“That’s a great picture, you must have a really nice camera!” Such is the perception of most who don’t really know anything about a photography. It’s about the same logic as saying “that was a wonderful meal, you must have a nice stove!”
After having been a photographer for many years (and even selling photography equipment for a while) I’ve heard this statement many times. When I was selling, customers would consistently come up to me and say similar statements. The one I probably heard the most was “My friend Tom has a [insert camera name here] camera and he gets great pictures so I want to buy the same one. Almost without fail the same said customer would come back a few weeks later complaining because “something must be wrong with the camera you sold me because the pictures aren’t as good as Tom’s.” I would always reply with “may I see your camera?” and would then ask if they minded if I took a few pictures. I would put the camera in either aperture priority mode or manual, adjust the settings according to the photograph that I wanted to create, press the shutter button, and then show the customer the picture. They would always follow up with something like “Wow, that looks great, how come my pictures don’t look that good?” To which I would begin the long conversation about how I use a camera as a tool to create the look I want instead of being dependent on a camera to do all of the thinking for me. Because of peoples, often erroneous, beliefs about photography I’ve decided to create a list of 101 reasons that people need to hire a professional photographer instead of depending on their “friend with a nice camera.” This list – in no particular order – is mainly focused on wedding photography but can include any type of photography.
A Professional Photographer
1. creates photographs, he doesn’t take a picture and “hope it comes out.”
2. has spent years studying every aspect of making a photographs.
3. knows which lens to use in which situation.
4. knows how to set the camera for a consistent look regardless of location (ceremony, reception, outdoors, etc.)
5. knows how to properly use a flash for soft, even lighting.
6. knows when to use multiple flashes to create a beautiful scene.
7. knows how to make a scene look “natural” and not like he was using a flash at all.
8. knows what aperture to set his lens to for the look that will make you look the best.
9. knows what shutter speed to set to capture the ambient light, create the feeling of movement, or freeze an object in place.
10. will sometimes spend several hours retouching one photograph to make sure it is perfect.
11. knows when to use off camera lighting (strobes) to create a certain look or evenly light a group of people or a room.
12. owns professional equipment.
13. has spent about the same amount or more for *each* lens that he owns than he did for his camera body.
14. owns multiple camera bodies in case of equipment failure.
15. knows to back up his photographs to multiple locations to avoid computer crash problems.
16. has spent far more on accessories Backdrops , Light Stands , Remote Controls for Flash , Storage Cases , Umbrellas , Tripods , Tripod Heads
, etc.) than he did on his camera(s).
17. spends a great deal of time and money creating a website, advertising, and marketing.
18. will gladly spend multiple hours meeting with you, answering questions, emailing, going through every detail of the wedding, scouting out the location(s), etc. to make sure that everything is done the way you want it.
19. will discuss a “shot list” with you so that nothing, or nobody gets left out. (You know that you’ve got an uncle Joe, but your photographer doesn’t unless you tell him.)
20. will be professional about taking photographs of the bride and bridesmaids while they are getting ready.
21. knows how to direct groups of people to be photographed so that everybody looks great (no closed eyes, yawns, people hidden behind other people, etc.)
22. won’t be drinking at the reception like uncle Joe.
23. knows how to capture the moment. (not when you’re pulling away from the first kiss but right as your lips touch)
24. knows how to put together a wedding album so that it not only shows great pictures, but tells a great story.
25. knows how to match the color of his flash lighting to the color of the ambient light (tungsten, fluorescent, outdoors in the shade, etc.)
26. keeps up with the latest trends in photography styles so that he is able to offer anything that a client might want. (think red wine glasses with a black and white background )
27. keeps up with the latest digital editing tools in order to create unique and custom artwork for you to enjoy.
28. can shoot film.
29. has done this before. He’s not at your wedding to “practice his photography”
30. will let your guest be a guest. Uncle Joe will actually be able to enjoy the wedding instead of being stressed out about making sure that he gets all of the pictures that he thinks you should have.
31. will typically spend around 5 hours BEFORE the wedding in preparation, and between 40 and 60 hours AFTER the wedding editing pictures, making prints, framing, creating slideshows, creating wedding albums, confirming orders, talking to the lab, etc. Did you really think you were paying several thousand dollars just for 8 hours on the wedding day?
32. knows that the average cost of an entire wedding is around $20,000 and that the only thing that you will keep (other than the dress) is the photography.
33. knows that the average price spent on catered food service is around $3000.
34. knows that the average price spent on flowers(which will end up in the trash is about $2000
35. will be happy to let guests take pictures throughout the wedding.
36. will comply with all rules regarding flash photography during your ceremony. Most places of worship will not allow flash photography during the ceremony. How do you get good pictures in a dark church without a flash…? Hire a professional!
37. knows how to make great photographs while being discreet and unobtrusive.
38. knows that it is much smarter to save money by skimping on the flowers, food, music, location, etc. rather than to skimp on the only thing that you will have to keep from your special day (your photos).
39. knows what it’s like to have a bride (who didn’t hire him because her uncle Joe had a nice camera)call him in tears asking if there is any way he can “fix” uncle Joe’s pictures.
40. has learned the importance of not keeping his clients waiting on their pictures for months at a time.
41. will concentrate on capturing great memories rather than talking to his friends at the wedding (eh hmm…uncle Joe…)
42. knows how to pose the bride and groom (as well as bridesmaids, groomsmen, family, etc.) so that you look your absolute best.
43. knows what angles to shoot so that your pictures are the most flattering.
44. knows that the price of the camera has nothing to do with the artistic quality of the photographer.
45. will “see the shot” long before he raises the camera to his eye.
46. will prepare for the moment in advance so that he is ready when it happens (the kiss, the cake getting smeared in your new hubby’s face, etc.)
47. has seen the wedding process many times and will gladly work with you (or your coordinator) so that everything goes as smooth as possible.
48. will be full of great ideas to help out with your wedding above and beyond just taking the photographs.
49. can shoot objectively and won’t be as emotional as a family member or friend.
50. can capture the emotions of everyone else at the wedding.
51. knows how to coordinate and work with other professionals at the event (band, DJ, wedding coordinator, minister, etc.)
52. has a vested interest in making you look your best. Not only have you paid him for his services but he also knows that if you like what he does then you will be recommending him to all of your friends. There’s an old saying among photographers that goes “if you mess up a portrait you have to apologize, if you mess up a wedding you have to leave town”
53. knows that you will never regret having hired a professional and getting professional results, but you will regret, from now on, trying to “save money” and having your friend be the photographer.
54. doesn’t use the “auto” setting on the camera. Ever.
55. knows that word of mouth is the best advertising and will make sure that you are taken care of so that you will spread a good word.
56. can put people at ease who aren’t use to being in front of the camera.
57. has a “bag of tricks” up his sleeves to create the most magical experience possible for you and your wedding party.
58. makes it fun. This isn’t a job for him, it’s a passion!
59. won’t just give you a CD or DVD of images straight out of the camera, but will painstakingly go through each and every image to professionally enhance them using the latest digital software.
60. knows about time management and will shoot in such a way as to keep your wedding day flowing smoothly.
61. knows that he is not the star, you are. Though during certain times of the wedding day he may need to direct people where to go, sit, stand, etc. He does all of this so that you and your wedding party will look your absolute best. He knows that this is your day and you are the focus.
62. will have a way that you can view, and order your prints online. No more waiting for “proofs” to come back from the lab. As soon as your pictures have been touched up they will be uploaded to a custom gallery just for you and your friends and family.
63. will keep copies backed up of your photographs for many years after your wedding day. This insures that should something unforeseen happen and you lose your photographs, you can always order more.
64. will be at ease in what, for you anyway, may be a stressful situation.
65. will dress appropriately.
66. knows that this is not a fashion shoot, it’s a ceremony and he will treat it as such. Your wedding ceremony will unite you two in Holy Matrimony. This is not the time to be distracting.
67. will capture the little details of your wedding day. A flower girl tying her shoe, a tear on your mothers cheek, a rose on the floor of the isle. These are all just examples of great photographs that will help tell your story.
68. will meet with you beforehand and discuss….well…anything that you think might be important. It is your wedding day. He might give you some suggestions or ideas but ultimately he knows that you’ve probably been planning your dream wedding since you were 8.
69. has a unique style and lots of creativity, not only in editing your photos, but also in capturing them.
70. has a contract that details exactly what you are paying for.
71. has photo packages that include: several print sizes, photo books, etc.
72. will put you at ease so that you are free to enjoy your wedding without concerning yourself over the quality of your photographs.
73. won’t just make you smile, but will make you laugh.
74. can refer other professional services (cakes designers, DJ’s, etc.)
75. has a relationship with a high end (professionals only) print lab. No, this isn’t Costco, or Wal-Mart, or even Wolf Camera.
76. will pre-scout both the location of the ceremony and the reception to find the best places for photographs.
77. can optionally bring along a second photographer for multiple angles.
78. continues to educate himself by reading books and blogs, hanging out with other professional photographers, and joining professional photography associations.
79. will do just about anything for to capture the best photograph possible. Need me to climb a tree? I’m there. stand out in the river? Yup. Get on the roof and shoot down. Done!
80. knows that you’re not paying for a picture, or a set of pictures. You are paying for quality and a guaranteed level of service. I heard a high end ($25,000 to book) wedding photographer speaking in an interview where he was asked “Why would anyone pay you $25,000 to photograph their wedding, are your pictures that good?” He thought for a moment and responded “at the level I shoot at, my clients aren’t paying for pictures, they are paying for a guarantee.”
81. will talk to your minister and key people at each location to find out if there are any special requirements for photographers during the ceremony.
82. knows that a great image will have a great background.
83. brings extra batteries. Lots of them.
84. knows hot to make people look like they are actually dancing at the reception, not just frozen in a weird pose.
85. doesn’t shoot at the same angles as everybody else.
86. has access to custom framing that is not made available to the general public.
87. will focus on creating memories not just snapping pictures.
88. has multiple memory cards so that he never runs out of “film”
89. will let you password protect your online photo gallery so that only you and your friends and family can see it.
90. won’t miss the cake cutting because he is catching up with an old friend like uncle Joe.
91. knows that photography is all about lighting (literally “painting with light”) and knows how to manipulate the lighting and camera settings for soft, even lighting with no harsh shadows.
92. knows that you’ll want to put your pictures on Facebook and will give you a CD or DVD with photographs that are optimized for the web.
93. has an expert eye and knows how to frame a subject in the camera.
94. doesn’t just think he is a photographer just because he got a nice camera or took a photo class.
95. knows that capturing your memories is of the utmost importance and is highly skilled at doing so.
96. has very expensive lenses that are great at capturing pristine images in dark churches where you aren’t allowed to use a flash.
97. knows how to get energetic or upset children to smile for the group pictures.
98. will include a print release when you get a DVD of your high definition photos so that you can print them anywhere.
99. will custom format your pictures to display on an optional iPad or iPod touch.
100. can print “save the date” photo cards for you to send out to your guests.
101. is service oriented and will focus his time on not only meeting, but exceeding your expectations.