Well this is a first. This topic has landed squarely in my lap in recent months so I will address it, but as you’ll learn, I really can’t post any images for the article.
It is no surprise that the business of professional photography is changing so fast, that those of us in the pool now live a life with constant waves in our faces. There are some really juicy new camera technologies coming soon that will bring a tsunami of change to an already changed industry. Amidst the changes, I now find myself “fixing other photographers work”.
Prior to this year (the class of 2014 seniors), I had a rare and occasional request to critique another photographers work, and in some cases, I was asked to make prints for a customer who owned the images and a legal copyright release.
Then along came the class of 2014. I have had a steady stream of clients bringing me images from other photographers, usually needing help to fix the images, more than they needed prints. I designed several Graduation Open House Announcements this year using someone else’s work, which was kind of strange, but I’ll take it.
It is both professionally satisfying in one regard that these clients seek us out (or come back having dealt with Picture Place with previous seniors) and incredibly frustrating to see first hand so much sub-par senior portrait work.
Everyone of these clients paid these photographers to create these images in this new “shoot and burn” era of photography.
I am not waving a flag of superiority, rather passing on a disturbing trend that is detrimentally affecting the profession. How, do you ask? Well as more and more clients hire photographers who deliver average at best results, and charge handsomely to do so, it only stands to reason that the perception of “quality” delivered by professional photographers is hurt to some degree.
I’m talking about basic stuff. Underexposed, overexposed, blown highlights, lack of workable depth of field, no light in the eyes, horrible shadows, awkward poses, body positions, no fill flash, too much fill flash, files shot as compressed jpgs and so on and so on. I have worked very hard over the years to constantly update my skills, my style and my approach to photography. Senior portraits are an exciting challenge to take on each year as each class seems to desire a slightly different look and feel. It would be pretty boring to always shoot every senior the same way. No thank you.
I tend to take the in-studio portraits I shoot for granted. Not one of these “let me fix your pictures” projects had ANY in-studio type portrait work. Having spent a few decades getting it right in the camera (because with film you simply had to), I strive to shoot with virtually no editing required, as it should be in my opinion.
It is sad that Picture Place is enjoying a growth category at the expense of an ever growing field of competitors. I know there are plenty of relatively new photographers producing great work, so don’t for a second paint me as a crabby established studio crying about the good old days and hating on all the new photographers trying to make it. There is a smaller and smaller percentage of full-time photographers, and it appears the shelf life is pretty short on how long a lot of photographers hang in there trying to make it.
I so wish I could post before and after examples of these projects. While I could (as everyone of these customers produced a copyright release), I will refrain from the public embarrassment that might get back to some of these shooters. I cannot understand the logic of photographers not participating in the entire process to ensure the best possible results. Our “velvet touch” retouching truly transforms some images from a nice shot to a stunning portrait.
My appeal is twofold. First, to any and all photographers out doing client work, keep it up, keep working at your craft and don’t ever think you have it all figured out. Secondly, to any and all clients considering the hire of any photographer (myself included), vet who you hire carefully. Technology has made it “easy” to “take a good picture”. That same technology has created an ever growing number of folks hanging the virtual shingle proudly calling themselves a “professional photographer”. Just because a photographer posts a few nice looking shots, you might just want to look a little deeper into their qualifications, experience, testimonials and achievements.
Maybe I should run out and buy a bunch of new pots and pans, then I could call myself a gourmet chef. I’ve got a good hammer, let me build you a house… it really seems silly to think so many approach the business of photography in the same manner.
We had an insanely busy spring (that’s a good thing) so I’ve given some of my competitors a little head start on the class of 2015. I’m working on some incredible offerings that are sure to fill my calendar. Give us a call 651-426-0232 if you want to get a jump on the rest of the class and book those ideal days and times now!
Off to check and clean all the gear for tomorrow’s wedding, like a good professional does before a wedding…