Being a Photographer

Professional or not?

My blog this week is probably going to be a bit unpopular as I’d like to set the record straight as to what goes into being a professional photographer. With the advent of the digital camera, everyone who has one seems to think that they can be classified as a “professional photographer”, but this is NOT TRUE. The definition of a “ professional photographer” also seems to be a bit vague as it states that if you charge for your work, you are a professional. What a load of hogwash, in my opinion!!! There are an awful lot of individuals who have jumped on the bandwagon, camera in hand, and have started charging for a “photo session” and this has brought the reputation of the true photographer into disrepute! So I thought I’d try to reason out what you, the public, could expect from a TRUE professional photographer before you go out and book one for your special occasion, whatever that may be.

Being a photographer

being a photographer

Co-incidentally, I came across the above chart on FB the other day. It is from the Professional Photographers of America, but it explains really well the difference between how people think photographers spend their time and the actual reality of being a photographer! Most people seem to have the notion that the biggest part of our job is having fun with a very small part set aside for taking pictures!
Well, ladies (and gents) I hate to burst that bubble but that isn’t so – just have a look at the chart. Yes, we do enjoy taking our photos but a big chunk of our business involves marketing and other administrative tasks.           

Post processing

time spent on post processing

We also spend a good deal of time on the post production phase (involving hours of training on software) which is what makes our photographs stand out against those taken by someone who has just purchased a DSLR camera or someone who takes a “snapshot” with their cell phone. Why do we spend so much of our time on post production? Because we want to make our images perfect. Because we want to please the customer. Because we care about our final product.

Getting the perfect shot!

getting the perfect shot

News flash for all those who think they can take a professional image just because they bought a DSLR camera…. A photograph is not just “taken” by pushing the button on the camera. A professional photographer has to be creative and actually THINKS about the composition, the lighting, the poses, the surroundings and a host of other things, BEFORE taking the photograph! A professional photographer knows his/her camera inside out. A professional photographer strives to get everything right “in camera” so that there is little need to do work afterwards in Photoshop. This takes an awful lot of practice and we are continually out there honing our skills whenever we are not booked with a client. We can see the light and use it correctly to get the best composition.

The post processing phase where we use Photoshop (or similar software) is where we can fine tune the photograph to reflect what we actually saw when we were doing the photoshoot. And because we want to do a fantastic job (because no less than fantastic is acceptable – at least to me!) most professional photographers spend somewhere between 20-50 minutes editing EACH picture (taking out that little strand of hair that blew into the models mouth just at the moment the shot was taken!). Serious time is spent to make sure each image is perfect. The photographer spends between 1-4 hours  at the actual photo session (unless its weddings, in which case the whole day plus the reception is involved!). I must admit that I do have a lot of fun with the moms and dads as I’m shooting their adorable newborns and because I enjoy the photoshoots so much I tend not to cost this into my packages as much as I should!

Thousands of Rands in equipment

spending on equipment

Professional photographers pay thousands of Rands for their equipment – cameras, lenses, software (Photoshop is incredibly expensive) not to mention what they spend on courses to improve their technique so that they can consistently produce beautiful images which clients can be proud to hang on their walls or place in their albums!

We love what we do!

we love what we do!

You have to remember, too that photographers with their own business don’t get paid holidays or sick days, heck, we don’t even get bonuses for outstanding performances. We put so much effort into our “job” and strive to deliver a product which the client will love – whether it is digital images, an album or prints to hang on the wall.  So please, everyone, understand that professional photographers are business owners (even if they work from home), and they LOVE doing what they do (which is why you and they have fun at the actual photoshoot), they LOVE interacting with YOU, but LOVE alone doesn’t pay the bills – if it did, we would all be rich!

Transparency

being transparent about costs

Next week I will post a totally transparent account of how I cost my “packages” in the hope that some will see that photography is a business and the photographer needs to be a skilled and well trained (self taught or otherwise) person and not just someone with a camera in his hand wanting to make money. Keep an eye out for that post, if you are interested in knowing how most photographers work out what they should be charging. It will give you a better idea of whether you are being “ripped” off or not!!

Yours in newborn photography,

Lydia

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