Thank you to Valerie Evans for letting me reprint this most inspiring post. I realized as I was reading it, this was right on the mark and knew I wanted to share it with others. Please enjoy and leave some comments I can pass on to Valerie!
Inspired by Tim Ganders‘ latest blog, I felt it was appropriate to add my own tuppence worth for the benefit of would-be clients who perhaps think they can save some money by doing their photography themselves. If you really think it’s a good idea, here are some things to ponder:-
Do you really think that obviously amateurish looking photography is going to create a professional impression and entice people to work with you or hire your business? If the answer is no, read on…
What are you photographing?
If it’s people, do you know what constitutes a suitable background for any given subject? Do you understand how the shapes and colours around the subject will influence the way the image is received? Do you understand how to light skin tones so that you don’t end up with a shot of a staff member who looks like they have the plague? Do you know how to pose people so they look confident and professional? Or relaxed and approachable? Can you judge whether to zoom right in and fill the frame with your subject’s face, or whether to use a wider angle to include more of them and the background?
If you’re going to be photographing products, do you understand the physics of light and reflective surfaces? Do you understand how light is going to behave when exposed to any given material? Do you know where to put your lights and how much light you need? Do you know how to frame your shots? Do you understand how depth of field is used to isolate objects/ develop mood/ etc? Do you know what to do with your backdrop?
If you’re going to be photographing your business premises, are you going to be taking external shots and do you know about converging verticals and how to compensate for that? If you’re shooting indoors, do you know how to light a room? Do you understand how to create additional light that creates a professional office look and that isn’t at odds with the ambient light in the space? Do you understand what is meant by ‘ambient’ in this context? Do you understand why you might need to move your furniture about to get the shot right?
Do you understand the differences in image quality required for web use and print? If you’ve invested in a camera, do you know the sensor size and type and do you understand the relationship between sensor and pixels? Do you know the camera’s dynamic range? What kind of lens do you have? If it’s a zoom lens, do you know which end gives you the best result? Do you know why you would zoom in, or zoom out? Are you able to take a photograph in which the colours are accurate, the highlights not blown nor the shadows black and featureless? Do you know what options are available to you in any given situation to deal with these problems?
Do you understand the legal requirements of photographing people or property? Do you know what rights you and they have and what permissions must be sought and can be refused?
These are just a few of the problems that the professional photographer charges you money to solve. Most likely, the average client doesn’t even know that half of these issues even exist and yet they’re only a few of the problems that professional photographers solve every day. We charge money for our services because we do know about lighting and composition, framing, shape, texture, colour and about equipment, hardware, physics, software. We have trained, either formally or through years of personal study involving commitment, time, expense and sheer frustration, to learn these things so that we can show up at a job and get it right first time. We’ve invested money in equipment which can do the job well, and we’ve learned how to use it. We’ve studied other photographs to learn how to communicate through the use of visual imagery.
All these things may seem like overkill if you think you only need a snapshot of your office frontage so people know what to look for if they’re visiting your office, or a quick snap of the sales manager for the annual report, but anyone involved in marketing or branding will tell you that everything you put out there contributes to the overall impression of the business. If any of your client demographic is visually literate (and given how many photographers there are out there, you can safely say a fairly good percentage) then you should consider the impression you’re making on them. Can you afford to lose their business if they decide that you just don’t inspire confidence? You wouldn’t let a second rate product or service be seen out in the marketplace next to a better quality version, would you?
Bear it in mind. Sometimes you genuinely might not be able to afford a professional photographer, and in that case, perhaps someone like Tim Ganders can offer you some training which will help you solve some of the problems illustrated above, but you shouldn’t consider photography an optional extra any more than you would consider your sales manager’s job, or your accountant’s job, or your secretary’s job, or your web designer’s job an optional extra. It’s important and it’s important that the skill isn’t devalued in an age when visual literacy is more important than ever.