Saturday, July 3, 2010

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.

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