Why Hire a Pro?
During a recent conversation with a colleague, a wedding photographer, he was lamenting that it was hard to compete with “every college kid with a Canon Rebel”. These days everybody’s a photographer. While I could certainly understand his frustration I don’t necessarily feel his pain. Competition drives innovation. If you want to compete in a world where artistry and technology marry, you had better offer something no one else does. And let’s be real, most Smart Phones have better imaging capability than my first camera. So why should you hire a pro? Because there is a lot more to a great image than just the camera.
The Camera: Yep, every photographer has one, and so does everyone else. Depending on your level of interest in photography you might have anything from an I-phone to a pro-grade Cannon with an assortment of lenses. You may even have a better camera than your average photographer, whose choice of equipment will depend on a host of factors from nostalgia to functionality. Personally, I tend toward the less-is-more approach. Any given weekend you’ll see me wandering around a park or event with my Nikon D3400 and generally a single lens or two. I need mobility and flexibility when I shoot. An average shoot you’ll likely find me laying in the grass, crouched on one knee, wading through a creek, or possibly climbing a tree. Once I even chased a run-away pup for a half mile at a full run. Plus, my subject generally have very limited attention spans, so changing lenses is a luxury I generally forgo. For these reasons I keep my equipment as compact as possible. But other photographers may find more equipment gives them more versatility and better results. Meanwhile, I have seen amazing artwork produced with an IPhone. A camera is like any other tool. One skilled carpenter may use a band-saw and power-drill to build your book case, while another may form it with a hammer and chisel. It is as much about the hands as it is about the tools. Choose your photographer by their portfolio more than their equipment.
The Experience: Experience could mean a lot of different things. Some folks pursue official degrees in Art or Photography. Others are self taught. Most will be a mix of the two. As with any tech, photography is constantly changing. So upgrading equipment and software is a must, and so is constantly learning how to use those upgrades. But there are a lot of other skills that go into creating a beautiful portrait. Knowing how to work with the ambient light, and your own equipment are vital. But you also have to know how to work with your subjects. I have been professionally photographing pets and their people since 2009 and every single shoot offers new challenges and an ever growing knowledge-base of how to over-come them. I have worked with deaf dogs, blind dogs, hyper dogs, and dogs who were completely out of control. I have even photographed house-mates who tried to maul each-other when they got within two feet of each other. Whatever the circumstances, I have a whole bag of tricks to get the best portrait possible. “Sit up strait, tilt your head slightly, look at the camera, and smile big” doesn’t usually accomplish much with your average Golden Retriever. And they definitely don’t sit still for long. When I was still in college I got my first taste of photographing pets. I chose my sweet one-year-old husky for a semester-long photography project. Of all the dogs to teach me to be patient for the moment and then quick on the shutter, she was the one! From Shelties to Siberians, experience is the difference between a blur of fur and a polished pet portrait.
You can’t be in your own photos. While everyone loves a good selfie you may not want to blow one up, frame it, and hang it in your living room. And how many of us have family photo albums where Mom is noticeably absent because she was always the one taking the pictures? The camera companies noticed too, that’s why they installed the handy-dandy self-timer. Ok, you got your tripod, you got your camera set on timer. You push the button and now you have 10 seconds to get both parents looking at the camera instead of the kids. Get the kids looking at the camera instead of the dogs. And the dogs looking at the camera instead of the bird, the squirrel, and the grass. And don’t forget to smile :). So even if you’re pretty good with a camera consider getting on the other side of it for a frame-worthy, polished family portrait.
What are you paying for? Yes, hiring a pro will cost more than if you do it yourself. And the prints will likely cost a good bit more than getting your pics from the corner store. So what are you paying for? Well, all of the things mentioned above. You are paying for your photographer to keep their equipment up to date. You are paying for their artistry and experience. Whether they have been photographing for months, years, or decades will effect the final outcome of your portraits. You are paying for their time. For me an average shoot lasts about 75 minutes, but the editing process takes me between 4-6 hours. I will go through every single frame snapped, find the best ones, and then refine them to their best. This might be subtle changes to enhance color or lighting, soften skin tones, reduce wrinkles, remove blemishes, and whiten teeth. Or more drastic editing to remove random photo-bombers, ugly signs, or erase leashes when possible.
But what do you really get? You get vibrant, lasting images of the adventurous spirit you share with your furry loved ones. Images you’ll be proud to display in your home.