An Unbiased Look At Whether Or Not You Should Hire A Professional Photographer
Okay, so I’m a professional photographer. You’re thinking I am going to say, that not only should you hire a professional photographer, you should hire me. Well, I promise that I wont say that. This is a little blog, from a professional photographer’s perspective on why you should or shouldn’t hire a professional photographer.
First off, this is a fairly new debate, due to the growing advancement of technology. Everybody now has a smart phone with a camera in their pocket. And some of the newer models are taking pretty darn good photos. Thanks to digital, versus film, you can take 1000’s of photos of your lunch and there will be at least one that might look like a cooking magazine cover print. But let’s face it, taking photos of your homemade lasagna or your new nike shoes is not the typical reason you’d hire a photographer.
So what are the typical reasons? Usually when your life is making a drastic change, you want to be sure to capture it. Here are a few examples:
Your Business/Products: If you’re a business with a brand new product, how are you going to compete with the market? You’ll need a professional photographer at some point to reach that next level in your marketing and sales. Especially when many businesses make most of their profits online, it’s best not to let a lens the size of a pimple represent your product. This category can include you, as the product. If you’re an entertainer or market yourself in any way as a brand, only a professional photographer can really deliver the quality to exceed or match your competition. This includes headshots, business portfolios, politicians, and even homemade blogs. Just because you can make an online business from home, that doesn’t mean it should look like it. Everyone’s business model should include at least one professional photoshoot in their expenses. Too many small businesses forget to do this and end up trying to hire a photographer with the change in their pockets, when their profits aren’t where they hoped they’d be. Don’t mess around with your business, hire a professional photographer.
Weddings: are obviously one day in your life that you don’t want to fool around with the idea of appointing an amateur. The day your new family begins will be revisited by generations to come, through those photos. You should know that as professional photographers, we hear horror stories from people who decided not to hire a professional photographer on their wedding day. In fact I get calls from people asking if I can fix their wedding photos: “I had a friend shoot my wedding, and all the photos are out of focus or way too dark. Can you edit them to look like your portfolio?” This is always sad to hear. The truth is, no. It’s impossible to edit photos that are blurry or underexposed to match the quality of properly metered photographs. Professionals know this, which is why we use light meters and why we invest in low-light lenses and expensive digital cameras that can handle dark environments. If you think about the cost it would take to retouch a full wedding of badly exposed and blurry images, you’ll have spent a lot more in the end, by appointing the amateur.
Family: Family photos are probably the most overlooked reason as to when you should hire a professional photographer. To be honest, I’m like you, I love seeing any photo of my family. I would probably get the same emotional reward from a picture of my nephews playing soccer, whether shot on an iphone or with a top-of-the-line DSLR camera. And how about those goofy moments, or the endearing moments that you can’t plan for? Those are priceless moments, even if the photo quality is terrible. But consider this: I recently shot a family portrait session of a family with teens, that they confessed was their first time they have ever been all together in a portrait. Think about it. How often do you get everyone in your family to cooperate and take family photos together for an hour or two? It’s impossible, unless you have your kids trained well. If you do, that’s impressive, but not normal. Most families have a short attention span when the camera is on a tripod and mom or dad are running back and forth to set the timer. And “Geez mom, stop telling me to fix my hair.” Time flies by and kids become adults in a flash. The next thing you know, you look back and wish that you had at least a few photos of everyone, looking their best, feeling great together.
When is it not worth it to hire a professional photographer? This is simple really. Don’t hire a professional photographer when:
When you’re not ready: Don’t hire a professional photographer when you aren’t prepared. I’ve been hired to photograph musicians many times. You’d be amazed how many times I’ll show up to a photoshoot and upon arrival they’ll say,
“Hey, can you photoshop the bass player into these shots?”.
“Why isn’t he here?”
“Oh well, he’s not technically part of the band yet. We’re deciding between a few guys.”
Okay, yeah, not a good idea. Get everything organized first. Sometimes I will get companies who have a product to shoot, then a day before the shoot, they cancel because their expected shipment didn’t come on time. Not a good idea. Have the product in your hand, then schedule a professional photographer.
When you don’t want photos: I know this sounds silly, but some people need to get their photos taken, but don’t want to. Don’t waste your money if you don’t want to make the most out of your photoshoot. Working with a professional photographer should be a team effort. We listen to what you need, collaborate on a game plan, and walk through every step of the way until you say, “Aha! I think I’m getting the hang of this!”
When you think “photoshop” is a magic button: Too many times people think hiring a professional photographer means that they are hiring a photoshop editor. I happen to be a professional photoshop editor as well as a professional photographer, but most photographers only know the basics of photoshop. Don’t expect magic from a photographer. If you head into a photoshoot already having a long list of expectations for them to photoshop, be sure you make that clear. And be sure to review the photographer’s editing samples.
When you don’t have the budget for it: When you don’t have a budget, you’ll end up getting yourself into a mess. It’s like any profession that delivers a product. If a professional photographer feels their time is worth pennies, than you’ll get photos that are worth pennies. Professional photographers charge what they do because of the high level equipment, expertise, experience, and energy. This is what I call the four E’s of professional photography (I know, I know. I just made that up. But it’s true). Energy being the amount of attention to detail, enthusiasm/care, and in many cases both physical and psychological energy. Some events that I’ve photographed have me on my feet for 12 hours. The next time you see a friend or amateur who was hired for a long event, watch how often they either sit down or become careless. A professional photographer can balance their energy for the long haul.
This is kind of funny from GoingPro: An Atlanta-based photographer posted a funny Craigslist ad on Monday highlighting the fact that people often assume that professional photographers are willing to do work for free.
He says, “I am a photographer and since people are always looking for free shoots I assume that they must also do their job, or provide their services, for free. I am looking to hire all types of people to do all sorts of jobs for me, as long as I do not have to pay anything…I look forward to you free service.
This is obviously a joke, but he is reacting to a truth that professional photographers deal with all the time. We get countless calls asking to work for free, based on how much exposure it will get us. We don’t care. Amateurs might. So, if you don’t have a budget, don’t try to hire a professional photographer.
I hope this blog helped you in some way. The list is endless as to when you should or should not hire a professional photographer. Message me if you are on the fence. I’ll give you honest advice.
by Noel Bass, Los Angeles Photographer