Riley JB - Photographer & Alchemist


Calgary photographer, Riley JB, writes essays, photo stories, reviews & tutorials in his photographic Journal.

Fauxtography:: The Art of Ruining Photos

I enjoy looking at photos almost as much as I like making photos. I think that is what makes us all better, the consumption of photographs. During this I see a lot of amazing work that I wish I was good enough to do. And.. I see a lot of garbage that is fauxtography.

What is fauxtography to me? It is when someone uses the following techniques because they a) They rather work in snapseed than work on their vision. Or b) they are learning from other fauxtographers.

I asked some people whose photos featured my pet peeves if I could use their photos for a blog post. Surprisingly, they all declined. So I had to make these photos myself. And believe you me it was tough to bring myself to do it. Here we go.

Selective Colouring

This was a really cool thing to do back in 2002 when digital point and shoot cameras were everywhere. I recall I had a P&S and this was actually a shooting mode. The selective colouring technique is used by fauxtographers to make an otherwise uninteresting photo interesting.

Selective Colouring

Selective Colouring

Horrible. How can people think this looks good? Either make a colour photo or a black and white photo.. don't try and do both. Typically it is people with a facebook page as their wedding photography business and it is the bride's bouquet that is colour and she is in B&W.

But there are always comments on the photos that say "I love this effect". I think they would love a more thought out photo with a vision.

Dutch Tilt

This should never be confused with a dutch oven which is equally as bad. The dutch tilt is when you cant the camera to one side or another so the horizon is jaunty.

There are probably times where this is useful to convey tension of a person but that is more of a cinematic move. This is another technique employed by fauxtographers to try and add some interest to a snapshot. The only thing that interests me about it is what is going on in the fauxtographer's head when they do it.

Dutch Tilt

Dutch Tilt

My version of the Dutch Tilt is not as extreme of an angle as I have seen on Flickr and Facebook. It makes me think the photographer has one leg shorter than the other.

Again, a fave of wedding photographers who started their business in 2012 when they bought a Canon Rebel and kit lens.


Now we are getting into the realm of ridiculous. The Clarity slider in Lightroom. I assume that Aperture has the same kind of slider. When I am editing photos, namely landscapes, I do use the clarity slider. Usually I will bump it up to +5 to +10 at the most. It definitely has its place in your editing workflow. But if you want to be a fauxtographer you have to have the all or nothing mentality.

I can understand people think clarity at +100 looks cool, and I am sure some people will like my +100 clarity photo below. Here are examples of both ends of the clarity spectrum that fauxtographers sit at far too often..



At this point it starts to look like HDR.. and fake HDR is better than real HDR and real HDR is usually crap too. (More on this a little later.) And now the softest portrait around..



I can understand going +100 with it.. I don't think it looks good at all but I can understand it. What I will never understand is going to -100.. or even more than -5.

If you are taking a photo of someone and their skin looks so bad you have to back off the clarity that much you need to learn how to light them properly so their skin looks better. I cannot believe how much -100 portraits are out there. Usually with a white vignette added in post too. Horrible.. just horrible.


This brings us to the most over used fauxtography technique known to mankind. High Dynamic Range or HDR.

It is a legitimate technique that is sometime required when a scene has too much contrast and you need to take multiple exposures and blend them into one. Lots of landscape photographers do it and if they are good photographers you cannot even tell. That is the way all HDR should be. Should.. but isn't.

The majority of it out there is so over done the photo looks like a cartoon threw up all over the photo. I tried to do it with the built in HDR mode on my 5Dmk3 and it actually did not look as bad as the majority of the stuff out there. It may not be as bad but it is still pretty bad.

My eyes! The goggles.. they do nothing!

My eyes! The goggles.. they do nothing!

I never thought my office could look so  bad. But there it is. And that isn't even a bad example of HDR compared to the ones out there.

In fact, I did a search for you on Flickr to see some horrible HDR.. have a look at your own risk. Search HDR.

So there you have it. My pet peeves in the world of photography.. er.. fauxtography. I know some people in the early stages of learning photography will make the above mistakes. Those that leave them behind and laugh that they ever did them will probably make some great stuff that I will look at on 500px or Flickr and say "damn!". The rest will continue to be a fan of fauxtographer instructors like "snapchick" and they will never grow out of it.

For more info on fauxtography visit