There truly is a Facebook page for everything. I recently came across "Why hire a professional photographer" on Facebook, something I have spent a lot of time discussing with people and thought it would make a good blog post. Professional photographers, especially the ones trying to grow a business, have a lot of challenges these days. Everyone has a camera now. Some of those cameras result in some really nice photos. And some people even know how to use those cameras well and do some processing on those photos to create nifty effects that make the photos look like they were taken in the 1930s, or to increase the intensity of the colors, or even look like it was taken under water. These days, it doesn't take a pro to make the subject of a photo look 30 pounds thinner. Who wouldn't want that? So why pay for it?
The same reasons you wouldn't hire your neighbor to fill a tooth. He (or she) probably has a power drill, right? Or even a Dremel, which looks a lot like a dentist drill. What's the difference? In this situation it is rather obvious. A wrong move means a lot of pain, real physical pain. But the results can be the same hiring someone inexperienced to take photos of an important, once in a lifetime event, or to create lasting memories of a loved one or even your prized goat. Losing that chance can be painful in a different sort of way.
So what does a pro provide? A pro puts her reputation on the line everytime she takes a photo. The cost of the service isn't based on materials or equipment, it is based on skill, and learning, and continuing education, and talent, and, perhaps most of all, passion! A pro doesn't take photos, she makes them. A pro can take ridiculous lighting situations, uncooperative subjects, chaotic environments and produce stellar images that will make you gleam with joy whenever you look at them and share them with others. A pro doesn't get lucky shots; a pro creates ideal photographic situations out of the otherwise abysmal. A pro has equipment that makes that possible, and knows how to maximize the equipment for the best images. A pro provides a service that she can deliver and follow through on without relying on luck. Got plans for fantastic late afternoon light for a family portrait but now it is raining on your parade? No problem. A pro can deal with it. A pro knows terrific locations and how to access them for photos if needed, and how to get the permits. In the realm of fine art, a pro creates images of things you may have looked at every day, but gets you to see them differently, or to appreciate the nuances of the ordinary in a creative and expressive way (future blog - is photography an Art?). A pro can listen to your description of what you want, no matter how abstract that might be, and work with you to formulate a plan to produce the images you have dreamed of. A pro is prepared for anything. A pro has years of experience and study and is constantly learning and improving the art and the craft of photography. A pro cringes when someone comments on her work and says "Lucky shot!" because she knows what went into getting that capture. Note that a lot of pros are "he" also. My second cameras are all "he" - these are the people who are backups for events and weddings and make it possible for a photographer to be exactly where she (or he) should be at any specific time. This is something else that distinguishes a pro. My second cameras are a great bunch of guys! I second for them sometimes, too. We get along quite well.
If those are the characteristics you want for your photos, hire a pro, not just some friend with a cool camera. In the photography world, we talk about "Uncle Bob" - the guy with the nifty camera who is available to photograph anything, any time. Free. or at least really cheap. There is a Facebook page for Uncle Bob Photography, also, that says it all. Check it out. A pro might do some volunteer work on occasion, such as donating services for a charitable organization. I enjoy donating services for a good cause. like to benefit the city, animal shelters, food pantries, or the elderly. But a pro has a portfolio and more self-respect and appreciation for the art form than to do the work for free. A pro notices what is in the background, who has their eyes closed or a crooked collar or a tree growing out of someone's head in the once in a lifetime family portrait. A pro doesn't rely on Photoshop to fix errors in the original capture. A pro does know how to use software, selectively, to help you look your very best, and also knows when to stop. A pro has integrity. Or should. There are codes of ethics for pros in most fields. Photography has several, actually, depending on the organization and specialty. Not all pros are right for every job. Hire a pro with integrity and passion but who also "gets" you, your vision, and the work you want done and can help you formulate that photographic plan for your event or family situation.
What you pay for is talent, skill, dedication, and passion when you hire a pro. Photos capture fleeting moments in time. Over the last few years I have had the opportunity to revisit some places I had been before and sought out some of the same vistas and locations I photographed earlier. Even though there may have been only a year or two that passed between visits, those scenes I photographed on the first visit no longer existed. Sometimes it was because of development, sometimes because of the cycles of nature or, often, because time really is fleeting. They were there geographically; but the flora, the fog, the skies, the clouds, the colors-- that scene is no longer there. Nature and landscape and fine art photos capture fleeting moments, just as lifestyle, portrait, and event photography do. It is true that we shall not pass this way again. So when you want to capture the memories and those precious moments on the way, be sure to take a pro along.