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Can you tell the difference between good and great portraits? Or are all “pictures” created the same? … {Loudoun County Photographer}

Are all portraits created the same? Are we at the point where the technical details of creating portraits isn’t as important to the consumers any longer?

I ask this because every single day I am completely baffled with the public’s “oohing” and “ahhing”over images that are called “portraits” and yet are badly composed, badly lit, out of focus, or just plain – well, practice shots at best. (And yes, it’s my opinion about the “badly” judgement.) But then again, some of it is pretty obvious if you look at the elements.

Are we that star struck by the pretty girl, or handsome boy IN THE PHOTO that we can’t stand up and say – wait a minute – great subject, but aren’t they are out of focus? Or why are they green (or orange, or yellow)?

Do we feel the need to support everyone who wants to a “professional photographer” by complimenting what they do? Would you feel the same way about a hairdresser that didn’t study the technical details of how to cut your hair – or a doctor that skipped internship and went right into practice? Would you invest in a business (actually give them money) without seeing if they had the business acumen to be IN business, and produce a quality product? Because when you support photographers who don’t spend the time to train, learn and perfect their art – when you don’t speak up about things you don’t think look right with their finished product- you ARE doing just that.

When you “like” it on Facebook, does that mean it’s good? Good enough to buy?

In recent years we saw it in the wedding industry – the old time, established photographers getting pushed out of the industry by the newer, fresher perspective of “photo journalistic” styling. And that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing – until the industry also starting saying that since those photos were basically “candids”, the cost of them should be lower. After all – can’t most anyone with a “good camera” capture that image? Who needs professional lighting? Pop up flashes and auto settings are great, right? So the photographers in that industry starting lowering their prices to compete for the business they were losing. And now you have fewer and fewer ESTABLISHED photographers in the wedding photography industry. If you find them, they are not the “$500 wedding photographer with everyone on a CD” – they are the pros charging much more – but doing much LESS than they used to. The public changed that industry – but did they change it for the better? Only time will tell – will the images stand up to time that are being produced now? Will they print well? Will the media last? Did the moments really get captured that you wanted captured – or is the blurry image enough to remind you of the most important day of your life?

And now we are seeing the same trends with other portraiture. Family portraits were the next logical specialty to be targeted by the “nextgen” photos – or what is now referred to as the “WACs” (anyone with a camera), so the decline began with those recently. And now I’m seeing it with all specialties. It’s heartbreaking to see people pay for, and settle for, images that are less than what they can be – and why are they settling? Because they assume they are good? Or do they just not want to make an issue of it?

Can’t we be honest? Or do we want to develop an entire industry of people who think they are doing great work only to be crushed when they find out from established, respected, professionals at some point that they need more work? How much and how far will we encourage someone before we tell them they need to fix mistakes – or learn more? Will you send them to school to learn an art that has no real potential for them to earn a living? Because with the industry at this time, professional photographers are struggling very badly to support themselves. And in large part it is due to the general public’s perceptions about what is not only acceptable – but now what is GOOD photography.

Will we speak with our wallets if not our mouths or words? Or is that not possible either?

And for the record, this is not sour grapes. My business is doing well – I’m happy with the results at this stage of the game. I set up a business that doesn’t rely on large overhead expenses and where I do not need the income to survive – the business has to generate income to cover it’s costs and pay it’s taxes and responsibilities – which do include something for my time, yes. (But not nearly enough without the support and investment of my husband and family.) I have that luxury – I not need to support or feed my family.

For me, I would rather work less if the clients don’t come to me expecting better and wanting better. And I am honored that so many do – so many wonderful people that I’ve been able to meet and get to know over the years. As I “grew into” this business, I’ve had wonderful followers and supporters. And so I had the time and opportunity to not only study but to invest in the equipment necessary to stand up to time, and produce the desired results that I would want if it were my portrait. Because every one of my clients deserves that – a portrait I would hang in my own home – and nothing less than that.

In that I am blessed – because pursuing this art as a business, is one tough cookie these days….

Where will the Professional Photographer end up if we continue like this?

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