“I don’t think this is you,” read the email note, followed by a link.
I looked at the website the link took me to. It looked like me, wait, I don’t live in Portland, Oregon!
Everything was the same: my photos, my bio except for the city and, of course, who owned it.
Turns out the fake Inner Spirit Photographer was using the site as a reference when he was in person trying to book clients. An email to the site’s Webmaster and it was down in seconds.
I write this to warn you, reader, about photographers falsely representing themselves. It turns out it is bigger problem for consumers than you might expect.
What is more common than a wholesale theft or hijack of a website, is the use of another photographer’s images on their website as samples of their work. I was surprised to find websites that documented all of these photographers as they were found. Some of the images being snagged and used were famous and iconic images.
Occasionally a photographer would have very small fine print that would mention it was images like these they would create, but the confusion is obvious.
So what can you do to dodge these dodgers?
Always meet the photographer to see hard copies of their work. Images from online sites can’t be enlarged nicely; the quality drop is instantly visible. If they shy away from showing you actual prints in a face to face meeting, be suspicious.
Look for radically different styles, or look to the images. A professional photographer develops a style or look to their images; it becomes their brand.
Look for uneven quality in the images. Usually, regardless of the photographer’s experience, all their images will reflect the same skill level. If you see a fantastic, breathtaking image, then something rather mundane, it’s likely they are not taken by the same photographer.
The photographer’s fee should match the quality. If the images feel too good for the fee, it probably is.
This practice is most often found in the wedding and family portrait work.
For absolute comfort, ask if they guarantee their work.
I hope this helps you find a great photographer who is real, and frustrates some of the pirates out there.