How to Deal With Fauxtogs, Momtogs, and Newbies

How-to-deal-with-newbies-

I witnessed something all too familiar, tonight. In one of my photography forums, there was a group of professional photographers venting about the horrible newbies in their hometown, who bought a Canon Rebel and suddenly thought they were a photographer. There were all of the usual remarks, like “They are giving away sessions for FREE, this is ruining my market” and “These pictures are TERRIBLE,….My Instagram photos look better”. Quite a few people had stories to share about their similar situations and who was the laugh of their local market. If you’re a photographer, you know what I mean. You’ve probably seen very similar conversations, maybe you have even participated in them…or worse, been the subject of them.

Because you are reading this, I’m assuming you are either expecting some profound advice about stomping out the competition….or you’re just waiting to see how much of an egotistical jerk I am, for calling out beginner photographers. Am I right?

Well, my grand advice for dealing with people in your area who are becoming photographers overnight, is…………NOTHING.

Because the truth is, fretting over those people who you refer to as “fauxtogs”, says a lot more about you than it does about them. I know it sounds harsh, but if you spend your time concerning yourself with the affairs of those who you describe as so “below” you, you’re probably not too sure of your own worth and stance in the industry.

How do I know? You’re talking to the guiltiest of the guilty, when it comes to this. I spent a good amount of my first two years in business being a secret “Newbie Hater”. And how ironic, when I was hardly more than a newbie, myself. I vividly remember spending hours scoping out the websites and pages of anyone in my area who thought they were a photographer. Whatever sense of entitlement I had somehow found, I leveraged to convince myself that I was better…more professional. A few months ago, I even found a business journal from my first year, where I wrote a few pages venting my frustrations about other locals who were starting up in photography. I actually closed out the entry, telling myself to stop worrying about it and do my own thing. Even then, a part of me knew how petty I was being. Reading it now, I was both mortified and sympathetic. It was SO obvious that these words were a cry for help, written by a true newbie, trying to find self-worth through comparison. I might as well have written “I’m unsure of myself!!! Please tell me I am a good photographer!!!”

But I’m not trying to give the impression that I am preaching from some saintly pedestal of love, support, and total confidence. It’s not as if I went through some 12-step program that forever cured me of any ugly thoughts. At my lowest times, filled with the most self-doubt, I still occasionally revert to those old feelings. When bookings are slow and new photographers are popping up all around me, it’s hard to NOT feel that way.

I know first-hand that the more you feel threatened by your competition, the less confident you are feeling in your own capabilities. But, the good news is, the “fauxtogs” were never a problem, anyway. If you are running a business with a GREAT product and an AMAZING experience, no one who truly values that is going to suddenly change their mind for a lower price. There are plenty of ideal clients out there for you and if you are offering something amazing and unique, they are not going give up on their hopes of working with you, simply because there is something cheaper. There are more things to a photo business than just numbers. While we’re on that thought, don’t judge the people who are going to the new photographers….for those people, it might mean hiring them, or getting no photos at all. Not everyone can afford you and not everyone is going to hire you….. even if you were the only photographer in town!!! It’s not your job to educate every single person about what you believe a “real photographer” is….your only job is to work hard and be the best one that you can be. Lead by example. Your ideal client will know the difference.

So the moral to this story, is…. the fauxtogs aren’t your problem, you are your problem. Every minute you spend worrying about what that beginner photographer is doing, is valuable time that could be spent on your own growth. Turn that negative energy inwards and become a better YOU. Nothing that you think, feel, or say about others can change the circumstance. No amount of kicking, screaming, and ranting about the new photographer who is charging $200 for a wedding, is going to stop them from following THEIR dream. And why would you want to? You had to start somewhere too and probably have some embarrassing stories of your own. They are probably inspired by you, try to show a little grace as they find their way…whether they are friendly to you or not. If you are truly the leader and the big dog in your area…prove it! Not just in your work and the number of fans you have, but in the things you say about others and the integrity of your business.

Stop bashing the newbie. You never know if they will be the one you are lining up to see at WPPI, in a few years ;)

  1. Jennifer Demo

    January 20th, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Love this post! I follow so many photography groups on FB and it is horrible to see the newbie getting thrashed for asking their questions. We all start somewhere and we are always learning :)

  2. Laura Yang

    January 20th, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    This is great, Kristen! Spot on. :)

  3. Jaimi Weatherspoon

    January 20th, 2014 at 10:04 pm

    I have always looked up to you! But even more so now! I saw the same thing…although sometimes I may not understand things that I see others do…I’m not concerned by it. I offer more than just a product…my business is about me, my style, my personality and my product. Their business has nothing to do with mine…and our target client is different anyways. On top of that…and you are exactly right about the potential clients who book them…some may like their work, some may not see a difference, and some just flat out can’t afford the most expensive…when it comes down to it, money matters. If they don’t have it, they just don’t have it! Kudos for you!!! I was really worried when I saw your post that you were going to do some bashing and I would have been so disappointed in a photographer that inspires me!

  4. Meg Courtney

    January 20th, 2014 at 10:07 pm

    awesome post girl :) xx

  5. Sara Montague Miller

    January 20th, 2014 at 10:55 pm

    Thank you so much for writing this! :)

  6. Jordana Heath

    January 20th, 2014 at 10:58 pm

    Excellent, and thank you. I love photography, but it is a hobby and I give it as a gift to my friends who couldn’t in a million years afford a professional. Do they get perfect photos? No, not by a long shot, I have a lot to learn. I am learning, and that means I get better each time I get a chance to try, and the people I gift my hobby to? They get memories they wouldn’t have had. I love it, and I love people like you who share and help and nurture that love instead of bash it.

  7. Kathy LoBue-Leach

    January 21st, 2014 at 12:33 am

    Written by a true professional. Great post. I, myself, as your aunt (but not a photographer), have facebooked or associated with other photographers on occasion, and I told your mom I either saw or felt their jealousy toward other photographers. I love this post.

  8. Jenifer Hernandez

    January 21st, 2014 at 1:06 am

    well put :)

  9. Janelle Marina

    January 21st, 2014 at 5:54 am

    Wow! This was very well written! I was very surprised to have read such a humbled response from such a seasoned photographer! Keep preachin sista hopefully everyone will come back down to earth and smell the flowers :)

  10. Michelle Jaramillo Butner

    January 21st, 2014 at 9:07 pm

    This is so awesome! Love it! Thank you!

  11. Amanda Brown

    January 21st, 2014 at 9:21 pm

    Thanks Kristen! Great post :)

  12. Caitlin Sims

    January 23rd, 2014 at 3:54 am

    Amazing blog post. This happens ALOT in Australia. I think its great to support newbies and share with them. Everyone needs to learn :)

  13. Amy Louise Weir

    January 24th, 2014 at 12:25 pm

    Amen- we all have to start somewhere!! I think as professionals we need to help these newbies discover their value so that we can educate the market and stop offering our professional services for cents instead of dollars!!

  14. Rebecca Cook

    March 4th, 2014 at 4:37 am

    I think the problem is, and I’m sure you can agree, is that NOT to many people these days are encouraging.
    I think it’s sad that people are that way. It’s refreshing to know that not all photographers are, excuse my language.. BUT assholes. .. Even if you were at one point, you are no longer. I think being a photographer is hardly a “unique” profession, although we all have a uniqueness about us when we Capture our photographs.
    It’s time that people start realizing that they are hardly, “the only photographer around”… and embracing what others can do. Noone is the same. And I love that about photographers. It’s amazing for me to see others works.

    I do believe that we all started somewhere, and we all need to remember that.
    Thanks for sharing

  15. Ann Katrin R. Pedersen Photography

    March 26th, 2014 at 1:43 pm

    Amazing post!! Loved it so much :D I definitely where i started out! So i try to be nice to everyone, there are definitely people who has a lot of confidence and should not im my opinion post photos online from the very first start :) (but thats my own opinion). I really fell in love with photography late 2009, but i didnt start posting my photos until around 2011 – and my work wasnt that impressing even then lol

    But practice makes perfect :D

  16. Missy Grandberry-Brown

    May 19th, 2014 at 8:23 pm

    Thank you!!! I appreciate this so much! Very timely!

  17. Bob Gantchev

    July 1st, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Hello everyone – newbies and pro’s, I really like this post , it is for all of us – experienced or not in the wedding/engagement photography. We’ve all been either at one side of the coin or the other. I`m from Toronto, Canada and the competition here is very high as well…you have to be really creative and unique and even so reasonably priced to get enough clients to survive and pay the bills or make living. I`m neither a newbie or a pro and that is the worst position to be….clients on a low budget are hiring students not even graduate photographers for less than $500 for wedding, and the ones with money are passing as well, because I don’t own a 15K-20K pro equipment or have own studio. I am solo photographer that cannot offer insurance or a second shooter for example. I tried to play with the fee – up and down…doesn’t help at all – charge less and they don’t take you seriously or go higher – cannot offer all the goodies that are available from well established photographers. Kristen, your approach ( fairytale style ) is great and unique and I love it , one big plus is that you have all this great looking scenery around that complements and completes your photographs. I can only wish we have this here in Toronto….. except for the parks everything else is concrete and glass, and most of the clients don’t have the time or just don’t want to explore interesting places for shooting. I know that most of your images require extra time to be completed….they are far away from the “snapshots” that half of the so called photographers are producing…..So most of the photographers here are shooting in the concrete jungle looking for graffiti alleys or some old buildings…… that puts us in the same category. Optimism is great but it helps only when you can actually use it in real life….Anyway, I`m very happy to see other photographers that stand out from the crowd with beautiful work …I am glad that you are one of them too….you inspire me to be more creative and become a better photographer……good luck to you Kristen and to all of us as well.

  18. Tina Andrade-Alaniz

    January 20th, 2015 at 7:50 pm

    Very well said, great post. Glad I came across this blog. You are very inspirational Kristen.

  19. Danny Seaton

    March 25th, 2015 at 10:16 am

    Good post. Although I think the problem is. Which is kind of cringe worthy and frustrating is. These people buy their first camera on monday, and start a website saying “Jennifer Jones photography” on Tuesday. For one, its a craft that takes years to master, and be able to genuinely advertise yourself as a photographer. Secondly, I feel sorry for them. Because first impressions are everything.

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