Why hire a Professional Photographer
During a recent shoot for a advertising campaign I was asked by one of the models what makes a professional photographer different from any other person who can purchase a good dSLR camera from a retail store. Without getting into any kind of immediate discussion I switched off the wireless flash transmitter on my camera and clicked another shot of another model I was currently photographing using the on camera flash. I showed the model the difference between the two shots and they we astounded. I was immediately asked an array of questions why it looks so different
Though you get great camera in retail store these days it is only a tool. A camera alone cannot produce professional results, that is the job of the person using the tool. Similarly the flash built into the camera is a tool, but it is fixed to the camera so it is limited. Getting an off camera flash is just adding another tool, and attaching it to your camera gives you the same limits as the pop-up flash built into the camera (just bigger and bulkier with more range [usually] ).
If I buy a fantastic set up brushes and oil painting colours and the best canvasses and easels I can call myself a professional artist, but do these tools make me a professional? The way you use your tools makes you an artist, not the tools. A professional photographer is someone who works hard every day of their lives to achieve great looking results with their tools. A professional photographer has a profession called photography and they dedicate their lives to it. Professional photographers do not do spare-time or weekend photography and they spend every waking moment thinking about photography and ways they can make the next photo look better.
So why should you hire a professional photographer?
I am often asked this question and I rather show people my photos rather than try and explain why they should hire a professional. It is up to the person hiring the photographer what grade of quality they will be happy with or what will fall into their budget. If I have a leaky tap I can hire uncle Joe to fix it for me very cheap since he is a pretty good handy man. I may still solve the problem of the leaky tap and save a load of money, but when I walk into my home and it is flooded I call a professional plumber. In the above photo example any person with a camera will be able to produce similar results to the picture on the right, but if you want a photo to look like the one on the left then you need to hire a professional.
How do you know if someone is a professional photographer?
Ask questions and examine the answers.
Ask a photographer if they have another job besides photography. Though there are great weekend photographers out there a passionate professional dedicates their time to photography and day jobs get in the way of this.
Ask to see their portfolio. A portfolio will usually contain just their best work, but can sometimes be misleading. There are photographers out there who will build a portfolio over years using lucky shots. Using a mobile phone camera every person out there has gotten a couple of amazing shots, but not every photo is great. Ask to see a set from a specific shoot such as a complete wedding set or studio shoot with specific model in portfolio. When a photographer is unwilling to show a set they rely too much on lucky shots rather than good photography practices.
Ask to see examples of photos shot under low light condition where flashes would be required. Check the backgrounds on such photos and note if there are harsh shadows indicating use of direct flash (refer to example image on right above above). WARNING: When a photographer says they never use flash or are “natural light” photographers you should be careful. Every professional photographer owns 1 or more flash units for their cameras as any kind of portraiture work, and especially weddings, will requires the use of flash at some point. Many professional photographers will use flashes even during daylight to balance out shadows and create light effects as we see them in magazines.
Though standard photography is not all bad it is unfair for a photographer to sell themselves to a customer as a professional when their true work does not match up to the standard. In the end it is up to you as a customer to decide what level of quality you will be happy with which also falls within your budget.
Lastly; Why are professional photographers expensive?
The answer is simple: Professional photographers have to make a living from their profession and they do not have day jobs to subsidize their photography. A cheap professional photographer soon finds themselves looking for a day job to survive and then their photography dream dies as they become weekend warriors.
A professional photographer uses professional grade equipment which is very expensive. The camera is just the start as you needed flashes, transmitters for flashes, stands for lighting and flashes, backdrops, soft boxes, grids, reflectors and array of other small pieces of equipment which is expensive. Equipment does not last forever either and camera need to be replaced from time to time as they age. There is also insurance which, for professional photographers, is not cheap (home insurance does NOT cover professional camera equipment or use).