Many people become confused when it comes to understanding how to choose a professional photographer. There are a lot of people who call themselves a photographer but are they really a professional and therefore right for you?
Photography is one of the rare professions these days where anyone can call themselves a professional photographer. There is no formal accreditation process unlike many other professions. Just because someone owns a camera, it does not necessarily make them a professional photographer. So how can you be sure the person that you choose is a professional photographer?
ARE THEY SELF TAUGHT?
A lot of photographers are “self taught”. They have picked up a camera and watched a few You Tube videos and think they know all they need to know about photography. Would you hire a self taught electrician to install lights and power points in your house? Would you let a self taught mechanic service your vehicle? Would you let a self taught physiotherapist work on your injured back? Would you trust a self taught lawyer to represent you in court or a self taught doctor to operate on your child? No of course not; so why trust your business image or family memories to some self taught photographer?
DO THEY HAVE FORMAL QUALIFICATIONS?
I sometimes hear people state that there is no special skill in photography and that you can train a monkey to point a camera and press a button. These people clearly do not understand the first thing about professional photography. Their ignorance is plain for all to see and are invariably people who have no formal qualifications in photography.
A detailed knowledge of colour and composition, a deep technical knowledge of photographic equipment, mastery of light and lighting techniques, creative use of depth of field, subject posing and expression, ability to balance the colour temperature of competing light sources, limitations of dynamic range, file types, compression, bit depth, colour profiles, print management, image processing and professional retouching and the list goes on. These are just some of the technical and practical skills and knowledge required by a professional photographer that are more effectively acquired through formal training rather than left to those that think they can be effectively self taught.
Photography is a communication process. From a business sense you are communicating to your clients through your choice of images. It is important that your photographer understands communication theory and has the practical experience to implement it in his/her work so that you send the right message through your images.
Look for a photographer who has accredited training with at least a Certificate 4 in photography while tertiary qualifications such as a Bachelor of Arts is better.
ARE THEY EXPERIENCED?
If a photographer has been shooting professionally for a number of years they are probably good at what they do. Photography is such a competitive field that one does not survive for long if one is not good at what one does. You should avoid someone who is starting out or has done a few “shoots” for family and friends. Yes, photographers need to get experience but the best way is maybe as an assistant rather than experimenting and making mistakes with your business, money or family. Avoid photographers who are “building their portfolio” or have a “day job”, two clear signs that they are not a true professional photographer.
THE CHEAPEST IS NEVER USUALLY THE BEST!
Price usually correlates with experience. An experienced photographer knows his/her costs and has an understanding of overheads and effective hourly rates and charges. They know the true value of their work. A professional photographers price is never too high; it is usually that the clients budget is unrealistically low. Generally, the more the photographer charges the better their work will be. This is not always true, but there is generally a correlation between the price and the quality and value of the service/product.
Photography is like any other profession – qualifications and experience count and should be at the forefront of your selection criteria.