Why Hire a Professional Photographer?

No matter what industry you’re in, people looking to save a buck will ask you this question over and over again. I gave the following presentation/slideshow (in so many words) to my networking group this morning.

When a bride comes to me about wedding photos I can talk until I’m blue in the face about my work, my experience, how much I love my job – but when she asks me why she can’t just have her uncle Bob with the Best Buy camera take her wedding pictures, what can I say? What would you say?

Let me begin by saying that there are situations where all of us can get away without hiring professional help: photo-specifically, everyday shots of the kids, photos of the daily special in a restaurant posted to social media sites, grip-and-grin shots to be submitted to the local newspaper. But when do you need a professional photographer?

When I asked the members of TBX this morning, their first response was: anytime you actually want something to look good; anytime you want to be able to hang it on a wall; anytime you want to sell your house; anytime you want photos of your kids that don’t end up with you getting too emotionally involved/frustrated.

These are all perfectly valid reasons. Love ’em – my fellow local business owners are awesome and most understand the value of hiring a professional because they themselves are exactly that. But aside from the more obvious aesthetics of professional v. amateur, there is still a multitude of practical, concrete reasons you want to have a pro on board for things like portrait, commercial or wedding shoots.

Pros have the gear.

We spend thousands – if not tens of thousands – of dollars on good, carefully-researched equipment rather than running to a big box store and buying their fanciest pro-sumer model on a whim. We have the big boy toys, and we know how to use them.

(We also have backups in case any of said big toys fail, or if we’re unlucky that particular day and a shutter blows out or something breaks. Can you imagine not having photos of your wedding day because early on your uncle tripped over something and dropped his camera on the ground?)

Pros have experience.

Like the trusty postman, we work in rain, sleet and snow, not to mention with awful lighting conditions, nervous brides and family drama. We know how to calm people down—because we do this all the time—and if we’re technically good we can handle everything with grace and sometimes profit from conditions others might consider problematic. Snowstorm? No problem, if the bride and groom are willing, let’s get them out there for an unforgettable bridal session in the dark, swirling blizzard.

Pros pay for continuing education

and perfect the craft full-time, rather than on the side. I spend a good deal of my non-shooting, non-editing time learning and watching webinars, reading blogs and professional forums, searching for inspiration. Pros join organizations where they can network with colleagues and learn from each other; they attend workshops and seminars, sometimes traveling halfway around the world. As trite as it sounds, I am thinking about my profession from the time I wake to the time I sleep. Sometimes when I’m nervous I even dream about it too.

Pros have a workflow and will get it done on time.

Let’s face it, best case scenario—even if your friend or cousin is a full-time photographer and offers his/her services on the big day, you could still run into problems. Professionals are bound to contracts and if they are indeed working full-time, they’re not going to prioritize non-paying or informal jobs. I’ve heard from brides who went this route and didn’t receive their images for eight, 10, 12 months after the wedding. Pros also have liability insurance so if a great aunt trips on a piece of equipment and gets hurt, both the photographer and the couple are covered.

Lastly, we control quality from start to finish.

Pros spend days sorting through thousands of photos, editing the images to perfection and creating albums. We use software that is the real deal, not free filters/templates downloaded from the internet or a discounted version of Photoshop Elements. Every single negative, down to the quality of the paper on which the album is printed, is controlled for the best possible outcome. You’ll never have nasty surprises, only tasteful, archival-quality images you can admire for decades to come.

If for no other reason, consider the money you spend an investment in the only tangible remains of the wedding, apart from the dress or a few musty favors you find in a box in the basement. You’ll be looking at those photos for the next 50 years when the flavor of the dinner has been long forgotten, the gourmet guest gift chocolates devoured and the venue torn down or remodeled.

JSP – why hire a pro?