Saturday, July 25, 2009

Why Pay?

This is a topic that has been dominating my thoughts recently. Why on earth should anyone pay to get a professional portrait session? Digital cameras are cheaper than dirt. For the same $200 that buys you a family portrait from an experienced professional photographer, you can buy a point and show (P&S) camera and a tripod, set the camera on a timer, and take the pictures yourself! Not only that, but you get to keep the camera and take pictures in the future, instead of hiring a photographer again at graduation, or heck, even the wedding! This solution is WAY cheaper over time!


One of my favorite sayings is "Everyone can buy a camera and take pictures. NOT everyone can take GREAT pictures (and take great pictures consistently)." This is pretty much all that professional photographers have going for them these days. We take pictures that are considerably better than what Joe Schmo comes out with on his P&S. Sure, our cameras are higher quality, but any REAL photographer, professional or not can take the same amazing picture with a disposable 35mm film camera as with the $5000 DSLR. The difference is that the $5000 DSLR makes it easier, faster, and more convenient for everyone involved. In the end, it isn't the camera that makes the picture, but the photographer who knows how to compose a great image and press the shutter at the right time.

What it really comes down to, is how much YOU (as the person in need of pictures) value quality. If you don't really care about how your pictures look and you just want to prove that you do in fact have a family, then grab the cheapest POS P&S you can find and take the picture yourself. IF, however, you value high quality pictures that not only prove that you have a family, but show how you interact together, and provide a glimpse into each person, then you need a photographer who knows how to make that happen. Yes, it is more expensive, but the quality (and thus value) of the pictures you get from the photographer is MUCH higher (on average) than those your take yourself .

To answer my own question, i suppose the only reason anyone should ever pay for a professional photographer is: to get great pictures.

1 reason? That's terrible.

Looking at the pros (getting great pictures) and the cons (scheduling issues, costs in time and money) I'm not convinced.

Let's think a little harder though. Sure, everyone wants great pictures... but WHY? So you can print them and display them in your home. So you can send them to grandma and grandpa. So you can send them out in your holiday letters... But that isn't it.
The real value in great photographs isn't how many pixels they have or how big you can print them, it is how they capture a moment in time, a memory, and save it forever.

Memories, I think, are some of the most valuable (and undervalued) things around. When I look at a picture from my childhood, I say "Wow! I was so fat cute!" But the important part comes after that, as I try to remember the moment the picture was taken, and the surrounding time period. A photograph can bring back powerful memories, and every time you look at the image, your memories come rushing back. I submit that the best reason to get a great photographer is so you can save memories. This makes the most sense with an event like a wedding. Duh, hire a photographer (or 2 or 3) to capture every moment of your wonderful day. Wedding photography (in my opinion) describes best the true value of images as memory-holders, as well as the true monetary value of photography; established wedding photographers make serious $$$. But something as simple as a family portrait isn't done nearly as often, and isn't valued nearly as highly by many. I'd suggest getting a professional family portrait once every year, or at most every 2 years... but the sad reality is that most people end up being photographed by a pro maybe 3 or 4 times in their life.

  1. Baby photos!
  2. High school senior photo
  3. Wedding
  4. A family portrait somewhere in there
In the clients that I deal with, a straight up photoshoot is a very rare experience. I think that explains why people are often so nervous and uncomfortable in front of a camera; they have no practice.
Just think what would happen if you were photographed once a year with your family. You would become increasingly comfortable in front of the lens, and (assuming you hired the same photographer) you would also become more and more used to the photographer. That would allow you to loosen up, have more fun and thus improve the general quality of your photos! You would probably stray from the usual "Stand here, face here, smile!" portrait and end up doing fun things with your photo shoots and creating memories and photographs at the same time.

So... again to the beginning: Why Pay?
  1. Save and create memories

  2. Get GREAT pictures to show off to family and friends

  3. Improve the quality of future photos

There are the Pros, lets look at the Cons
  • Costly in time and money (30 min - 1 hour, and around $200 depending on the photographer)
  • .....

Hmm. Looks to me like the Pros outweigh the Cons.

What do you think? Why should (or shouldn't) you hire a photographer?
Comments are welcome!