Hiring a professional photographer: Is it really worth your money?
by Michèle Grenier
Nowadays, anyone can take pictures anywhere, anytime. Everybody has a cell phone in their pocket and/or a camera in their bag. It’s available, it’s convenient and it’s cheap. As a business owner or an event organizer, why bother spending big bucks on a professional photographer for something anyone could do? Well, let’s talk about it for a minute.
A lot of people think they can do the same work because they own a camera. They think it’s an easy job, or they’ve done some photography and they feel qualified enough or they simply aren’t aware of how limited their knowledge is on the subject.
You may have heard the saying “The more you know, the more you realize how much you don’t know. The less you know, the more you think you know.”
Professional photography is actually a real job that requires skills, practice, and knowledge. What makes the difference between an amateur and a pro? Is it worth spending your hard earned money to get the job done by a professional instead of having your partner, your friend, your cousin – or perhaps yourself – photograph the project for a fraction of the price? Let’s make some comparisons that demystify this question.
This is an image I’ve taken for Yoga Camp last summer. That was a three-day retreat in nature, including yoga (obviously) and many other activities. This particular image has been a hit on their Instagram account because it showed the spirit of the weekend: friendship, lots of fun and a little craziness.
Quantity vs. quality
I am amazed to see how many pictures of an event somebody can deliver to a client. Sometimes I see albums with more than 1000 pictures for a single day. That is a sh*t load of pictures for a client to review. Clients are not photo editors. They shouldn’t have to deal with that. I do take 1000+ pictures a day for an event. But I NEVER send them the everything on my memory card! It’s the photographer’s job to separate good storytelling photographs from those that don’t. I go through all my images, one by one – no matter how many thousands there may be – and carefully choose the best ones. Those I deliver to my client. Not all images reflect the event at its true value. Would you rather have 1000 bad images to scroll through for hours or a curated set of high-quality, meaningful images to share with your community, create a huge impact and use as visuals for your next marketing strategy? Quantity absolutely does not equal quality. Delivery of a huge number of so-so pictures dilutes the quality of the message of the outstanding ones.
Unedited vs. edited images
Many people believe that taking a picture is pressing the shutter. That it is. Partly. I firmly believe that creating a great image consists of two inseparable steps: shooting and editing. I can make a good snap look amazing once edited. And I can make a great shot look absolutely STUNNING once I’ve edited it. A lot of amateurs feel confident taking pictures but few are able to edit them. Why? Because we need the equipment, the software, and, here’s the real hurdle to clear, the knowledge. Working properly with Photoshop and/or other professional editing software requires a lot of experience – believe me! I spent countless hours in front of my computer to get my Photography degree. It goes from composition to color grading to everything in-between. It sounds abstract but superior image editing and refinement makes ALL the difference in the world.
This picture has been taken last winter for a CrossFit event call the Lumberjack Contest. I knew the athlete was about to end her WOD and – getting pretty exhausted. I placed myself at a really low angle. That way, I’ve been able to get her as soon as she collapsed on the floor the second she was done.
I like to compare a lot of my things with sports. When you see an athlete have a great performance, how can you tell that he hasn’t been lucky? It shows in his past accomplishment. You can see if he can consistently reproduce the same result over and over again. This is no different for a photographer. Look at his or her style. Look at her or his previous work. This is likely the result you’ll see. A great photographer is able to anticipate moments and movements. He/she sees angles, backgrounds and most important of all: light. How can there be such a difference in the impact of an image from two people shooting at the same place and at the same time? It’s all about the carefully won skills.
$ vs. $$$
Do you think the photographer’s prices are too high? Let’s ask that question differently. Do you believe your income is too high? As a business owner, you probably have an office or an equipment room that you rent. You may pay for a car to go to see your clients. You may have inventory to purchase and employees to pay. You have bills and a family to feed. Well, BIG SURPRISE, the professional photographer is a business owner just like you are. I don’t understand why people believe that a trained, experienced, qualified photographer doesn’t have the right to make a proper living, like any other hard working profession. If we don’t make money by making pictures… how are we supposed to make money?
This picture was taken for LYFT-RX, a company that makes weightlifting tape for Olympic weightlifting and CrossFit athletes. I wanted to show the brand with the tape on her thumb and her t-shirt but also an emotion from the athlete. She was lifting for real and she was taking her breath in-between heavy squats. It was the perfect timing to get the best of both worlds. Timing a shot does not happen by luck. Like successful powerlifting, it takes hard work and lots of practice.
Your experience as a business owner
As a paid photographer, I make sure I give the service my client expects (and has the right to expect) from me. I ask questions of them to understand their needs. I show up on time. I am available. I act professionally at all times. I edit images and give them style. I deliver high-quality content – fast. Everything it takes to deliver the photographs the client requires is taken into account. This is why you pay a professional photographer. If you ask your brother-in-law to photograph your event, how can you make sure he won’t be late? That he won’t be tired in the middle of the afternoon and miss photographing a key function because he went for a snack instead? Will you receive the images within a few days – or will it be a few months? Do you know what to expect as a final result? Does he have the abilities to edit the pictures? Does he know the required resolution for an Instagram post and an 8 inch by 10-inch print? Can he change the color profile to the one the output device requires? Does he even know what that means? Does he know how to keep the perfect aspect ratios for your website?
Increase the value of your brand
What do you think of a product displayed in cheap packaging? “That looks cheap.”
What do you think of a product displayed in a high-quality packaging? “That looks awesome.”
We buy what we see and how it makes us feel. By increasing the value of your brand with high-quality images, people will look at your products/services in a completely different way because you care about the quality of your brand. They will be more likely to buy from you. (Of course, it’s always a good thing to have the product quality that matches the image…!)
I’ve had a lot of event organizers asking me to cover their event. Interestingly enough, very few of them had actually planned for a photographer in their budget! They’ve spent thousands of dollars to produce a single memorable day. It’s logical that they’d want to have great pictures to show the world how amazing your event was. That messaging would lead to more interest and then into more anticipation for next year’s edition. Isn’t it the ultimate goal? Once all is said and done, what will be left of show but images? What materials will you use to create your ads and posts for next year’s extravaganza?
This photograph was made for Lululemon at a huge yoga event at Laval University. It was such a beautiful day, I wanted to put the emphasis on the blue sky and the feeling of well-being of the participants. I also knew the free space on top of the image would be ideal for some text.
At the end of the day, the photography you show is really your image
You can see professional photography as an expense. Or you can look at it as an investment.
Sure, you will always be able to find a cheaper way to get your pictures done. You could do it yourself. Your sister, your partner or your friend could also probably do it for you.
But. Here. Is. The Challenge.
Can you see it as an investment in the growth of your business? You pay a professional photographer to do what she or he does best: creating unique and amazing images for you. We live in an era of visual storytelling. People are now being paid by companies to work full time for their social media accounts. To get noticed, you have to have great images: that’s what people are looking for. Even more: you only have a few seconds to catch their attention. Great images produce more Likes, more shares, more interaction, more value, more views and ultimately more sales.
This picture (the cover picture) has been taken for S2Sweat, a highly energetic trainer. I lit only her, make her gym become a dark background. She was jumping enthusiastically. I captured her great movements. I knew she would use these images on her website so I made sure there was plenty negative space around her so she could add her text and logo when creating her content.
The payoff question
Why don’t you take the guessing part out of the photography? Hire someone qualified. It will save you energy, stress and time because you have an accountable and trustworthy photographer documenting your event. The job will be done faster. The photographs will be much better. In the long run, you will make more money with photographs that tell your story than what it costs you to have them made.
The question to be asked should be: “How much money could it cost you not hiring a professional photographer?” 😉
Michele Grenier is a commercial, advertising and event sports photographer based in Quebec City, Canada. She is also an author, speaker, educator and a Skylum brand ambassador. She works with clients such as Gestev inc., Lululemon, LYFT-RX, MissFit, Mitsubishi, Sony Canada and XPN World.