How You’re Getting Cheated by Professional Photographers

Published: June 9, 2017

Professional photographers are all over the place these days. With cameras being so cheap, it is easy for anyone and everyone to put up their own shingle. I really should have put professional in quotes though. These aren’t all “professional” and are more fauxtographers.

What is a fauxtographer? The French word faux means false or fake. You can see great examples of how terrible fauxtographers are at “You are not a photographer.” They maybe the worst of the worst, but many people with a genuine desire to be photographers are passing themselves off as professionals and it is the clients who suffer. Here are 7 ways you’re getting cheated by professional photographers.

Example of how professional photographers use lighting for boudoir images.
Copyright © Red Silk Photos


An hour photo shoot? Seems simple enough. Paying $30-50 doesn’t sound like a bad deal. After all, you called that big studio photographer down the street and he said it was $50 just to book the session. I mean really, who gets paid that much for doing just an hour of work? These people:

  • Plumbers
  • Electricians
  • Lawyers
  • Carpenters

And it isn’t just an hour of work. Many professionals realize the amount of time and work that goes into a shoot before and after. That hour photo session has pre-planning, post production, and a host of other tasks associated with it. Figure it takes several hours for each hour session.

Ask yourself, are you willing to take advantage of someone who unknowingly undercharges?


I hear many “professional photographers” say they edit their images. Really? Why is there a Stop sign in the background? “Oh, I left it there for ‘artistic’ purposes.” Right….

Gif of an image going through the editing process.
Example of Image Editing

Let’s clear up some confusion about the photo “editing” process. First of all, everyone does it differently. Secondly, there is no ‘right’ way to do it. Don’t misunderstand, there are definitely wrong ways. I have yet to meet a client that asked me to make them look fatter or add pimples to their face.

Typically, a good shot starts long before it ever enters the computer. From the posing and lighting to the composition and storytelling. Once the image is loaded into the computer, it can start it processing journey. Some photographers shoot RAW and others JPEG. Without getting into the details, I prefer to shoot RAW because of the flexibility I get. But a RAW image usually lacks the punch or pop of a JPEG. The color of the image can also be slightly off.

This is the first step in “editing” the image. Professional photographers spend a lot of money on all the software and hardware they use to be able to deliver “correct” images. Color correcting an image helps the skin to look right. People shouldn’t look spray tanned, sea sick, or like a lobster.

That isn’t an edit in my opinion. Editing would then remove blemishes, weight, distractions and give the image the work it needs to look good, clean, and crisp.


Comparatively, a good professional photographer is cheaper than the cheap guy. What? Think about it in these terms. The person who doesn’t charge enough for your session doesn’t know how much work they should actually be doing for you. You are getting a lower quality of service. Yes, their friendly. They smile nicely. However, paying $50 for someone who only gives you an hour of his or her time versus paying $250 for someone who gives you 5-6 hours of work is not the same thing. Especially if you consider the skill and talent of the photographer.

A friend of mine put this perfectly. Would you buy a cheap broom from the dollar store that breaks every week or two, or spend $20 on a good broom? Sure, the cheap one only costs you a buck, but over the year it costs $50.


I hear bad things about posing from both clients and photographers. From the clients, its because they haven’t been posed properly and, as a result, their photos look stiff and lifeless. Photographers tell me, “I only shoot candid.” When I ask if they know how to pose, the answer is often no.

Why does posing matter?

It makes you, the client, look better. The camera does not capture the world the way we see it. It captures the world the way it sees it and, that is often not flattering. We have all heard the saying, “The camera adds ten pounds.” That is because of lens optics, lighting, and a host of other causes. These are counter balanced by good posing. Leaning forward makes the waistline look smaller. Stretching the chin forward removes a double chin. Placing the hands in certain spots leads the eye of the viewer around the image. All of those subtle things put together can make or break an image.

No one wants to look fatter! Posing solves that.


 Cowgirl on a chair at sunset captured by professional Bakersfield photographer.

Here is a red flag line; “I only shoot natural light.” Why is it a red flag? Here are a few examples of other professions saying something similar:

  • Writer: “I only use a typewriter.”
  • Plumber: “I only use a screwdriver.”
  • Tailor: “I only use scissors.”

How absurd is that? Natural light and flash are just tools. All photographers may be more comfortable with one tool over another, but to say “I never use _____” shows a lack of skill.

Good lighting adds shape and detail. It can hide extra weight, highlight certain assets, create drama, and add a dramatic feeling to an otherwise bland image. Good professional photographers will reach into their toolbox to pull out the right skills and equipment for the job.


Real businesses make the effort to follow the rules. They file taxes, get licenses, insurance, and contracts. A good contract protects both parties. What happens if the “professional” you hired decides to do something nefarious with your images? What if you get hurt on a photo shoot? Imagine trying to sue for major medical bills only to find out the photographer doesn’t have enough money or insurance to cover the costs.

But it’s only a photo session, what could go wrong? Really?! Have you not read about the girl killed on railroad tracks during a photo session? One bride drowned in a river in Canada.

Obviously, we can’t live our lives in fear of everything that could go wrong, but bad things happen. A professional photographer will think about some of these things and consider the safety, privacy, and well being of his clients.

Professional Photographers

The biggest thing that separates the true professional from the faker is experience. Having taken thousands of photos and worked with hundreds of clients gives me the ability to make judgments about what will look good and what shouldn’t be tried.

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