Jun 13 2012

Why you need a professional photographer, part 1: “Why do you charge so much? I can take pictures that good!”

For those of you that are unaware, like Stef I shoot portraiture and events, but I also do quite a bit of Fine Art photography.*  Often, people come into the gallery claiming they can take pictures that are “just as good”.  Now without a doubt, some can; but in actuality, most can’t.  This is not just a common occurrence at the gallery though, it is something all professional photographers struggle with on a daily basis.  In an age where everyone has a digital camera, the question/statement “why do you charge so much, I can take pictures that good” comes up so often it makes our teeth gnash.

This post is not about all of the reasons this sentiment is misguided. (For a discussion as to the issue of cost, please read this great article on the subject.) What I am going to do instead is try and illustrate the point for you.

Out of camera

This is the image out of camera.


The image above was not terribly well-shot.  It’s underexposed and I snapped it with limited time to obtain detail images for a wedding album.  Notice how the perspective is kind of weird and the table leans away from us a bit to the far-left? What you see is straight out of camera using a “bounced” remote flash for soft shadows, held by Stefan.  Total cost of the camera equipment I was using- ~$3000.  A common misconception is that if you have that kind of camera equipment images just pop out of the camera looking fantastic.  So, it shouldn’t take us any time at all to “develop” them, right?  Nope.  If well-shot, it is true that what comes out of a good camera isn’t bad.  But in all likelihood, that requires additional (and costly) lighting setups and knowledge that isn’t trivial.  And, there’s possibly the biggest kicker with regard to this entire post.  The problem is, most folks don’t know how to shoot an image well and most cameras they’re using don’t even allow manual adjustments for exposure corrections and the like.  Off-camera lighting solutions?  Yeah, right- cousin Bob isn’t using any.  (If that straight on deer-in-the-headlights lighting is your bag then he or that Craig’s list guy may be just the guy to shoot your wedding, though.)  Beyond this, even using the best equipment, there is almost always some correction that will turn those “good” photos into GREAT photos. So, let me show you what became of my image as a series of steps.

Image straightened on a horizontal axis and cropped in an aesthetically pleasing manner.  If cousin Bob even gets this far- I’m impressed.

The final product.

The final product. Now, that’s a table I’d like to sit down at that reflects the bride’s immaculate taste!

So, after seeing the original image and the final product, do you still think you can “take pictures that good”?  If your answer is “yes”, then by all means- hire cousin Bob or that Craig’s list guy that will shoot-and-burn your wedding for $100.  Hey, it’s your special day.  But, if you can actually see- and more importantly appreciate the difference between the two images- then please hire a professional!  What we do cannot just be attributed to having some expensive camera gear. It is a combination of a lot of time dedicated to creating beautiful images for you, extensive knowledge, artistic talent, and years of experience.

You spend a lot of time on your wedding thinking about every detail to make your day perfect. You pick out the perfect flowers. You pick out the salmon-colored napkins that go perfectly with the perfect flowers. When you thumb through your wedding album on your anniversary 20 years from now, that’s what we want you to remember.  Just how perfect your day was.  Dingy, poorly cropped photos from cousin Bob’s iPhone printed on poor quality paper aren’t going to reflect it well.

So, why do we charge so much when you can take pictures just like that?  Because to be blunt, you probably can’t. And, we have overhead… and kids… and dogs… and bills, too.

A better question is why scrimp on your photographer-the one person that will make sure that your perfect day is documented for the future— perfectly?


*For those locals that are curious, you can find me at The Albuquerque Photographers’ Gallery. You can see my work at amyditto.com and purchase my work through that site or the Aperture one.  Signed, limited edition copies are only available through the gallery or via ordering through me via telephone or e-mail correspondence.

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