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Photography is more accessible now than ever. Advances in technology – particularly mobile phone cameras – have made it possible for almost anyone to create the type of art that would have been entirely out of reach a decade ago. However, there are still some situations that are best suited by hiring a professional photographer.
It’s like doing a DIY project: you might have a garage full of tools and some experience under your belt, but if you really want to get the job done right, you need to call in a pro.
So why should you hire a professional photographer?
Before getting too far, I want to make sure I don’t give the wrong impression. Most of the time, you probably don’t need to hire a professional photographer to get good pictures. But, there are situations where you and your gear just can’t quite cut it.
Even people who shoot photos for a living need to hire a professional photographer from time to time! There are plenty of reasons for putting your own camera aside and asking a professional to deliver the results you need.
While it’s true that almost any camera today can produce outstanding results, great photos are about more than just a camera. Professionals know this, which is why their websites and social media posts aren’t about what cameras they have or what accessories they use.
I recently did a photo shoot at a picturesque location in my town. Even though I had done many sessions at this same park, I made sure to arrive early to ensure I had everything in order. When the clients arrived, one of them really wanted to take pictures at a popular spot. I listened to him and assured him we could get some shots there, but I had another place in mind to start with.
The place he had in mind was virtually unusable due to harsh overhead sunlight. I had preselected another location nearby with great colors and much more even lighting and recommended we start there first.
After we got plenty of shots that I was sure would be winners, we went to the place the client suggested and took some more pictures. Once there, I made sure to put everyone in the shade of a large oak tree to evenly light them.
Then, through careful editing of the RAW files in Lightroom, I achieved some pretty solid photos.
I have seen this happen time and time again with similar results. For most people lighting and composition, not to mention technical settings like aperture size and shutter speed, aren’t really things they notice or even know about.
Professionals are keenly aware of these factors that can add layers of complication to the simple act of taking a picture. They know how to deal with them, how to plan accordingly, and how to improvise when necessary to get the best results.
This type of thought process doesn’t automatically happen with the purchase of a camera. It takes years of experience, including learning from mistakes and failures, to get things right. Anyone can learn these skills but it takes time and dedication. In the meantime, if you’re someone who just wants to get great photos it can be worth it to hire a professional photographer.
A mobile phone can take good shots on Portrait Mode, but it won’t help you know where to stand to get the best lighting, a pleasing background, and bring out your best smile.
Professionals photographers can do all of this and much more.
One analogy that works well here is cooking. Anyone can look through a cookbook, buy some ingredients, spend a bit of time in the kitchen, and end up with a meal that tastes pretty good.
Professional chefs take the same ingredients and produce culinary creations that delight your taste buds and challenge your notions of consuming food. It’s not a matter of having the ingredients, but knowing just what to do with them in a way that no cookbook or YouTube video can explain.
Experience counts with cooking, and it also matters with photography.
There’s a popular saying in photography: The best camera is the one you have with you. That’s true to a certain extent, but if your goal is to get a specific type of photo, there are certain cameras, lenses, flashes, and other gear that are best suited to the task. These often cost thousands of dollars and can be the difference between images that are adequate and awesome.
Consider the 70-200 f/2.8 lens. These are expensive, heavy, and impractical for casual individuals who enjoy snapshots with their phones. And while you could spend the equivalent of a few month’s rent or car payments on one of these lenses, you might be better off forking over a fraction of that amount to a professional instead.
This lens is just one example out of many, but the point is, professional photographers have researched the right gear for the job. It’s similar to how many people have a basic toolset at home. However, a professional mechanic has a garage full of specific sockets and drivers, as well as impact wrenches and other tools that are ideally suited to specific tasks.
Some people can probably do a basic oil change in their driveway, but serious work requires serious knowledge and an expensive set of tools to match.
The same is true for photography. When you want pictures that make you and your loved ones look your best, it sometimes takes expensive high-end gear to make it happen. And professional photographers have just the right camera gear to get it done.
There’s a line in the 1999 movie Office Space that really hits home for photographers. It’s during an exchange between Stan, the manager of a restaurant called Tchotchkes and one of his servers.
“People can get a cheeseburger anywhere,” he says. “But they come to Tchotchkes for the atmosphere and the attitude.”
The scene is meant to be somewhat satirical, but Stan’s mantra rings true for photography.
Anyone can take a camera, point it at a subject, press the shutter, and end up with some good pictures. They might even be great pictures. But when you hire a professional photographer, you are not only getting photographs, but an entire experience to go along with it.
Photographers create fun, energetic, exciting events that go far beyond simply providing a photo to hang on the wall or share online. I know photographers who have been shooting the same clients for over a decade because their sessions are about creating, not just images, but memories.
Professional photographers create experiences that clients will share with friends and family. When people talk about photos from a session, wedding, or important event, they talk about the photographer almost as much as the photos!
They share stories of how the photographer made their kids laugh, treated people with respect and kindness, listened to their requests, and made them feel like the most important people in the world.
These are the kind of experiences that get people coming back to professional photographers. Moreover, it’s something that holding a mobile phone on a selfie stick can’t replicate.
On the flip side, when people have a bad experience related to service, they will often share that with others even more than a positive experience. Professional photographers know this, which is why they take great care to pay attention to their clients, create memorable photography sessions, and keep them coming back for years on end.
I’ve seen people balk at the price of a professional photography session, and I completely understand that reaction. It can seem impractical or downright silly to spend anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars on a professional photographer.
That money could pay for a lot of camera gear, and even some educational courses to help you learn how to use it! But there’s a reason people pay that kind of money for professional photos, and you will probably be pleasantly surprised at the value you really get for your money.
What about you? What kind of experiences have you had with professional photographers? Hopefully, you walked away from your photo sessions feeling like you got a great value for your money. I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.