With easy access to a camera it may seem like a hassle, and a large expense to hire a professional photographer to take photos of your staff, products, store interior, and exterior. I talked with three local photographers, Jay Groccia, owner of On Site Studios, Zoe Isaac at Zoe Isaac Photography, and Amy Hopkinson, owner of Photography by Amycakes, to answer some of the big questions our past and current clients have about professional photography. These three photographers span a vast array of experience, expertise, and industry. We touch on several topics that include; why should I hire a professional photographer, who owns the rights to the photos, how do I choose a professional photographer, how much does a photographer cost, and more.
Amateur vs. Professional
A frequent response to my suggestion of hire a pro is, "I have a really nice camera on my phone" or "my friend has a really nice camera". All three photographers had the same response, a professional will constantly give great photos, pointing out an amateur will not have the skills or training a professional has. "Having a nice camera doesn't mean your going to get the best shot" Amy says, with Zoe adding, "a professional knows the ins and outs of their camera, how to utilize lighting, and how to process their images on the computer." Jay even cautions "your staff portraits can look like mug-shots when not properly lit".
There is a lot more to great looking photography than just a nice camera; lighting, equipment, and knowledge of photo editing, all play a key role in producing images that will help sell your products or services.
What you get with a Professional
As I just mentioned, photo editing plays a big role in how the final image looks. Post shoot editing, however, is not limited to adjusting colors, removing weird shadows, or touching up blemishes, Jay talks about what he does post shoot: "We're going to make sure your images are preflighted to work for the application you are going to use it on. So when we're working with a client we're sending them multiple versions of the same picture; maybe a thumbnail, maybe for a 'click for larger view' image, or a profile picture for social media." While an amateur will not have thought of how the photo will be used, giving you images that may not work for your print ad, a professional will give you the right image (size, resolution, and crop) for the media you are using.
Amy mentions another benefit to hiring a professional, you get to do what you do best, while the photographer captures you, your staff and your store looking great. There's nothing more unappealing than a photograph that makes a large room look small and dingy, or your staff members look sickly and green. Zoe gives us a prime example of "should have hired a pro": "The other day, I was looking at a website of a local bed and breakfast – the photos of the place were terrible! It looked like someone turned on their camera and took some snapshots of the place. It made the place look unappealing, when I think the right lighting and angles could have made the place look very elegant."
Photography and Copyright
Copyright law states, any artist that creates a work owns that work. So a photographer that takes a photo of your product owns that photograph. You are paying for the shoot and the use of that image. Amy allows full access to the image, meaning you can use it in commercial, non-commercial and editorial work. Jay and Zoe do not allow you to sell a photograph they have taken, to someone else. Jay explains it like this, "A professional commercial photographer knows the reason you're hiring them is to reproduce that picture they're taking. I don't want any extra money cause you're using it in an online ad and magazine ad, but if that magazine wanted to use my picture for an editorial, then they would need to pay for use of that picture." Both Zoe and Amy suggest that you work out the details of how you can use the photographer's images in a contract before the shoot takes place.
Choosing a Professional Photographer
So, now that you've decided you need a professional photographer, how do you find one, and how do you choose one. A resounding "check out their portfolio" where the first words out of all three photographers. A portfolio will generally showcases the best, most common type of work that photographer does. The next suggestion was to do a google search for local photographers. Let's say you are looking for an event photographer. You google photographers in your location and choose the first link. This guy has baby photos, family portraits, and some architecture shots. He is probably not the right photographer to shoot your event. Choosing the right photographer can mean the difference between a great photo shoot with amazing pictures, and photos you can not use.
How do you know who you're hiring is a professional? "We're an unlicensed, unregulated profession. We're not like doctors and lawyers, where there's a board regulating the industry," says Jay. Though there may not be a regulatory board, Zoe tells us there are two groups of photographers that can call themselves professionals, "the first is that they have a degree in photography, often a Bachelor of Fine Arts or sometimes a Bachelor of Science, these are the photographers with years of formal training." Having gone to The Art Institute of Boston (now the Lesley College of Art and Design), Zoe has had formal training in a variety of techniques and camera types that give her the ability to not only use digital cameras but also film cameras as well. The second group are "photographers out there who don’t have the formal training, but maybe belong to Professional Photographers of America or Wedding and Portrait Photographers International." Formal training or belonging to a group can be a factor, but all three photographers say finding a professional with a portfolio that has work that speaks to you is the most important thing.
Jay points out another consideration you should keep in mind when choosing a photographer: "What you do want to ask for is insurance coverage, you know if a lighting stand falls over, or the photographer trips, you want to make sure your business will be covered."
I always think of that old saying, "a picture is worth a thousand words", when it comes to website photography. A great, professional photograph is going to say so many good things about you, your company, and your products/services. Bad, poorly lit, unflattering photography will say negative things about you, your company, and your products/services. Customers want to know that you care about your services/products, and professional photography will do just that. What it all comes down to is what kind of impression you want to leave potential customers with; a bad taste that reflects neglect and uncaring or an emotionally inspiring, visually stunning impact, that leaves them wanting more.