January melted into February and from the looks of my poor blog you’d think I was sitting here eating bonbons for weeks! But alas, not the case folks. This is the slow season, for sure, but most of my slow time is spent updating marketing materials, the studio gets rearranged, and the family gets a little attention, LOL. But seriously, I have been working and just not blogging. Some of it is because you probably wouldn’t come around to see commercial work – which is nice fill work in for slow times – and the rest is because, well, I haven’t had time to blog!
But business is actually UP – even with the lack of blogging! Last year was a wonderful year and if I just do that same amount this year, I’d be thrilled. I don’t take anything for granted, though, and with a new crop of “faux-tographers” springing up all the time, I have to try to stay on my A-game all the time. Being a professional photographer in this market is hard work, so everything I have I am VERY THANKFUL for on a daily basis. Digital photography is changing so often, and for some reason everyone has decided it’s the business du-jour to have and be in – which I’d like to take as a compliment, but frankly, there are days when it’s very hard for me to see what is being put out there as professional work.
I know how easy it is to go to a new photographer who won’t charge you anything to “let them practice” or will give you EVERYTHING on a CD. How exciting right? Get it all? Well, at the risk of hurting someone’s feelings here – take it and still hire a real professional. Yes, you heard me. Take twice as much of your precious time if you decide to help out a friend getting started who wants to practice – at least plan to – because most folks who are practicing do NOT know what they need to know to provide you the finished images a professional with experience will.
Some things to really look at when you are either ready to hire, or have already hired a “faux-together” (a name coined by other pros, not me…it’s an industry thing)…are the whites white in your photograph? If not, they don’t know how to set white balance – which is a KEY ingredient in digital photography. Whites should be white, and blacks should be black otherwise skin tones will have too much red or yellow in them. Unless you like looking like an umpa-lumpa in your photographs, this is a very important element.
Also – do they understand external light and how to use it? Even “natural light” needs to be used properly. If not, you will have harsh shadows either around you, or even ON you – like on your face. This can be a very tell tale sign that your photographer doesn’t have enough experience just quite yet. I’m not completely knocking the folks that say they are “natural light” photographers. Because it is not necessarily easier to be a true natural light photographer – you do still have to understand light and shadow. But if they are only a natural light photographer because they haven’t fully grasped light yet, or because they haven’t spent the money to bring light to the session, then yes, I am mocking and criticizing them. Because in the end, money is a key element in this business. Anyone starting out on a budget will have severe limitations in succeeding as this is not a cheap hobby, and it will NEVER be a cheap business to run. I won’t bore you today with how expensive just being in business is, but add that to the thousands of dollars it will take to invest in the proper equipment you will NEED to be in business, and well, the faint of heart really should just stick to hobby status.
And yes, I’ll now criticize their website. Because it is SO easy to have a cool looking website these days…does your photographer have one? And not just a Facebook page, either. A real website – without ads popping up on it to show they didn’t even invest in a paid site? If they have one, do they show LOTS of different work that represents what you are hiring them for? For example – if you are hiring a high school senior photographer – are they showing high school senior pictures? Highlighting them in different techniques, locations, lighting situations? Or are the images that popup on their website babies, families, even their own children? Tell-tale sign they are NOT a professional high school senior portrait photographer, folks.
So yes, take your friend up on the offer to practice on your family or your kids. But then hire the real professional – so you have the images you’ll want to look at in 20 years. And trust your professional photographer – who will offer advice, and products that will stand the test of time. Because they didn’t get to be a professional in this market without standing the test of time themselves, folks!