Professional or not?
Hi there, I’m a professional photographer….or am I? This is a warning to everyone thinking about hiring a “professional photographer” to do your homework whether it’s portraits or to photograph your home or listing.
The definition of a professional photographer is one who makes their living shooting photographs. I bet you didn’t know that? That’s all one has to do to claim the status as a professional photographer. There is no certification or diploma necessary.
Can you imagine if people starting calling themselves professional structural engineers or professional surgeons then marketing their cookie cutter websites and posting on local classifieds as such claiming they will give you that operation you need at a discount price or draw up plans to your new high rise for you way cheaper than the other guys?
I’m sure you’ve all experienced this in the past whether it was that you received horrible wedding photos or engagement portraits or your realtor hired a professional real estate photographer and when you saw the pictures you were confused as they looked awful. Don’t ever be afraid to refuse payment for images you’re not happy with.
Here is the problem with the word “professional”. The word sounds great in front of photographer and let’s face it…anyone who takes a photo, one that actually pushes the shutter release is in fact, a photographer by definition. It’s much better to stand out by calling one self a Professional Photographer and their is nothing anyone can do to stop people from using the word, it’s just a word.
This word has been taken way out of context and is being used to mislead many people around the world. Just because you actually make a living taking photographs does not make you a true professional photographer. A true professional photographer has studied for years the understanding of the camera, the limitations of the camera and the study of lighting techniques as well as post production work. All of these things are just the start of becoming a professional photographer. Once you fully understand the camera there are the countless photo shoots you must do to hone your skills. Not to mention you must have a natural eye when shooting. Essentially it takes years of shooting full time shooting and learning as you go to deserve to call one self a professional and that goes for any business.
I am truly a professional photographer and have been shooting full time now since 2007 and many years prior to that part time. I have photographed thousands of home and I know how far I have come since my first SLR (single-lens relfex) and Digital SLR. I know the training I went through to learn how the camera works, (in manual mode) and why everything works the way it does. I have spent countless hours studying and applying techniques and researching online and in books.
My point is that when you understand the camera, you will understand how to overcome technically difficult shooting conditions and what is needed to achieve a shot that you are trying to achieve. You should know right away looking at a scene if and how to light it properly and where to shoot from. These are skills that need to be honed from trial and error and also skills that are inside of you. I compare these skills to that of any artist may it be a singer, writer, or a painter as these skills can only be honed, not taught. I can’t even draw stick figures but what’s stopping me from marketing myself as a professional illustrator?
Ok back to the point which I’m hoping most have gotten by now ? It frustrates me that people use this designation of “Professional” when they clearly are not. It’s unethical practice and I can only hope one is not fooled by this word. Do your homework people. When someone actually calls their business name “professional photography” that is the first red flag as it’s strictly a marketing move to grab hits online. It’s not creative in any other sense than that. These people come in the market with a whirl wind and we soon see their tail lights and skid marks on the way out of town when they have disappointed everyone in sight.
Signs to look for:
1. Their website – Is it a clean professional looking website? This can tell you a lot. If the site is hard to navigate or unclear as to what you are looking at, this usually is a red flag as a true professional will have a very clean and easy to navigate site. A true professional will not disclose things such as pricing on their sites as this is not ethical practice. A true professional site is designed for one purpose and that is to share what they offer in a clean and concise manner and to offer contact information.
2. Is your realtor claiming to use professional photography? – If so do yourself a huge favour and skim through at least 10 of their listings on their website. Compare what they have and go to the grocery store and skim through some interior design magazines as these will show you what true architectural photography is. Is your realtors website a freebee offered to them from where they hang their licence? If it is that’s usually an indication they don’t like to spend money marketing themselves, therefore if they actually do hire someone to take pictures, they too will be the cheapest company in town, not true professionals.
3. Experience – You as the home owner have every right to ask your realtor who they use for photography. Find out who else they shoot for by giving them a call explaining that you’re doing some research. A true professional photographer will love this. Also find out who the top realtors in town are and who they use as a starting point as many are fooled by HDR photography which brings me to #4
4. HDR High Dynamic Range – See the post link below for full run down on HDR. In a nutshell if your realtor uses a photographer that shoots with this method, RUN as fast as you can. HDR is a technique used widely by people that do not understand the mechanics or limitations of a camera. They do not want to spend the money or time learning how to shoot properly and therefore fall into the trap of HDR. It grossly misrepresents your home and will hurt your chances of selling. This topic is much to large to get into here, but please read this other post to get some more insight.
5. Realtors and Home owners – Do your homework. Do not be fooled by huge promises. Professional photography is not something that is as simple as buying an expensive camera and shooting pictures. It’s much much more than that. Watch for flashy or wishy washy websites claiming to have photographers shooting all over the country or promising huge amounts of pictures and services for $99. Companies that boast and brag and post low prices are only trying to reel you in and will only disappoint you. Don’t just hire a professional because they claim to be one. It is your job to weed out the bottom feeders and find the true professionals in the business. As a realtor it’s your job to provide the home owner with the best possible marketing to sell their home. In today’s day and age the photographs and videos are EVERYTHING and should be your #1 source of marketing dollars. Don’t be afraid to spend a little more money if the product is higher quality.