Sep 13, 2010

Worth Publishing Again

This is something we like to repost a few times a year, especially after we meet a client who has been taken advantage of by a wanna be photographer. Even if you don't choose to use our company PLEASE take the time to use a true professional. We know these days it's VERY hard to tell the difference. We hope this article helps. You can also email us even if you arn't one of our clients and ask us to look over the website of someone your considering. We will be happy to tell HONESTLY what we think, no charge, no strings! Best Wishes!

K. Hervey
Head Photographer
Real Moments Photography

P.S. One word on the big box stores like Sears or Glamour Shots. They DO NOT hire pros usually and are out to get the most money they can from you. Many a client has come to me after spending a few hundred dollars at one of those places and been shocked to realize they could have gotten much more, and much better quality from me for exactly the same price. Something to consider before you subject yourself to those places!

Why Hire A Professional Photographer?

I have had many a client ask me in all honesty “I love your work! It’s so touching and wonderful! If I buy a camera like yours can I get images kinda like this?” Of course they mean this completely out of curiosity and don’t really realize how completely it doesn’t make sense and borders a bit on rudeness.

This is because the digital age has allowed so many people to step into photography and capture much better pictures than they ever would have with a film camera? Why? Well the main reason is the cameras, even point and shoots ARE great. They help the person operating it with great things like facial recognition, awesome focus abilities and color that grabs the eye. They also allow people to see right away if their little ones eyes were open, or if the shot was blurry. Simply hit delete and try again. So unlike the years of film where they would anxiously drop your film off, and later find out that they only had 4 good shots out of 24. The ease of deleting those bad shots and better cameras over all have allowed the public to get much better images.

So why hire a pro? If a digital camera can get you good images why bother with a professional photographer? For the same reason that a person can go buy a paints and brushes but that doesn’t mean they’ve become Picasso. For the same reason you can go buy great scissors but you sure as heck wouldn't let your uncle Fred cut your hair.

Photography is an art, and every professional photographer is different. They have a unique style that makes their work stand out against another photographers. Two photographers may be good friends and shoot the same event, but their images will be completely different.

True professional photographers have years of training and experience in posing, lighting, gear handing, and especially now with digital photography, professional editing. Professional editing and good posing is by far the difference between a real pro and an amateur or hobbyist. Remember that when your hiring a photographer your hiring an artist who paints with digital medium.

So what about those chain stores, they aren’t artists. Your very right! The person taking your picture at a chain store ISN’T a professional photographer. In fact most have no training except they store may offer which is usually a tad bit of on the job training and a posing book. Does that mean they can’t give you a “nice” picture?

Nope, but think of it like a paint by number. Just about anyone can handle a paint by number painting. That doesn’t mean it’s not fun, but it tends to look just like your sisters who did the same one last year doesn’t it? Not much room for creativity, and not something you would pay big money for at a gallery.

Another quick note about these chain stores. Many times their employees either get paid horribly or by commission. Thus they really are focused on the sale, not the art of the shot. So they find good ways to get you to buy these things. Many people come in for the $19.99 package and then simply can’t not buy the rest. Why? The images are of your family, something you already love. Its not hard to push you, and they are sneaky about it.

In the end you’ll pay pretty much the same as you would for a real professional but have less than professional images. Don’t settle for drive through photography when you can get a full stake dinner for the same price! Oh and the pictures on the wall at those stores. The people working their didn’t take those. Real professionals, using models at their corporate offices did. I told you they were sneaky!

In reality most of these places don’t even allow their employees to take the camera off the tripod and never let them move a light. Go ahead ask them to move a light, or better yet switch out a lens. Just be prepared with the smelling salts.

Professional photographers do not have you pay for your images up front. You wouldn’t buy a car unless you’d seen it. Personally I don’t even like to buy shoes on the net because I want to make sure they fit since returning them is a hassle.

Which is why it really shocks me that people will pay someone posing as a “professional” a few hundred dollars with the promise of a “disk” without ever seeing the images.

Now most professionals do charge a sitting fee or some type. You’ll see why later when you read all that sitting fee actually covers, but rarely do true professionals ask you to pay for something before you’ve seen the finished product. Why? Honestly it’s pure business sense.

We know your going to love the images when you see them, so we don’t worry about collecting the entire amount or any package before. (There are some exceptions on special promos and such) In fact we know your going to love them so much you’ll probably want to wallpaper your house with them. An amateur posing as a professional wants that money up front, counting on you saying “Well I already paid for them, I better make due.”

A quick note on this part. Professional photographers feed their families off of their work, and invest the money made back in their business. You can tell a wanna be a mile away because they say things like "Oh it's $60 and then I'll give you a disk of your pictures too." If you were looking at a $60 car you'd be hesitant if it's really gonna last. Same here. You get what you pay for. A real bargain usually is just a real scam.

Many many many people have bought digital cameras and think this is a way to get rich quick. Its' VERY bad in military towns becasue we move around so much a photography is toted as an easy to move career. Every third wife swears to be a photographer. Some, like myself, really are. Most not so much.

So you might just be thinking well now hold on here!

Hasn't digital made photography less expensive for photographers? Honestly it’s been a trade off. Photographers have been able to largely get rid of the film costs and the costs of processing. However, the technology surrounding digital photography is always changing making a yearly update of gear an important part of business. A camera that used to last half a decade easy, maybe even a whole now is crap at the bottom of the technology death pool in two years.

Not to mention the computers, and image processing software that we update on an almost monthly basis. Because digital has seen many GWC’s (guys/girls with cameras, aka people posing as real photographers) true pros now have to spend more money on advertising to show potential clients the quality of their work.

Many hours are spent showing clients that while they might have to pay a little more for a professional photographer the cost is worth it when you see the quality of the images. There are also the costs that have always been there, the usual costs of doing business, gas, paying an assistant, memory cards, flash bulbs that sort of things. Yearly all those costs add up, but most photographers know that these costs are just a part of doing the business we love and are honored to do.

So what does a professional photographer really do? This is a really important question, because digital photography has changed what photographers do. With film photographers used to shoot and many simply dropped their film off at labs to be developed and retouched. Now photographers take the place of labs.

First the photographer is available to their clients to talk about their shoot, many like myself are on call 24-7. Don’t think you’ll need your photographer at 4 a.m.? Try again. Many a bride has called their photographer in the middle of night panicked about one thing or another. “The navy flowers didn’t come in so now we have to go with purple ones. Can you make sure they look dark purple and not violet in the pictures?” Well the answer is of course, and the bride can rest easy.

Newborn and maternity photographers like myself are also very skilled in working with babies and expecting mothers. Posing a mother or keeping a baby calm and sleepy not only takes talent but a great deal of time. We also do a great deal of time swapping as often a baby can bring unexpected challenges that cause mom and dad to have to move a shoot. A average newborn shoot runs several hours and requires buckets of specialized props, ones you see and ones we use behind the scenes.

Maternity photography which is starting to grow takes a great deal of professional posing. It's very easy to make even the cutest mom look fat if your a GWC and don't pose her professionally. I've had many a mom crying in my studio after a GWC messed up her maternity images and now she feels crappy about her body, which in reality is gorgeous. I spend time every single day looking at new and refining old posing techniques to work with expecting mothers and babies.

So first is the huge level of the customer service we offer to the client and our training and research.
Photographers then actually do the shoot, which can take anywhere from just a few hours to several hours, and that’s just the start of the work.

Photographers then spend hours upon hours editing your images so you and your family look their very best. Hours are spent touching up skin and hair, removing stray objects out of images, applying filters and special editing techniques ect ect ect… as well as creating pieces of artwork for the client to review.

A quick note on editing: Professional editing is NOT easy. Because many people own basic editing software they are lead to be believe that editing is easy, and let me assure you in this day and age a professional edit is the difference between being happy with the image given to you and being overjoyed.

As easy example is a black and white portrait. Many people mistaking believe a photographer just presses “change to black and white”. This however isn’t the case. A pro can spend a great deal of time moving and adjusting the many levels within an image to make a image a timeless portrait, not just a generic black and white. A single image can take upwards of a half hour, and that’s just to move it from color to black and white.

It is not at all uncommon for a photographer to spend over two hours on each edited image. A friend of mine who does very detailed photographic artwork often spends an entire day or more on a single edit. Although sometimes speed comes with doing it over and over many times you simply can’t rush the artistic touch your client deserves, so we don’t. That is what makes a professional a professional.

Up until this next point everything you’ve read is all covered by your sitting fee, or in my case I call it a creative fee. Now you see why the photographer asks for that money, we work hard for it!

The photographer then presents their hard work to the client to look over and for many photographers there is some nail biting. After all the one thing a great photographer wants more than anything is for the client to love their work.

Nothing makes a photographer happier than bringing a client to happy tears at the presentation of their images. People think photographers are in it for the money. As a shooter for 10 years let me assure you don’t get rich as a photographer, it simply costs too much to be a good one. The riches come in the clients loving their images, and knowing you gave them that joy to keep forever.

Then the photographer finishes up the final products. For clients who want digital images, the copyright releases are typed up, then explained how to use them, the images given another once over, the disks burned, and the clients presented with their digital images.

Many times if the client isn’t tech savvy the photographer will help the client load them on their computer. I get this often with grandparents of my newborns. I’ve talked many a nanna through uploading images to email to her friends.

For prints the photographer does a final check over, contacts their lab via phone or email, orders the prints, insures the lab received the order, checks the order when it arrives, reorder the images if they are not up to the photographers standards (hey we have good labs but everyone messes up sometimes) and finally presents the images to the client.

This is a good time to mention another reason why to use a professional. Professional photographers use professional labs for their prints and books. Not snapfish or the local mega mart. Why? Professional papers and inks are the best. They don’t bleed or fade. They last forever if taken care even remotely properly, and our labs stand behind their work.

In other words if something goes wrong with a print they don’t shrug and say oh well. My canvas company is so amazing that a year after I purchased a canvas for my studio the front of it chipped, just a tiny bit on one corner, when I called to ask how to repair it they were horrified it had happened and sent me another one. For free, no questions asked. (By the way in all my years of shooting I’ve never see a canvas of mine chip before nor since.)

Last and perhaps the most time consuming and a complete labor of love is when a client orders an album or personalized book. The photographer may spend hours sorting through images and building each page. For many photographers each page is a labor of love and art for their client.

Images are selected not only for their quality but in many cases for the ability to tell the whole story. Unlike with digital images or prints when a client chooses all of the images in the case of books or albums the photographer is trusted by the client (with much guidance) to create an art piece.

After the many hours of hard work creating the book or album are finished the photographer then carefully checks for any missed details, contacts their lab or book binder, places the order and when it arrives carefully checks it over before finally presenting it with pride to their client.

So a great deal of work goes into every image that a photographer provides a client, as it should be. The photographer often also provides digital galleries for the clients to show off their images to family and friends. They also insure proper back up and storage so that even if the client has a disaster they can simply contact the photographer and their families memories are restored. Many photographers keep images for years, if not forever, always allowing for reprints or additional disks to be made.

So while I understand how people wonder why they should hire a professional I hope I’ve answered those questions. In all honestly pictures are the one thing people keep forever. They SHOULD be invested in, and in the long run if you don’t hire a pro you’ll end up paying more anyway. First you’ll pay the GWC then either suffer with crappy images or have to go ahead and hire a professional. The same with a drive through chain store.

Unlike GWC’s who are too arrogant to admit they aren’t true professionals, just someone who purchased an expensive camera or chain stores that just want your money, the most important thing to all true professional photographers is getting the best images for our clients in a form that makes them sigh, cry, and love to have that image in their home for generations to come.


What is a GWC?

Recently a fellow photographer and good friend of mine mentioned the difficulty she was having with a GWC. Confused I asked just what was a GWC? With a smile she said “Guy (Girl) With Camera.” Loving this so much I decided to use it in this information to you.

A GWC or is just a great way of staying “Someone who bought a professional digital camera and now thinks they are a photographer.” With the influx of great digitals this is becoming a huge problem not only for the real professionals but also their clients. The even larger problem is that for clients it’s often hard to tell between a GWC and a genuine professional photographer.

The professional photographer of old is a whole new animal, not always sitting behind a large camera in a studio. What used to be a sure sign of a GWC, a offer of a photo disk with a copyright release, is no longer the case. In the age of scanners many photographers have started offering photo disks as a way to allow their clients to print high quality images legally.

I myself have a huge part of my business in our portrait disk. As a photographer I decided that it was better to allow my clients to purchase the disk then to have them try to scan an 8x10 and not get a good copy.

The other old sign was that professional portrait photographers have studios and GWC’s don’t. However with the overhead costs soaring and digital making equipment so easy to move around many professionals now don’t keep a studio location. So how do you tell a GWC from a pro? Ask the following questions:

1. How long have you been in photography? Every photographer is a GWC at one time, usually when they first start out. The good GWC’s though don’t charge people anything, and are just trying to learn the art. Be cautious if they have been a off then on photographer. You can almost always tell at GWC from a pro by asking how long they’ve been in the business. Don’t use this as a tell all though. I’ve met some awesome photographers who have only been shooting for a few years.

2. Can I see your portfolio? Many great photographers never go to college for photography. Just like painting photography is an art and although you can hone your skills in a great school there are other ways. So instead of asking where a photographer went to school ask to see their portfolio. This is the best of the best of the best of their work. If you don’t like it, walk. Maybe your style isn’t gelling with the photographers or they really aren’t that good. If they say they don’t have one that’s a big warning sign. All pros do have a portfolio of some sort. Even student photographers do, so use care if the photographer your talking to hasn’t made the effort to make one.

3. Do you offer prints? Where are processed? This is a big big big thing. If the person your talking to doesn’t offer prints they are probably a GWC. If they say they do ask where they have them printed. Most professional photographers have their prints processed at a professional lab. Some big names are Millers and Bay Photo. Do a google search for a lab they say they use. Pro labs will come up. There are small labs though that do great work. Ask to see an example print. The paper should be a good weight and look clean. Flip it over, is there an order number on the back. Does it look professional? Ask if you have paper choices (linen, metallic ect.) professional labs offer those. If they say they use a chain store like Walmart or Walgreens this should worry you. Especially if your ordering portraits which need high quality printing to last a long time. If they say they print themselves (some large studios do) ask to see an example and then ask if your printer could do the same. Professional photographers will never sell their client something that isn’t professional quality.

4. What do you use to shoot with? A GWC will catch on this question. The pros answer will vary based on where you’ll be shooting. Most pros now use digital SLR’s. A few die hards still use film, but they few and far between. The big word to look for is SLR. If your photographers camera isn’t an SLR you need to wonder. A professional also has studio lights if they will be shooting indoors, good flashes, reflectors, background stands, backgrounds, props ect. The list of needed equipment changes with location and shoot type but a pro has plenty of options a GWC usually only has a camera and maybe a background or two. If the photographer can’t remove their lens that’s not a good sign. Again not having tons of equipment or even a great camera doesn’t mean they aren’t a photographer, it just should make you wonder.

5. Is this your main profession? If say “Well this is something on the side after I’m done with my plumbing job.” Your dealing with a GWC. Maybe a good GWC, but a GWC. Many photographers are starving artists, but they consider photography their profession. The other job is just to pay for the “toys” that photographers love to have. Like full time photographers some GWC’s have decided they are are pros and this is the only job they have so make sure you ask all the other questions too. Jobs like PCA, Walmart, Olan Mills, Sears, they don’t make someone a pro. Now many pros have worked at those places to pay the bills, but in truth those jobs offer little to no training and if that’s what your photographer is basing their ability on run away.

6. I have some ideas on what I want, are you okay with that? A professional will never turn away a clients ideas. Its our job to get you just what you want and what looks great. While a pro might add to your idea in the end they want you to be happy. A GWC might not take it so well, and if a true pro gets crabby because you have ideas you don’t want then taking your photos anyway.

7. Ask yourself “Does this person act like a professional?” A true photographer is proud of their work, is confident in their ability and acts like a business person. If they don’t that could be red flag.

8. Do you have a website? Pros have one. They aren’t always pretty (hey we can only be so creative and we are busy!) but they have one. GWC’s usually don’t.

9. Ask them about their posing training, their light knowledge, and who they consider to be the great photographers of their field. If you get to the shoot and THEY are asking YOU to pose yourself that’s a bad sign.

10. Lastly ask yourself if this is a person you trust with your families memories. Sometimes you have to pay a little more to a professional than you would a GWC, but not always. The important thing is that you are comfortable that the photographer is going to make you happy, and that if you aren’t they will do everything they can to make it right. There is nothing I won’t do to make a client happy, and most professionals are the same.


  1. I wholeheartedly respect your stance on this and professional photographers definitely deserve the prestige that accompanies the title. I guess I would be considered a "GWC", but not looking to scam anyone or pose as something I'm not. I have a passion and photography is an expensive hobby. In order to one day be able to call myself a professional and proudly have 10 years of experience under my belt, I need to help front my learning journey. The easiest (and smartest) way to do that is by charging people to be a part of the experience I'm gaining. I guess what I'm trying to say is that some of us GWC's are just attempting to climb the ladder and put in our time to someday reach the expertise of someone like you. Thank you for your perspective though...

  2. Kylie,
    We have all been where you are. Every pro starts out learning, and that DO NOT make you a GWC.

    GWC's tote themselves as pros, and are not honest about their work. Which is why several each year are sued for shooting weddings and doing a horrible job.

    As long as you explain to people you are an "aspiring professional" and are honest with your work, your not a GWC.

    Letting people know your still learning (which honestly we all are), showing them a real representation of your work, and being honest about your pricing being a reflection of your costs while learning, makes your actions part of the solution not the problem.

    Also by being honest with people about your skill level you protect yourself from lawsuits.

    Everyone has to start out learning. :) We have all been there!

    I had a chance to take a look at your website. You have some really cute stuff, some really great conceptual ideas.

    If you keep shooting, taking classes, and studying posing and lighting in a few years you'll have no trouble claiming that "professional" title!

    If you need any help feel free to contact me! I'll be happy to give you any suggestions I can.

    Head Photographer
    Real Moments Photography

  3. "does not". LOL sorry typing with kiddos at my feet! :)

  4. HAHA Sorry it's April isn't it?? I saw your daughters page and just assumed!

  5. Me... a year later :)