I wanted to write this article because I hear a lot about the widespread use of cameras cheapening photography as a profession. I want to answer the burning question of some, “Why should I pay for professional photography?”
It is true that with digital photography and high-quality cameras becoming cheaper it is easier for amateurs to pass as professionals. You put it on auto and the camera does the work. But I ask myself the question how good is good and what is good enough. I see on Facebook streams of images every day and very few of them are “good photography”. A professional has years of experience and high technical standards. A professional photographer spends hours doing work on the images after they are taken: editing out the bad photos from the good ones, brightening the dark ones, darkening the bright ones, increasing or decreasing saturation, deepening blacks, and sometimes removing unsightly elements.
In the old days you had to have a pro or you didn’t have photos. But these days you will certainly have photos, it is a matter of quality. A professional thinks about and studies people’s faces. Having been a portrait photographer for many years, I look at someone’s face and study the features to best accentuate that individual’s strengths. I know how to minimize double chins, make a large nose look smaller, often people have one eye that is bigger than the other I can handle that too. I am also looking at posing. How is a person sitting or standing? Do they look comfortable? Are they slouching? Does that angle make their belly stick out? I am looking for all these things plus the general composition and setting of the photo.
But that’s my job. Most people with a camera don’t do that. They don’t even know they should and they don’t know how to correct mistakes of brightness/darkness, cropping etc. Photography is a subject and an art. It requires technical knowledge and creative vision. Within that technical knowledge there is a knowledge of: colour, composition, lighting, form, focus, symmetry, directing, printing, editing software and camera know-how. Using your camera is one component of all the things a photographer should master.
So when asking whether you need a pro, consider whether you can ever get those photos again and whether it is worth wasting an opportunity to capture a group of people, a place and a memory. Photographs are not just made for the people who are in the photo but for their children or even their children’s children. And sometimes it is to remember people who will not be with us forever.
When it is a major life event like a wedding, a Christening, a family reunion, or even an expanding family growing a year older, something that cannot be re-done, re-created or re-photographed, that’s when you invest in a pro. Because you need to make sure that it is captured well with all that technique, experience and vision. Photographers are artists that work with a tool called a camera. They are not robots clicking snapshots. They deserve to be respected, admired and compensated for work well executed.