Why Hire a Professional Photographer?

Photographers show up, snap some photos and they’re wrapped up in an hour. And they charge WHAT?

Our kids cost a lot of money. I’m not talking about the expenses of raising kids. The money we spent on treatments and adoption could have bought a nice, waterfront home, or at least a sizable down payment. We saved, pinched and sacrificed. But we don’t miss that money, or the waterfront home. The greatest blessings cannot be measured.

The same can be said for professional photography. When you’re looking at your family through old photos, or when one of those family members passes away, I promise you will not miss the money you invested in a skilled, professional photographer.

Good photography is a fine art. Images that isolate a subject against a blurred background, with perfect illumination and a catch light that makes their eyes come to life… those images are not captured by luck. It takes years of training, education, talent, and expensive equipment (yes, equipment DOES matter) to capture those beautiful images.

Entry-level DSLRs are affordable for average consumers, but having a digital camera does not make me, or anyone, a photographer. I am certain I can learn to change my own oil, but that doesn’t make me a mechanic. The cost, time and education that it takes to become a skilled mechanic wouldn’t be worth the benefit, which is why we pull into a service area and let experts fix our vehicles. With the time and money spent to become a respectable photographer, you’d be far better off hiring a professional at least once a year to capture your family memories.

How much should you spend on a yearly family portrait session? Photographers show up, snap some photos and they’re wrapped up in an hour. And they charge WHAT? Hold on! Here’s the reality:

  • We make it look easy because we’re skilled and we have years of experience. You won’t see the two to four hours of prep time that goes into your session; there are lighting considerations, we scout the site, we analyze and prepare our equipment to make sure we have everything we need and it’s all in excellent working order and ready to capture your beautiful images. And you won’t see the hours we spend in post production preparing those images for high quality prints.
  • The cost of doing business. Serious, professional photographers often have THOUSANDS of dollars invested in lighting, cameras, lenses, computers, editing software, etc. There’s also significant time invested daily in marketing, Internet maintenance and web hosting. It’s a business, so there are accounts to maintain, taxes to file, and time sensitive business paperwork that needs attention. Any cost for most small businesses applies to your photographer’s business.
  • There are years and mucho dollars spent on education. Photographers have to understand light—we live and breathe that knowledge to become exceptional. We have to stay abreast of equipment and lighting trends. And there are added skills that many of us bring to the table. For some, it’s a terrific flare and trained eye for art and creativity. For others, it’s years of telling stories through professional journalism. Perhaps one in a million photographers just “shows up” and is immediately amazing. For the other 999,999 of us, we work hard to earn and maintain respect. And the bottom line, most of us LOVE what we do, but we still have to make a living.

There’s a formula that photographers use for pricing, so I’ll be frank: Most highly skilled, professional photographers who aren’t charging at least $650 for a one-hour portrait session (with printing rights) are working for free or very close to it. If they’re really good and you’ve hired them for less, they love you. KISS THEM! Or, they’re beefing up their portfolio and changing direction in their business. Either way, it’s a steal!

Fine art is special. Would you turn a 72-megapixel JPEG into a 20×30 piece of wall art? Just please say NO here! Would you enlarge your family’s professional portrait—a tack sharp, high quality, 270-megapixel image that captures your family in beautiful light? You should! Blow that baby up and display it proudly.

It took becoming a professional photographer to understand this: JPEG images, like the ones on phones (or any camera not set to RAW mode) will not last. Take a look at photos you took a mere 7-10 years ago. Look closely and you will notice the loss of quality. Every time you open a JPEG, you lose information in that photo. JPEGs are “losey,” which is why professionals shoot only in RAW–RAW maintains all of the data in the image. We back up, back up and back up again, and then we save our files in multiple formats. But photographers also understand this very critical piece: you have to print and use high quality paper. Why? Because technology is rapidly changing and files aren’t meant to last. One computer engineer recently told me that the most we can expect from our photo files is THREE years (they may last longer, but there’s zero guarantee). If you want your photos to be around for generations, PRINT, and print on quality, acid free photo paper from a professional lab. I cannot stress this enough.

Snap away and take lots of candids of your family, but budget for your fine art photography. It’s so important! Find a photographer that you love, trust and feel terrific around, and have your family portraits taken at least once a year. The only family portraits you will ever regret will be the ones you never took, and that’s a promise.

Click here to find out more about Lightning Bugs Photography or to schedule a family photo session.

For more local and family photography, check out Lightningbugsphotography.com, and “like” Lightning Bugs Photography on Facebook for photography tips, tricks, and updates!

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