How to Spot a Fake Photographer and Their Smoke and Mirrors

Smoke and mirrors is the concept of misleading people to believing something untrue; lots of photographers use it.

This post isn’t just dedicated to the many photographers on YouTube or Instagram who are trying to become influencers or gain fame: it’s for generally everyone. It has a lot to do with photographers and the type of games they often play. Misleading audiences and telling lies about how an image was created, or how something was done is positively wrong. If anything, you’re simply teaching folks what not to do–and that’s to not be like you. When the truth comes out, everyone is going to remember the lies you told if you’re held to them. It’s a much better idea to burn out your own toxicity and play the long game.

Smoke and mirrors is something people have used for years. There are photographers who said they faked things for a while. Heck, even when I was at larger companies they wanted to fake things instead of make them real. It’s a genuinely and holistically stupid idea. This idea ties into a lot of bigger issues within the photography world like retouching, over-editing, ethics in photojournalism, and all of the posts passed off as authentic images on Instagram instead of being actual photos.

I’ve seen it play into bigger issues – people saying they’re big photographers but not actually being that way at all. I used to have someone on staff who stated he was a famous fashion photographer. And I didn’t know it back then, but over the years I’ve learned to spot things in photographers.

Here’s how you can spot a fake photographer:

  • Ask for copies of invoices: you’ll see folks get really clammy about this
  • Ask to see a full portfolio of work
  • Ask people who would hire this type of photographer if they’ve ever heard of them
  • Carefully question any sort of editing that anyone does to their images
  • Think critically by using your own experience on the authenticity of a photo
  • Ask them to tell you about their career
  • Ask about some of their biggest and most pivotal moments of how they grew as a photographer
  • Ask about creative slumps

These are just a few ways of thinking about this, but then think about why any of this is important. The reason is because of a major problem on the internet right now: misinformation. There is a ton of it out there. Everyone says they’re an expert. They’re not.

And for those of you questioning my own credentials, let’s go down the list:

  • Adelphi University Journalism BA: 2009
  • PCMagazine former intern
  • former intern
  • Magnum Photos former intern
  • PDN contributor
  • B&H Photo former social media content developer
  • Former writer at Imaging Resource
  • Former writer at Digital Camera Review
  • Former writer at Gear Patrol on cameras
  • Editor in Chief of 10 years of one of the largest indie Photo blogs in the world
  • Current Vice Chairman of American Photographic Artists NY

My credentials are as a blogger and a journalist specializing in the photography world. And it took a whole lot of hard work, long nights, careful conversations, and making people realize that I’m very transparent to get to this point. I’ve dedicated 1/3rd of my life to this industry. And by and large, I’m not a fake.