Why Hire a Professional Photographer?

There are a lot people out there with a DSLR camera, so why hire a professional? I think the first question you need to ask yourself is: what kind of pictures am I looking for? What is the event? If you are hiring a photographer for your wedding or for senior photos, those are once in a lifetime events. Those are photos that are going to be hanging on your wall or on the mantel for years and years to come. 

They Are Practicing on You!
Photographers looking to get into the photography business need people to practice on, but be aware, that is exactly what they are doing: practicing on you! If you are just wanting some simple family photos, this may be the way to go. At the very least, you can always have them re-done by a professional if you don’t like the results. Budding photographers need that practice, and I’m all for letting them get it. Just make sure that you are not over-paying them. I have known some people that claim to be professional photographers whose pictures I would never pay for, so buyer beware!

At this point, I would love to show you photos of some of the bad "professional portraits" I have come across over the years, but that would by highly unprofessional of me.

I think most photographers just starting out in the business charge very little and hand out CDs instead of taking the time to order prints. That’s pretty textbook. Plus, it sure is easier and less time-consuming to hand out a CD than to spend time ordering prints! 

I know I did this as I was going from focusing on landscape photography to portrait photography. Even though I had been taking photos for almost 20 years, I would never have started out charging for portrait photography. In fact, I think anyone wanting to become a photographer needs to go through the steps of: finding people willing to pose for them for free, then charging just a little bit for a session as they get better ($50-$100), then creating some packages and charging a little bit more. After they get really comfortable with portrait work, take some classes, and have a portfolio, they can then create a business model and start charging as a professional photographer. This shouldn’t be a 2-3 month process, but a 2-3 year process. It takes awhile to establish a style and perfect your ability to create stunning portrait work.

Photographers are always improving. At least good photographers are. I look back at the work I did a year ago and can see how much I have improved. If I go back five years ago, I can see how much I’ve been able to learn in order to provide my clients with high-end portraits.

Photos That Never Get Printed
Here’s the problem with CDs…many of my clients never printed pictures from those CDs back in the early days of my career. This was especially true when it came to senior clients. Sometimes I had seniors come to me two years later asking if they could get another copy of their CD because they finally decided to get prints made, but they couldn’t find the CD. How many times do you take pictures and they never do anything but sit on your computer? Knowing you always “have tomorrow” to get those photos printed, often means that tomorrow never comes. 

Almost 2,000 photos on my MacBook Pro's iPhoto alone!
This isn't even a fraction of the photos I haven't printed...
and I'm a photographer!

Print Quality
Even when photos get printed, the print quality is vastly different when you compare commercial print labs (Walmart, Walgreens, Cosco, Snapfish, etc) to professional print labs. Professional print labs are very good about not only using high quality, heirloom paper, but they stay true to the editing done by the photographer. This is not true from commercial print labs. I have found that Walmart prints are over-saturated and the contrast has been boosted as well. Walgreen prints often have a greenish cast to them. Neither of these are outcomes you would want from photos that you are going to display in your home.

For a good comparison between commercial labs and pro labs, check out this link

The Pros of Hiring a Pro
Sure you can go out and hire someone that is just starting out in photography for less than you can a professional. You probably will get a CD and be able to print off as many prints as you want. Being able to print off your own pictures isn’t necessarily worth giving up the quality and knowledge you are getting from a Pro.

What Are Your Memories Worth?
Yes, you will pay more for your prints when you hire a professional photographer. Let’s discuss why those prints are costing more than if you went and printed them off yourself.

Most professional photographers are making their money off of print sales. Usually you will be charged a session or sitting fee. This pays for the photographer’s time taking and processing photos. After that, the print cost is what is paying for all that time your photographer is spending editing your photos. I often spend around 20 hours processing and editing a senior session, and around 40 hours on a wedding. Now you need to ask yourself, how much would you expect to make at your job for a week’s work? $400? Doubtful. This is why some photographers outsource their editing. Editing takes up time that could be spent on more sessions. Personally, I want to have full control over my work, so I do all my own editing. Plus, I really enjoy it!

You can also expect a professional photographer to have lots of great ideas when it comes to locations, poses, composition and lighting. Don’t think of it as paying more for prints, but as paying to make sure your memories are taken care of in the best way possible. Remember: You get what you pay for! This couldn’t be more true than when you are looking at whether to hire a professional photographer or a beginner. Having said that, just because someone charges a lot of money, doesn’t mean they are the best out there, so be sure to vet your photographer before hiring them.

When you are hiring a pro, you can expect to get the royal treatment. Good photographers will go out of their way to make sure you are getting exactly what you want from your session and prints. You should be able to get the location, editing, print sizes and special orders you want from your photographer. If you don’t know what you want, they will have all kinds of ideas for you. Professional photographers have also spent quite a bit of money on equipment: cameras, lenses, lights, backdrops, props and more, and they know how to use those things. Most photographers who are just starting out cannot provide you with those services yet as they are not prepared to do so. Pros are already familiar with how to get the most out of every session and should be able to walk you through any questions or concerns you have. 

Pro or No?
So should you hire a professional or not? If you are getting once in a lifetime photos taken (i.e. weddings, engagements, senior portraits, maternity, newborn or yearly family photos), I would hire a professional. If you have already had some professional family portraits taken that year but would like some extras for some reason, then go help out someone looking to learn the business. Find someone who seems to have potential and give them a shot!

Check back for my up and coming post about questions you should ask your professional photographer!

If you are near the south-central Missouri area and are looking for a professional photographer, please contact me at Gifts of Nature Photography. Like my Facebook page for more photos, tips and information!

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