Photographers! Do NOT Fake it till You Make It!

Jan 7, 2018

Missy Mwac

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Photographers! Do NOT Fake it till You Make It!

Jan 7, 2018

Missy Mwac

We love it when our readers get in touch with us to share their stories. This article was contributed to DIYP by a member of our community. If you would like to contribute an article, please contact us here.

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I see the posts. You see them, too.

A session gone wrong because a photographer didn’t know want to do. And they didn’t know what to do because they hadn’t yet acquired the skills necessary to do that thing they were hired to do.

They said “yes,” before they knew what they were doing.

I remember one such story. A gal had agreed to photograph a family at a beachfront hotel; a family that hadn’t been together in years. She photographed them on the balcony in the middle of a sunny day. The balcony was in shade. The beach behind them, in bright sunlight. The client wanted to get both them AND the beautiful beach in the pictures. Remember this family hadn’t been together for years and it would be years before they were together again.

But the photographer was a “natural light only” photographer so what the client ended up getting was an entire session of silhouettes.

And when these sorts of things happen, they are normally followed by a frantic pleading post on Facebook with the word HELP all over it.

And people, wanting to be helpful (because I believe most people truly want to help) will kindly suggest ways to somewhat improve the situation.

But very rare is it that someone will say, “Make it the best it can be. Apologize. Give them their money back and don’t photograph another family until you can consistently handle any lighting situation.

Oh, how I wish that would happen.

See, it does no one any favors to coddle. It does even more harm to encourage people to accept jobs without the skills and knowledge necessary to DO the job. You can’t pretend when you don’t know how to light. And when I see this happen, I think to myself that there ain’t enough vodka in the world.

In fact, several years ago, a workshop-giver passed out tshirts at a very large photography convention with the words “Fake it Till you Make it” written on them.

Fake it.

To photographers. Encouraging them to accept jobs without the ability to do the job.

And when I saw that, I felt like Obi-Wan Kenobi; I felt a great disturbance in the industry, as if thousands of clients cried out in dismay and memories were suddenly erased.

Because “fake it till you make it” might be good advice when confronting a personal situation in which you feel uncomfortable and must summon the strength to put on a brave face, but when it comes to professional photography…to the taking of photographs, images that people paid for and count on, it’s terrible advice.

No, more than that. As Dorothy Parker would say, “It isn’t just plain terrible; this is fancy terrible. This is terrible with raisins in it.”

Friends, you are responsible not just for images, but for memories. Clients are counting on YOU for these memories. And when you accept a job unprepared to do the job, it hurts everyone: you, your client, and the industry as a whole.

And of course, yes, things will STILL go wrong even when you do know what you’re doing because…life. But at least you are prepared, entering the session with knowledge and ability firmly in place, the vital ingredients that will allow you to handle those problems when they arise.

So please, don’t fake it till you make it.

Instead, acquire the skills necessary and be so good at what you do, that no faking is required.


About the Author

Lynn Cartia (AKA Missy Mwac) is a photographer/eater of bacon/drinker of vodka and a guide through the murky waters of professional photography. You can follow her social media links here: FacebookTumblr. This article is also published here and shared with permiss

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7 responses to “Photographers! Do NOT Fake it till You Make It!”

  1. stewart norton Avatar
    stewart norton

    Very true….when I was started out I faked it once to get a job and it didn’t go well at all, worse couple if weeks of career, stress knowing images were poor, stress trying to editing to something acceptable, stress of having to deal with the client after…just wasn’t worth it, the client asked me to come back and rectify the situation but I had to be honest and say it wouldn’t make any difference as I didn’t have the skill to make it right ..I felt terrible and obviously took no payment and refunded thier deposit ! It really knocked my confidence for a while and I became stressed out thinking about upcoming jobs that I was more than capable of and it took me a while to put it behind me. Learn from my mistake if you are not 100 % positive you can do the job don’t take it !

  2. Stephen Masiello Avatar
    Stephen Masiello

    Social media is overrun with posts of “I got hired for a job, now how do I do it?”. I can’t call myself a mechanic because I once changed the oil in my lawnmower. Why does everyone think they’re a photographer?

  3. Basia Kowalska Avatar
    Basia Kowalska

    fake it til you make it is my mantra for all personal (not professional) improvement xD Modesty and self-criticism still go a long way

  4. Rob Avatar

    I admit it — I am guilty of giving this advice. The big caveat is that I teach photography to our new employees and they are tested regularly during training. If they don’t pass the tests (and remedial training), they don’t graduate (or get to stay on the job). Upon graduation, I know they have the skills behind the lens. So the “mantra” is more of a confidence booster. Between graduation and having few actual crime scenes under their belt and directing real bad guys on where to stand, some folks need this kind of confidence booster.
    On the flip side, we instructors also emphasize staying within their area of expertise.

  5. Lee Charlton Avatar
    Lee Charlton

    I half disagree with this and I think this post is particularly unfair and could scare people from jumping in and starting their careers.
    It’s good to mess up from time to time, this will make people learn their craft faster.
    They will beat themselves up over what went wrong, and why it didn’t work – I would like to hope this spurs them on to actively go out and educate themselves and what they should do next time.

    In a photographers early days, shoots should be either free or heavily discounted and the client should be aware that there may be limitations, but it should not put anyone off.

    I am a professional photographer, mainly focusing on landscapes. I have never done any sports, so I found myself in an interesting situation when I actively offered to shoot a boxing event.
    I did it as a freebie having never worked in such a low light, high actioned environment before. The pictures came out ok, not my best work by any stretch of the imagination, but I learnt a lot from the experience and what I could have done differently.
    The client enjoyed them, so much so he rebooked and paid me for his next event and also to capture his wedding.

    The next set of boxing images were far superior and work I was proud to hand over, but if I hadn’t initially faked it then I would never have progressed.

  6. Fonyat Wedding Photography Avatar
    Fonyat Wedding Photography

    Yeah… the last thing I think any one should do is try to fake it till they make it with “wedding photography”. It would be the wrong thing to do to a client and not give them the best they can get on such a special day

  7. John Beatty Avatar
    John Beatty

    Too funny this would be article this week…
    We are planning our daughter’s wedding. Her matron of honor was telling us that at her wedding, the photographer she hired decided to get a new camera just before her wedding. Photographer did not know how to use the camera, photos were horrible. So, moral of story, even if you see the photographer’s work, asked it they have any unfamiliar equipment they plan on using…

    **If the photographer of said wedding is a member here, I’m sorry of pointing you out…