The New trend in wedding photography of Fraudtography or Fauxtography
I personally have friends on Facebook going back many, many years and so seeing friend’s wedding images online is a pretty regular event – but also a regular event is the recurring consternation “My friends are beautiful and the venue is amazing – SO WHY DO THE WEDDING PHOTOS SUCK SO BAD?!”
Imagine getting your wedding photos back and having them… well… suck. Blurry shots, bad lighting, everything in that same pastel insta filter, cheesy poses. What happened to the gorgeous shots you saw in your photographer’s portfolio? Or worse yet, were these the kinds of photos the ones they saw and they actually thought they were good?!
My old acquaintances have fallen prey to the tragic new trend in wedding photography: The Fauxtographer / Fraudtographer…
Now first off, let’s get this straight – this isn’t just ‘sour grapes’. Mykey Day Photography has a rule that we do not shoot weddings for friends of family – for ohhhhh so many reasons. And on the (extremely) rare occasion in the past when we have shot weddings for old friends or colleagues, we have done so full price and on the understanding we treat them the same as any and all of our clients. Whether it’s not being taken seriously as a wedding photographer as opposed to being a friend, or the expectation of discounts that we are unable to give, these days it’s far easier for us to just say no to friends and colleagues and direct them to some of our trusted associate wedding photography studios.
That being said, we still love being invited to our friends’ weddings and seeing all their images appear on facebook – the same as any friend would! But when those pictures suck, it’s particularly difficult for us – clearly because we have an insider knowledge and can see exactly why in the vast majority of cases; our facebook friend hired a fauxtographer…
What is a fauxtographer / fraudtographer?
Well there’s a slight distinction to be made but often these terms are used interchangeably – and often both are guilty of similar sins. For more on the fauxtographer see section one in the article linked below – but for the slightly more dangerous fraudtographer – read on…
In essence both the faux and the fraudtographer are brand new photographers to the industry. Brand new can easily mean anything under 4 years as in wedding terms this is the blink of an eye. These brand new photographers have a problem, they want to book weddings and start making money – but they have no portfolio to show! Rather than taking the correct route of second shooting and shadowing an established wedding photographer (see the link below), learning the trade and skills necessary with real world experience, they… well they find more inventive ways of getting around this problem.
- Firstly, they may ‘ahem’ borrow images from other established photographers, plastering them across their website with no remorse. This is a particularly stupid thing to do as thanks to google image search they’re found out sooner or later – but potentially not before booking many clients off the back of their fabulous portfolio they, ‘ahem’, borrowed…
- Using images from training workshops as examples of real wedding clients. This one is not illegal like the above sin, but in our eyes just as nefarious. There are several photography training workshops in the UK who will provide models, lighting, locations, etc… and then under instruction the fauxtographer will be directed how to take the photo and snap that perfect image. This would be absolutely fine as a learning exercise, but the fauxtographer will then take these images that they didn’t create by themselves and slap them all over their website as examples of ‘their’ work. The bride and groom were paid models, the location and composition chosen for them, and they may not even own the lighting equipment used (or know how to use it) and yet they have put those images in their portfolio as examples of their work. We have seen entire wedding photographer website galleries composed solely of training day images, and on many, many occasions.
So prevalent is this option that we have in fact contacted both Hitched.com and Bridebook.com to point out that large numbers of photographers on their sites are posting images solely made at photography training courses – almost always with the exact same models making it super obvious! There’s something rather comical about seeing the same bride in 5 different wedding dresses in 5 different wedding venues on 5 different wedding photographer’s listings on hitched or bridebook!
- Two real weddings and a whole host of stylised shoots. By far the least dishonest practice mentioned here, and to be honest there’s nothing wrong with stylised shoots per se – after all we plan to do two or three test shoots (similar to, but not quite the same as stylised shoots) every year in our studio in order to practice new techniques and train our second shooters. However, if a photographer’s website is composed primarily of pictures of models at non-weddings – labelled under the ‘wedding’ section of their site – with not many real wedding clients to show, then we have a problem. Even worse is if they do not clearly label those images as ‘stylised shoot’ images, leaving the implication that they are real in the air… They’re demonstrating what they can do with models in an ideal environment, not what they can do with real people at a real wedding – and to us that’s dangerous territory!
- There’s a filter for that. This one is not illegal or dishonest at all, but we’ve included it here anyway as we feel it’s a noticeable tactic used by the faux and fraudtographers time and time again. Whilst many photographers have an ‘editing style’, the beginner photographer usually has none – so what do they do? They buy a filter pack (VSCO or whatever is in fashion at the time) off the internet and just whack a filter across all the images with a faux film effect. An established photographer may do something similar but they will have taken the images with their editing style in mind – tweaking the preset as they edit each image, not slapped a filter on everything at once hoping it makes them look good.
All these tactics are used by the fauxtographer who will stitch together a squarespace website and facebook fan page and start selling themselves as established wedding photographers – usually undercutting the regular prices which incidentally and ironically are killing the very industry they are trying to get into but that’s a blog post for another day…
Unfortunately, my facebook friends don’t seem to have done any research to know any better. And do you know what? It’s not their fault, it’s mine! Or moreover, it’s the wedding photography industry’s fault as a whole. If people are being duped into overpaying for cheap quality photography because they don’t know any better, well that’s our fault for not showing them any better. So we’re doing our little bit with blog posts like this to highlight the issue and educate the public at large.
The problem for our industry, though, is that every year we have a fresh batch of newly engaged – and we need to start from scratch teaching them all about wedding photography. Further problems are that in trying to educate the public we can just come across as ‘sour grapes’ and ‘talking others down to make ourselves look better’ which of course is terrible, and we believe this is the reason why many established photographers don’t even bother to try anymore. The final problem being, we run the risk of offending friends and family who have fallen victim to hiring the faux/fraudtographers and indirectly (or directly as I am doing here) stating that their wedding photos are awful…. Yeeesh…. Not a nice position to be in.
Nonetheless, it’s our duty as an industry to both protect ourselves and the wider public from the cowboys, the amateurs masquerading as pros, and the newbies pretending they are ‘established wedding photographers’…
How do we do that exactly? Well, firstly we have our second shooter programs where we offer these faux fraudtographers the opportunity to become the established and seasoned wedding photographers they deep down want to be, through our mentoring and hiring programs. They have the chance to gain real wedding experience, and build portfolio of images they can show to new clients – without resorting to the above tactics.
Secondly, in concert with our many other blog posts and advice articles dedicated to helping educate and inform the public (see below) – we present here a step by step guide to rooting out the fraudtographers from your list of ‘maybe suppliers’, saving you from terrible wedding photos and us from having to see them on facebook!
1. Check their testimonials and reviews
If they’re showing a fully stocked website of lots of weddings, then surely some of them have left a review. Check their testimonials but also check another independent website. We were told by Hitched.com that they were beginning to (note: ‘beginning to’) vet their reviews online as the faux and fraudtographers were simply posting their own fake ones. In light of this we now have the policy of asking all our clients to review us on google where we copy and paste the reviews which can’t be faked…
2. Check for full weddings
The photographer’s website’s gallery may be full of amazing and stunning imagery, but be careful if you cannot see any full weddings on their website – from beginning to end. Some photographers in Kent whom we truly respect ‘only’ show full wedding galleries and nothing else. Whilst others have a main gallery full of fantastic images, but without the rest of the wedding to back it up then how can you be sure they are not models?
We post on average three quarters of the weddings we shoot each year in their entirety on our website, and our aim is to post them all where possible. The only reason a real photographer might not is if the client has requested that the images not be used, if the photographer is super busy, if they’re shooting the same venue multiple times and don’t want to spam potential clients with the same venue (for variety’s sake), if they have been unable to obtain appropriate GDPR consent (despite the client allowing use), and various other technical reasons.
However, if a website shows precious few or no full length weddings – then this is a real red flag.
3. All the trimmings but no guests?
Similar to point number 2, you need to check the photos for evidence of guests and the bridal party. A fauxtographer may tell you they have shot at your venue before and send you pictures with bride, groom, wedding car, wedding dress, and they may even be cutting the wedding cake – but if there are no pictures of the wedding party or guests then it’s more likely a stylised shoot than a real full length wedding that they are showing you.
4. Look for consistency in the portfolio
A photographer’s style is constantly adapting and evolving…
And what we’re about to say needs to be treated with due caution as you could stretch the argument to encompass a good photographer with a long career because of their change in style and progression from low-end to high-end weddings…
However, if the images are dramatically different, with one image fully fine-art, the next super reportage and grainy… One image of a beautiful couple in a millionaire’s wedding venue castle, and the next a registry office… Well, it’s a big indication that the images are either stolen or cobbled together from photography workshops.
5. Meet the Photographer and decide for yourself
When you meet your photographer there are many things you can ascertain by seeing and asking for yourself.
- Ask them about their style, do they even know they have one?
- Ask for demo albums – if they don’t have any at all that’s not a good sign.
- Talk to them about different parts of your wedding day – even if they haven’t shot at your venue before most veteran wedding photographers have a whole host of experience and stories to draw from.
- Pick an image at random and ask them about it – if they took it then they must have something to say about the wedding it came from and the couple who feature in it?
- Ask about their training and experience? Whilst we can name a lot of amazing photographers who are self-taught, nonetheless if this is their answer you may want to dig deeper…
6. Check with other wedding suppliers
Speak with your wedding venue and other wedding suppliers about your prospective photographer. Whilst if they haven’t heard of them that’s not necessarily a bad sign, if they have heard of them and have worked with them before or seen them around – this can be a good sign and take the weight off your mind.
7. Check for Yourself – Google Image Search
It’s surprisingly easy to do, check for yourself by copying the link to some of the photographer’s website images into google image search and see what pops out. For that matter, google the photographer’s name, and if they’ve been caught before there will no doubt be an article or two on the subject – we photographers are hot on copyright theft and photographers who steal images…
Of course this won’t apply to training day or stylised shoot offenders, only the bold-faced liars who steal images.
8. That local photographer whose portfolio isn’t so local
This is another check to make with due care and diligence, as a bona fide photographer may look guilty here if you are not careful.
If a local photographer’s profile is sporting lots of images from up and down the country and abroad, but not much else or precious little in the local area, this is a fair sign the images are either stolen or from training days far away…
Of course, if they are destination photographer, or they are so popular they do shoot weddings up and down the country, then their portfolio will contain images like this – in fact – that’s us! Mykey Day Photography’s portfolio looks like this! However, we still show full weddings AND we show lots of weddings from our local area. If their portfolio shows NOTHING local at all, only far away destinations – then proceed with care!
Long Story Short…
There’s no simple way to distinguish the bona fide photographers from the faux and fraudtographers – but hopefully what we’ve written here is a guide that will start you down the process of checking for yourself. Indeed, many of the steps above could apply to any wedding supplier you are looking to book – after all the photography industry may be the guiltiest of this but we certainly aren’t the only part of the wedding industry with problems like this. Stay safe out there, and I look forward to seeing your super awesome wedding photos on facebook soon!
Kent Wedding Photographer With All The Bona Fides Mykey Day
Your Wedding Day will never be as important to anyone else as it is to you, but trust us when we say – your wedding will be crucially important to us as well! Please browse our website for examples of our work, and we look forward to making your wedding photographs special too.