5 Reasons why you should highly consider booking a photographer

A couple of years ago was my grandmother's 90th birthday. My family planned a huge party for her- a reunion really, as those of us who had moved away flew in from all over the country to be there. It was the first time in about 20 years that we had all been together in one place (my grandmother had 7 children, then add in grandchildren and great grandchildren- there's about 60 of us total). When we were in the planning stages for this party, I suggested hiring a professional photographer to get a great picture of all of us together. I even had friends who would've given us a discount. Almost my entire family shot it down- even to the point of making the "I've got this thing called a cell phone that takes pictures" joke- so, I let it go. At the party, we asked a non-family member to take a picture of our family and we all piled onto the patio. This person took the picture with a couple different cell phones and guess what... Grandma was in the VERY BACK of the photo and you can barely see her! So in our big family photo, the one taken on her birthday to honor her, Grandma isn't even the center of attention. It's like a Where's Waldo puzzle looking for her. And to make it worse, the image resolution wasn't high enough to blow up the picture for printing. So sad that we missed that opportunity to have a great memory made.

I've heard it a million and a half times. Why should I book a photographer? I can take the pictures myself. And you know what? You're right. Cell phones these days can have amazing quality cameras. I am definitely known to go in to the Verizon store when I need to upgrade my phone and tell them "just give me the one with the best camera." It's awesome to have that option of taking a great picture with something that fits in your pocket. There are many occasions when it is not necessary to hire a professional. However, there are some instances when hiring a professional photographer is WELL WORTH the money you'll pay for it. Let me give you some examples of WHY you will want to consider it:

5: you're getting an entire experience along with your pictures

Having your photos taken should never feel like a chore! A good professional photographer should make the experience lots of fun! When someone books a photo session with me, I first ask them where THEY would like to do the session. Is there somewhere your family LOVES to go? Is there a location that means a lot to you? Sometimes they don't care, but other times, it makes all the difference. The family in the pictures below LOVES going to this park. They go there for fun, they have birthday parties there, they celebrate their special occasions there. It worked out perfectly because, as we had their family photo session there, we were able to not only capture the traditional family poses, but also some really fun, candid shots like the ones below. They were perfectly at ease and it reflected in the photos. These candids ended up being some of their favorites!

My point is, photographers create fun, energetic, exciting experiences that go far beyond simply providing a photo to hang on the wall or share online. I know photographers who have been shooting the same clients for many, many years and consider them friends because their sessions are about creating, not just images, but memories.

Professional photographers create experiences that clients will share with friends and family. When people talk about photos from a session, they talk about the photographer almost as much as the photos! They share stories of how the photographer made their kids laugh, treated people with respect and kindness, listened to their requests, and made them feel like the most important people in the world- which, at your session, YOU ARE!!!! These are the kind of experiences that get people coming back to professional photographers. Moreover, it’s something that holding a mobile phone on a selfie stick can’t replicate.

4: a photographer is trained to make your session fantastic

Since professional photographers make it their job to know how to create quality photos, they will do whatever they can to plan for beautiful and personalized sessions! Not only do photographers know their equipment very well (more about that in the next point), but they know tons about lighting, locations, and outfits that will help lead to unique photography sessions. I personally like to consult with my clients on their likes and dislikes, and give lots of advice to help plan the most beautiful, personalized sessions I can for each client. It’s my job to know pretty locations that make for good backgrounds, what times of day are best for taking photos, and how to style clients so that their outfits work together or work best with their body types to create the most flattering photos. I think planning is what makes this process very personalized and unique for each person, and the planning shows in the final product.

And while planning is super important, there is also the day of the session. A professional photographer will know how to work around what you want and make it work in the best way. For example, the family below chose this location. They also needed the session to be at 2pm- a time of the day that is nearly impossible to avoid harsh light or dappled white light on your skin. I had to be very careful to make sure they were posing in just the right ways. Look at the ground in front of them. See all that dappled light shining through the trees? If they had sat down even a foot closer to me, that light would be on their faces and their skin would look all wonky. Also, the bright, overhead sunlight of Florida summer coming through the trees in a forest at 2pm made for some seriously yellow grass. My experience and expertise with editing RAW files helped me to tone down those bright yellows and bring back a beautiful green. These are just a few of the little things that a professional can do for you that will make a world of difference in your photos.

3: the right EQUIPMENT to capture the right image

My mentor likes to use the phrase "the best camera is the one you have with you." She is right... in a sense... That’s true to a certain extent, but if your goal is to get a specific type of photo, there are certain cameras, lenses, flashes, and other gear that are best suited to the task. These often cost thousands of dollars and can be the difference between images that are adequate and awesome.

Consider the 70-200 f2.8 lens (my personal favorite). These are expensive, heavy, and impractical for casual individuals who enjoy snapshots with their phones. And while you could spend the equivalent of a few month’s rent or car payments on one of these lenses, you might be better off forking over a fraction of that amount to a professional instead.

I have several lenses that I use for different things. I have wide-angle lenses that I use for photos where I want to incorporate the background and lenses that are more zoomed to make more flattering portraits. I have lenses with low apertures that can help create that soft, creamy background, and lenses that I use to avoid distorting people’s faces. I operate my camera manually as well, allowing me to have full control of the photos I am taking, and I edit photos to give them distinct style, to soften skin, to help combat dark shadows, etc. I know my equipment very well, and this makes a big difference in the final product of your photos.

Also, as a professional photographer, I have had extensive training on using my cameras in Manual Mode. You can have the BEST camera out there, but if you are using it in AUTO mode, your pictures will not be the same quality as a professional. Using a camera in manual mode means knowing how to balance the light with the perfect exposure, focus, and shutter speed, creating what we call the Exposure Triangle and giving you a perfectly exposed image.

I also shoot in RAW. Creating images in RAW means that I can go back to the original image and do whatever edits I would like. When you shoot in JPEG (as a cell phone does), your editing is extremely limited and can often look very fake. Shooting in RAW takes a lot of training and practice, which is another reason hiring a photographer is 100% worth it.

2: A professional photographer will know exactly how to make YOu look your best

When hiring a good (I stress the word good) professional photographer, they will not leave you hanging out in front of the camera with no direction of what to do or how to stand. There are rules behind what makes poses work and what makes people look good on camera, and your photographer should be able to use these ideas to make you look good and feel comfortable. 

I often ask my clients if they’ve had professional pictures done, and many times I have clients describe that they’ve had friends take pictures of them. If I push further on this topic, I often find that they felt awkward in front of the camera and had little idea of what to do. When working with a professional, you should not feel that way. One of the most important distinctions between portrait photographers and everyone else with a camera, is that they should have lots of direction and posing knowledge to make your session comfortable and special.

Now, it is important to also understand that when I say "posing" I'm not talking about "strike a pose" type stuff here. I had one person get very defensive when I told him I would guide him on how to pose because he automatically assumed I was going to make him look like a Broadway star or a tap dancer. Hahaha. Unless that is what you are hiring me for, I will not be make you look like Liza Minnelli. I will however, tell you if you should angle your body a slightly different way, or put your hand on your wife's shoulder as it will create a nice connection between the two of you. I might tell you to cross your one foot over the other, or put your hands in your pockets. Don't worry, I won't be tell you to give me Jazz Hands and a Flex.

1: you get to be part of the memory

For the longest time, I was constantly posting on social media things I had done with my family- a day at the park, a birthday party, vacations, etc. And every time I posted, I would have people comment and ask "how come you aren't in any of these?". Well, I wasn't in any of the pictures because I was too busy TAKING the pictures!

While selfies sometimes can do the trick, there's nothing like having a professional capture your memories for you. Hiring a photographer gives you a chance to be a part of the memories. You get to be in the moments with your loved ones, rather than separated from the moment by that small screen that fits in your pocket. That experience is yours to enjoy along with those you love.

Also, as a mother, let me point out. Have you ever tried to make your child do something they don't want to and are met with whining, crying, and a whole lot of attitude? Then someone else asks them to do the exact same thing, and they do it without a single complaint? Hiring a professional photographer, especially one trained to work with children, can get your kids to smile in the best ways and capture amazing memories of the entire family- without the stress of trying to get them to do what YOU want.

The below pictures are my family. A fellow photographer and dear friend of mine took these pictures so that I could enjoy being on the other side of the lens for once then allowed me to edit them. These memories are priceless to me- I love the looks on my children's faces as our family was able to have our love captured in images.

So, in conclusion, hiring a professional photographer should be looked at the same way as hiring any professional:

*You can have a garage full of tools and even a little bit of carpentry experience under your belt, but you still probably can't create the same quality furniture as a professional.

*You can find a recipe and buy all the food for it then prepare it using your own kitchen. It might even be good! But would it be as good as going to that professional chef in his state of the art kitchen with his experience and knowledge? Probably not.

*Most people have a basic toolset at home. Well, a professional mechanic has a garage full of specific sockets and drivers, as well as impact wrenches and other tools that are ideally suited to specific tasks.

*You can go to the town carnival and have a good time, but you pay for the EXPERIENCE of going to a professional amusement park.

*Some people can probably do a basic oil change in their driveway, but serious work requires serious knowledge and an expensive set of tools to match.

The same is true for photography. When you want pictures that make you and your loved ones look your best, it sometimes takes expensive high-end gear to make it happen. And professional photographers have just the right camera gear to get it done. They have the expertise to make your family look exactly how you want them to and can create a magical experience for all of you, as well as preserve that memory to put on your wall!

I’ve seen people balk at the price of a professional photography session, and I completely understand that reaction. It can seem impractical or downright silly to spend anywhere from a couple hundred to a couple thousand dollars on a professional photographer. There’s a reason people pay that kind of money for professional photos, and you will probably be pleasantly surprised at the value you really get for your money.