Saturday, July 3, 2010

The Changing (Digital) Landscape of Professional Photography

Forty years ago nobody would buy a Brownie box camera and think to offer their services as a professional photographer. Around thirty years ago Kodak and a couple other manufacturers came out with “instamatic” cameras. Still, no one would think that with an instamatic camera they were equipped to offer professional photography services.

As camera technology progressed, more and more “bells and whistles” got added to the improving models of what then became known as “point and shoot” cameras. Still, nobody with just a point and shoot camera would consider himself or herself a professional photographer.

You see, back in the days before the advent of digital cameras, film was the medium for recording photographs. And before the invention of instamatic and point and shoot cameras, you had to actually know how to use the controls on a camera in order to properly expose the film to make a photograph.

Instamatic and later point and shoot cameras enabled millions of people to make snapshots and record their lives and those of their families and friends. Professional cameras with changeable lenses and aperture and shutter speed controls continued to be the tools of professional photographers and serious amateurs.

Point and shoot cameras designed for hobbyists proliferated and millions of people began to enjoy the hobby of photography. And certainly many got to be pretty good at composing and creating photographs with them. But even if all their friends told them what great photographs they made, do you think a person with a point and shoot camera would have the gumption to claim to be a professional and offer their services for hire? I think not.

Now days with all the available digital SLR cameras geared to the hobbyist consumer with a price tag that is within the reach of many hobbyists, one cannot tell by looking at the camera whether the user knows what they are doing or not! Why not? Because all the DSLRs have Program modes of operation that enable the user to use them just the same as a point and shoot camera.

The advances of digital photography have been absolutely wonderful! Now days a camera is a complex computer with a lens, and most people with a little practice can make some pretty good photographs with them. Certainly the optics for modern DSLRs are vastly improved over the point and shoot optics of yesteryear.

The downside of all this progress is that more and more hobbyists with nice DSLRs are marketing themselves as professional photographers, and charging for their services without knowing anything about photography except how to frame a picture and press the shutter release. As a result many people are being duped into hiring amateurs, and are buying amateur quality photographs because they think they are getting a good deal because the price is low. And because they don’t know how to separate the amateurs from the pros when choosing a photographer to do a job for them, whether it be portraiture or commercial photography.

Caveat emptor…Let the consumer beware!

Specializing in fine portraits of Families, Children and high school Seniors for over 30 years in Hawaii.

How To Choose Your Professional Portrait Photographer

In today’s market place, with so many amateurs with nice DSLRs claiming to be professional photographers, how does one determine who to hire to create their portraits?

It used to be a lot easier. In times past it was fairly rare that you would see an amateur with a professional camera. They were too expensive, and one needed a working knowledge of the science of photography in order to operate a professional camera. (I’m referring to the days of film and before Program mode was built into pro cameras as an option.) And certainly one would never see a professional using a point and shoot camera on a paid assignment!

Now days, while it is easy to spot the difference between a point and shoot camera with built in zoom lens, and a DSLR, so many hobbyists are carrying “pro-sumer” DSLRs, one can no longer tell a pro from an amateur by the camera they use.

So, why is it important to know if the person you hire is a professional or not if the cameras are the same? Because, simply put, cameras do not create photographs. What?! You say… That’s right…cameras record the light that is reflected by whatever the lens is pointed at! Creating photographs is the job of the person operating the camera.

What’s the difference, and why does it matter? You can have the best camera and lens in the world, but if you don’t know how to operate it, you can’t make a photograph. If you know how to turn the camera on, put it on program mode and press the shutter release, you can indeed make a photograph. Well, one might say, that’s all you need then, right?

The answer to that depends on what you expect from your photographer. If for example a person knows how to turn the ignition of a car on, and put it in drive, that person can make the car move. However if that same person does not know how to use the steering wheel, accelerator and brake, you wouldn’t say they know how to drive a car…and it wouldn’t be long before they crash!

You see, photography and creating photographs is much more than turning a camera on and making a lot of exposures in program mode. With today’s advanced metering systems and computer programs built in, one is likely to get some fairly good photographs that way, but if that’s the extent of one’s knowledge, the law of averages is not with them.

A professional photographer knows their equipment and how to operate it so that the image they have in their mind, they are able to create in the camera. A professional photographer knows how light and shadow affects the image, and how to balance the light to get the effect they want. A professional photographer knows the difference between a snapshot and a portrait, and how to enhance a photograph so as to turn a photograph into a portrait.

Particularly for portraiture, you want to hire a professional, because a pro knows how to light and pose you to accentuate your best features, and hide less desirable features. You do want to look your best in your portraits, don’t you?

So, how do you know if the photographer you are considering is really a professional? You need to ask the right questions. Some good questions to ask are: Where did you learn photography? How long have you been a professional? What is your guarantee? Can I talk to some of your portrait clients? Why did you choose to become a professional photographer?

Besides being competent with their camera and lights, a professional portrait photographer should also put you at ease, and give you a sense of confidence that they will do the kind of job that will make you happy!

Specializing in fine portraits of Families, Children and high school Seniors for over 30 years in Hawaii.

Why Family Portraits Are So Important

I have lots of snapshots of my family. I have snapshots of me and my brothers and sisters at the beach, at parties, etc. And I have snapshots of mom and dad in various places and times. But there are no portraits of my family with my parents and siblings all together. Both my parents and one brother are deceased, so that portrait of my family can never be made.

The tragedy of not having a portrait of my family, (actually there aren’t even any snapshots of all of us together), is the fact that my children and their children, etc will never know what we all looked like as a family. It’s about lineage and family history. If there are any photographs of my grandparents in existence, I don’t know of them. It’s a shame.

I don’t know why my parents never thought to have a family portrait made, but I sure wish they had. All families are different, and my family completely unraveled shortly after my youngest sister left home. Shortly after that I left the roost, (being the youngest child), and then my parents divorced. No getting back together for a family portrait after that!

Just an hour ago a young family left my studio. The husband is a medic in the Army, and will be deployed to Iraq in two weeks for an undetermined length of time. The wife works for the Army doing outreach and helps those families and spouses who have lost a family member. She determined to have a special family portrait made before he deploys. Her main reason, she said is because she works with bereaved families and knows what their regrets are. One that stands out to her is when the spouse or family has no real nice family portrait to hold on to. She’s not about to make that mistake.

Beautiful, sensitive family portraits certainly portray the family members in the most complimentary way possible, but they also give a sense of the personality of the family, the individuals, and the relationships within the family. The love and connection.

As with many other families, my older siblings left for the military, university, and marriage, and went of to various parts of the world to start their own families. And as many of my clients do, having a fine family portrait created before the children go off to college or other pursuits can bring back the added warmth and comfort to the empty nest. When going about your daily business in the home, you can look at your family portrait on the wall and see the expressions, all the personalities, all the love of and for your family members is called to mind, and warms the heart.

Family portraits also preserve the record of your heredity. Looking at older family portraits you can likely see where you got your nose, or who you inherited your jaw line from, or your eye color, or curly hair. Portraits are a wonderful way to remember your ancestors, and a wonderful heirloom to pass on to your children and grandchildren.

Fine family portraits can give “life” to ancestors from past eras, and give proof to your inherited features. They can fill an empty home with warmth when family members are away. They can bring comfort and preserve precious memories when family members have been lost.