How can you tell the difference?

Years ago, in cities and towns across America, you could easily name the photography studios. In order to compete at the professional level, you had to “know your stuff”. With each photograph created, there was a series of steps that had to be taken, such as light meter readings, and shutter and aperture adjustments. Then you had to get the lighting just right on your subject; you had to fine tune the highlights to shadows falling across the faces with additional lights or reflectors. There was no such thing as Photoshop; your exposures had to be pretty much spot on!

With the low price points and level of sophistication in cameras these days, practically anyone can pick one up, set it to “program” and take a decent picture. You can be the laziest, most incompetent person in the world and through the magic of editing programs like Photoshop or Apple Aperture, still come up with a manageable image.

Today there are literally hundreds of “newbies” flooding the market, buying cheap cameras on E-bay, watching a few You Tube videos and calling themselves “photographers”. They typically go after the “low hanging fruit”, which are weddings and portraits.

We in the Photography Profession refer to this crowd as “people with cameras”.

So what’s the problem, you say? Why shouldn’t I hire them? After all, their price is cheap and they take pretty good pictures, right? And they’re giving me hundreds of photos too!

My question to you is: how many of those wallpaper shots are you going to want to look at for more than two seconds?

Chimpanzee with a cameraIf chimpanzee comes to your wedding (I hope it’s wearing a tux) with a camera strapped to its’ neck and a finger glued to the shutter for eight hours, chances are they’re going to come up with a few good images as well, no?

Ok, I’m being a little dramatic here–lol! My point is, a great camera does not necessarily make you a great photographer, or even a good one.

Any more than a great guitar makes you Bruce Springsteen. It takes years of study and practice.

Ever watch “American Idol”? There are literally tons of hopefuls who think they can sing. Encouraged by their friends and family, they spend their last dollar on plane tickets or gas to get them to the audition, only to be shot down by the judges. Yes, they can carry a tune, but at the professional level, these people wouldn’t have a prayer.

It’s the same with photography.

A person with a nice camera might be able to take some pretty good snaps of family and friends, but that doesn’t necessarily make them a professional photographer.

And nowhere is that more evident than in a professional photography competition. Many people, myself included have entered their prints thinking that it would blow everyone else’s entry away, and then listen to the judges literally tear it apart. I’ve walked away many times with my tail between my legs–lol!

But you know what? That’s one of the most important things that make you professional. The humility to admit what you don’t know and the willingness to learn from your mistakes (and there are many just starting out–trust me!) and move on.

It wasn’t until my third or fourth year in competition that I finally got my first award. It was for the Best Bridal Portrait of the entire Mideast States! It was at that moment that I knew how far I had come and how little I knew when starting out.

There are many people in all walks of life who are supplementing their incomes with mediocre photography. They have never taken a formal course or entered into competition. The only feedback comes from people who don’t really understand photography. He or she will show up at your wedding, click a bunch of snapshots, rip you a cd and they’re on to the next one.

You deserve more than that. Much more.

It is for this reason that I put together a list of things to look out for when choosing the person who will document the most important day of your lives.

And you can get it by simply entering your e-mail address below.

I hope this article has shed some light on what is most likely a difficult decision in choosing your photographer!