Have you or anyone you know said this comment "Why should I hire a professional? I can just have my friend or uncle take the pictures. They have a really nice camera."
I have seen and heard this comment and conversation so many times. However, I would like to share a cautionary tale from a client who had personal experience of taking the cheaper option and was unhappy with the results. Now I know spending $200 on a portrait photography isn't possible for everyone, however the point of this blog post is not to bully anyone into paying for something that's not affordable. No, I want to share a story that will help you make a decision with your eyes wide open as possible.
If capturing the most significant moments in your life aren't special and something you would like to look back upon later isn't important or a big deal, that's great - who am I to tell or convenience you of anything differently. However, it breaks my heart when I hear clients say I wish I had taken maternity photos or captured my children when they were younger in age.
I'm a professional photographer myself, but I didn’t want to write this article to promote my own business. No, I really just wanted to share this cautionary tale with those of you who might not understand the importance of having great portraits or more importantly wedding photographs.
A FICTIONAL STORY BASED UPON REAL EVENTS:
Horror stories always begin with the same line: "My Uncle or friend has a really nice and expensive camera. I'll just give them $30 to shoot my maternity pictures or $500 to shoot my wedding." While your Uncle may be very good here are a few reasons to go with a professional.
Being a professional photographer is so much more than having a really nice camera. Uncle Jim may have a nice camera, in fact, let's say Uncle Jim is a layer and photography is his passion. Not only does your uncle has the a nice camera, he has one of the best cameras money can buy (Canon 5D Mark III at $3500).
We're assuming Uncle Jim is much more prepared than 99% of the average Uncle Jim's out there. Let's assume Uncle Jim frequently takes pictures of birds and landscapes. He even had some of his work published.
Once Uncle Jim arrives at the portrait location you've discussed, Uncle Jim is confident that he's going to do an awesome job. He begins taking pictures. Uncle Jim doesn't know how to use "manual exposure" to take pictures, so he uses "automatic". Uncle Jim doesn't do manual, his camera is in Auto mode. Unfortunately camera's aren't that smart. Uncle Jim didn't realize it was going to be a cloudy day and he wasn't prepared to accommodate for less light. He didn't take any time to check out the lighting prior to the shoot, so he has no additional lighting equipment. So, Uncle Jim figures that he can just raise his ISO setting super high so he can capture enough light to properly expose the scene. This works, however, little does he know, that every picture shot will be too grainy to blow up beyond a 4x6 print.
Let's say this is a wedding and it's time for Uncle Jim to shoot the wedding ceremony. Uncle Jim scopes out some great spots to capture the wedding. Uncle Jim shoots about 50 shots of the groom walking down the aisle, but to his surprise, all 50 shots are out of focus. His focus setting were not set for a moving subject. The father of the bride and the bride come down the isle and it's the same problem that presented itself with the groom. The images are out of focus.
As with portraits, many weddings are done during the brightest portion of the day and Uncle Jim is unaware placing subjects facing away from the sun will cause the camera to under expose the entire scene because the background is so bright. Uncle Jim only takes one shot of each pose. Little to his knowledge, every shot is completely underexposed.
After taking your portraits or wedding photographs, Uncle Jim doesn't have the software, or even know how to post process images. He simply gives you the images on a DVD he burned from the camera. You get home dying with anticipation and pop the DVD into the computer to start looking at the images.
Oh no! The images are out of focus, underexposed (too dark), overexposed (too bright), grainy or just not good. If it's a wedding, you noticed the first kiss portrait is missing.
While this story is fictional, each one of the events and outcomes are from real situations that family and wedding photographers hear all the time. As a matter of fact, many clients tell me they wished they hired me for another memorable event that happen in their lives. So why is it that so many people would rather hire Uncle Jim? While Uncle Jim has all the professional gear he doesn't have the following:
- The ability to quickly adjust camera settings based on different lighting scenes.
- The knowledge of how camera read and interpret light in order to compensate for under or over exposure.
- The foresight to be prepared for each situation with a secondary camera prepared with different types of lens. Professional photographers will always scope of locations for portrait sessions and venues for events.
- The carrying case needed to always have the necessary equipment and accessories on hand at all times.
- Experience shooting different scenes and moments.
- Knowledge and experience required to anticipate angles and approaches to each scene. Knowing where to stand, and what angles to shoot is something that only comes from experience.
- The ability to create unique lighting scenes, and supplement natural light with photographers own lighting. Understanding light and lighting is something that comes from study, training, and experience. Being a master of lighting is impossible unless you have tried shooting in every possible lighting situation.
- Experience in guiding and directly large group formats.
- The knowledge of advanced focus techniques.
- Experience in post processing images.
In addition to all of this, there is so much more Uncle Jim needs to know about taking high quality professional photographs from beginning to end. While there are several areas in life to save money, capturing your most memorable moments shouldn't be one. If you want to have professional-quality, creative imagery that will be timeless heirlooms to be shown and handed down to generations to come. You will need a professional photographer.
Often times, photographers will work with clients to customize packages in order to fit within their budget. If that's the case, choose quality over products. Many photographers understand many are on a budget and to accommodate many offer payment plans.
To sum it all up, while you can always order products later, you can never order better quality or more creative imagery after you event or child grows older.
Hello, I'm Tamieka, the owner of and photographer behind Tamieka Smith Photography a Los Angeles family photographer and Northern Virginia/National Archives Promotion Ceremony photographer in Torrance, CA. I am happy you came to visit the blog! I hope you find inspiration and helpful tips. In addition, to a peek into my life as a family photographer.