author: Hunter Leone is a photographer based in Shreveport, Louisiana, who offers his services as Three Nails Photography. You can find more of his work and writing on his blog, Twitter, and Facebook. This article was also published here.