I was preparing to photograph a young lady’s senior portrait session the other day. She had her yearbook with her from the school, and she and her mom were looking through it as I was getting ready. The mom said to me, “You can always tell which pictures are yours in the yearbook!” I said, “Really? How?” She replied, “I don’t know, they just look… so much better! Can’t say exactly what it is, but they stand out from all the rest.”
Then she asked me, “What’s with all the photographers around now who try to copy everything you do?” Now, I knew exactly what she was talking about, but I wanted to hear her perspective on it, so I asked, “What do you mean?” The girl chimed in and said, “There’s a whole bunch of brand new photographers and when you look at their work, they just try to copy all the poses and backgrounds and stuff that you do. A lot of them don’t even have studios and just shoot like, at the park and stuff.”
“What do you mean by ‘They don’t get it’ ?”
“It just looks like they try to copy what you do, but you can tell they really aren’t as good because the pictures just look kinda lame….”
Well, they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but actually I knew exactly what they were talking about. There’s a whole new crop of “photographers” in the market these days who haven’t put in the years of training and apprenticeship to learn the craft the way I did when I was new to the field. I worked for other studios for 11 years before I felt my skill level was sufficient to hang out my shingle and advertise myself as a “professional photographer.” Now days it seems like having a website and a digital camera is all it takes. Heck, you don’t need to take time to learn posing and lighting and all that stuff! It doesn’t matter if the picture is too dark, or off color, or poorly lit… just throw a Photoshop effect on it and call it art… or, find a photographer that everybody likes and try to copy whatever he or she is doing. Most people won’t see the difference.
Sad, really. Having a digital camera doesn’t make you a “photographer” any more than having a stethoscope makes you a doctor. It’s good to know that most people can see and appreciate the difference, but sadly, too many people are getting really getting ripped off by those claiming to be “professionals” and delivering really sub-standard work disguised as “art”.
Here’s some things to look for when considering working with a professional photographer.