Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is it the camera or the photographer - You decide

Lately I have seen a lot of photos floating around on facebook as to why you should choose a professional vs someone who just has a DSLR whether hobbyist or amateur photographer. I have read the arguments on both sides and it made me want to do my own little survey. I am not going to tell you to choose a professional over an amateur as I feel that that is not the point at all. Everyone starts somewhere in their photography journey... even me.

But with that being said this survey is for "you" the "client" to decide what is important to "you". If you have a photography budget then maybe a professional is for you. But if you don't then I would much rather have "something" then "nothing". The best camera you have is the one you have in your hand. I think Instagram has proven that!

As professionals sometimes we forget that we are not shooting for "ourselves" but we are shooting for our clients who don't always care about the rule of thirds, composition etc. but the emotion in the photo so we lose sight of the most important things. It's hard balance because in the competitive industry we are all trying to give our clients the very best. So let's begin how this survey started for me.

The other day I saw this floating around on facebook
I am not going to say which image is better and which is not. In all honesty it doesn't matter. If I didn't have the money to hire a professional then I would rather have any image then no image. But most likely the top image was done by a family member at the wedding shooting for fun and the second was done by a hired professional. Simple things such as buildings were removed off the photo, and the rock over to the left of the photo. To add balance some brush was added to the photo on the right. Things that maybe a client would never notice but because we as artists want to create something for you that we would create for ourselves we will add special touches to your photo so you have the VERY BEST of US. Which is why you hired us right!?! :)
This other one created quite a commotion on facebook yesterday on a very talented photographers facebook site Will King Photography. The debate was that the bride on the left was probably taken by a amateur photographer and the image on the right by a hired professional photographer. Same location, different bride, but based on the way the light hits the gravel I would guess the time of day is around the same but dramatic difference in the final result.
Again I am not going to tell you which image is better as honestly that doesn't matter. At least not to me. You as the client can make that decision. We all see things differently and art differently. If art had rules and we all had to do things the same way, wouldn't it get boring? As professionals selective coloring does get looked down upon in the photography world. But I have clients still request it... so as much as I personally hate selective coloring if a client would like it done then I will do it for them and then "choose" not to display it on my page as it is not something I want to do regularly :) If you have a budget for a wedding photographer it is definitely worth the investment to hire a professional. If you don't have a budget then I would not blame you for going with "free" :) Weddings are super expensive... but if you have a budget I would encourage brides to consider cutting costs in other areas to afford a professional and not just someone who owns a nice DSLR and dabbles in photography. That is my opinion :)
So the above photo created an uproar for the following reasons. People argued that you were comparing apples and oranges. That the models were different, lighting was different, cameras were different and that it wasn't a fair comparison. Which made me wonder if maybe there was some truth to what they were saying. So I brought in one of my clients who last minute helped me throw this together. (By the way I thank her for putting herself out like this too as she at first was a little hesitant to help me with this) The images below are of my daughter during her 4 month session yesterday morning.

The background on my client is she is not a professional. She shoots with an older  Canon Rebel that was a Christmas gift so that she had a decent camera to photograph her children with. She enjoys photographing them but has no desire to start a photography business at this point although she says maybe later on down the road she might consider it when her little ones are older.

How we started the shoot was I told her to watch how I set up for my session and then after I finished my series of photos I was going to ask her to repeat what I just did. So with my sessions I shoot in "FULL" manual. Meaning I choose my ISO, I choose my shutter speed, I choose my white balance, I choose my aperture, I even choose my focus points and tell my camera what to focus on. Or in non photography terms "I" tell my camera what it does. I also shoot in RAW and converted these to jpg. My light source was window to the right of subject and a reflector to the left for fill light. These were the original images I captured.

Next I stripped down my daughter and even went as far as removing the rug and had my client dress my daughter and even set everything back up. I asked her if she ever shot in raw and her response was "What's Raw?" So since she is more of a hobbyist photographer and when she does photograph her children she shoots only in auto, I switched all my camera's functions to full auto which means she is no longer in control of how the camera photographs her subject. It chooses what "it" thinks is proper exposure. These were her original photos. (*Please note that after this survey we shared a good laugh at how she chose to place the headband upside down! LOL! It was soooo hard for me not to want to fix it for her) but this was her show and I let her run with it!

So what do I as a professional see wrong with this image? Well it is underexposed. The subject was not placed properly on the pillow but actually placed below it causing her to look lost in the photo and she had a hard time propping her head up because of it so we had a hard time capturing her looking up. On top of that the headband is upside down (LOL) and still laughing, and if you look closely you can see that because she allowed the camera to focus on it's subject that in most of the photos it focused on the headband and not my daughters eyes because a camera naturally focuses on the thing closes to it which is the headband instead of the eyes.. Also another thing she did different is she did not use the reflector and all of her images were taken at the same angle, all in horizontal mode and she did not zoom in to her subject although she was taught how to do that before had. Maybe she forgot too... I didn't ask and didn't notice til I downloaded the images after she left. :)

Now onto the next series. I moved my daughter in front of a window. I used to hate facing a window when using my camera. Now I love it! Why? well because I have learned the tricks to do so and therefore it creates stunning results. Here were my original images. Reflector was used here again held in front of me for fill light.

Now same thing again. Stripped down my daughter and let her set back up. And headband is upside down again!! Gah!! So funny. :) She did not use the reflector and completely shot in full auto. Subject is under exposed. She chose unflattering angles and no catch lights on babies eyes so they are boring and do not "pop". After a few shots my daughter decided she was done with modeling so unfortunately our survey ended here. :) All said and done this was done in about a 30 minute time span.

So as a professional photographer my images do not stop in camera. I then process my images in photoshop to give them a unique look. Every professional photographer processes their images differently. Some go for bold bright colors, some choose black and white edits, some do a vintage look. It is all a matter of preference. Below are my before and afters of the original images that I took and then processed in photoshop. You can see that the images are very different and this is not something that can be done "in camera" but done behind the scenes.

In my opinion original image was flat with lack of color intensity. In about 5 minutes my final product resulted in the one on the left.
I like to try and shoot correctly "in camera" but sometimes when I download an image I decide I don't care for the results so with a few tricks up my sleeve I turned this image into the one on the left. I believe it adds interest to the photo. Same enhancements as above. This could not be done in camera and therefore when you hire a professional you could end up with results such as this one above.

Eeeks my image to the right was poorly executed. My flooring was not laying flat, nor was my image straight when downloaded. But sometimes when working with kids you are in a hurry and when you see them do something like pull their feet up like this you just snap quickly and hope for the best. :) So my editing process probably took 10-15 minutes. I straightened out the flooring below the chair in photoshop. I removed the brush behind the subject shown in the window. I straightened the image and then I did my normal color correction to bring out the image. All done by me and not the camera :) Sometimes we cannot control our backgrounds such as as the brush in the window so when I do frames like this I have to mentally note that later on I will have to remove it. Clients don't know that I do it but they would notice if I didn't do it type thing :)

I didn't do much with this one. Just my basic color enhancements :)

So with all this in mind I now want to do a side by side comparison of what you might get from an unprofessional vs a professional and let you decide if it is something you want to invest in or if it is something that is in your budget. I think food, clothes, shelter, etc are more important then photos but photos are definitely important to me and in my household so it is really a choice that "you" the client has to decide. I am not even going to say that my image is better then the other image cause in all honestly like I keep saying something is better then nothing and I encourage my clients to shoot as many photos as possible because at the end of the day, that might be the only memory you have of that moment :) 
Left : Final Image of Stefani Marie Photography  -  Right: Final image of my hobbyist client

Left : Final Image of Stefani Marie Photography  -  Right: Final image of my hobbyist client

Also as a professional I am not going to tell you to hire me or hire the most expensive photographer because I have seen high end photographers whose work in my opinion really isn't that great. I have also seen some low end photographers whose work is absolutely amazing. Every photographer has different financial needs, every photographer has a different style. So when hiring a professional I personally would consider the following.

1- quality
2- style
3- personality
4- price
5- customer service

None of which are in a certain order as I also feel that I have no necessary order I would go by but it is a case by case scenario. If it were my wedding I would choose someone's quality over price. If it were my child's birthday party I would probably choose price over quality as these will most likely never end up on my wall but in an album. It truly is up to you decide what is most important to you.

My survey was just a side by side comparison and I hope that maybe it will help you decide better what your needs are and that even though this person was handed "My Camera, and full access to everything I would use during a session, and same time of day etc" that it did indeed produce very different results. So when someone says "You have a nice camera and it takes nice photos." I now will be able to say "Thank you I taught it everything it knows." and know that it is true. I know how far I have worked to give you the very best of me and I really hope that you agree! The only photographer I am going to compare myself to is the one I used to be. And the images that my client took were how my images were when I first started too. But you grow, and you learn and you grow and you learn some more and I hope to continue to grow so that way you continue to get 110% of me.

Thanks everyone for reading this!! And thank you from the bottom of my heart to all my clients who have helped me to grow and continue to support me and my business. You mean so much to me and I really am nothing without you. :)

1 comment:

mumovearls said...

Wow! Thank you!! As a photographer I keep trying to explain this to my clients- This was an awesome post!!

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