“Photographer” is a blanket term, it covers everyone from the beginning weekend hobbyist to the world famous professionals, and everyone in between. When thinking of having photos taken, it’s common for many people to look to their friends and family members who “have a nice camera” or “are into photography” in order to get a better deal. Sure, this route will probably save them some money, but what are they giving up by overlooking the professionals?

Pretty much anyone with access to a camera can call themselves a professional photographer these days. We’ve all met that guy or girl who gets an entry level DSLR for Christmas and a couple of weeks later has a Facebook page set up offering his or her services for pay. I’m not saying there is necessarily anything wrong with that, assuming they read their manual and watched some YouTube videos, they’ll probably do a good enough job for a young family who can’t afford hundreds of dollars for their portraits. Nevertheless, the value from a professional is absolutely worth it. Here’s just a bit of what you’re paying for:

Time – Photography is a complex concept to grasp, let alone master. When starting out, most go through a number of “phases” as they learn and discover new techniques, including “selective coloring is the best thing ever!” and “why not just make everything HDR?!” Over the years, a photographer will experiment with these phases, grow tired of them, imitate others, and finally develop their own style which employs these techniques as necessary to create the best final image.

Equipment – While there are many exceptions, generally a professional photographer will be far more invested in both the quantity and quality of the equipment that they use. Not being limited, in terms of focal length or lighting capability, for instance, will allow the photographer complete freedom to create both their and the client’s vision.

Reputation – The professional earns a large percentage, if not all of their living, off of photography. To run a successful business, return clients are essential, and word of mouth is often the most lucrative marketing tool. They haven’t built their career on failure, and all it takes is a couple of bad reviews to send new business to someone else.

The hobbyist, on the other hand doesn’t have nearly as much to lose. They might ruin a relationship and have their ego hurt a bit, but not delivering on your photo job isn’t going to destroy their livelihood. The “nothing to lose” mentality certainly lends itself to accepting more risk for you, but that brings significant risk against you as well.
After all of this I should clarify, I’m not saying that anyone who’s calling themselves a professional photographer has to be an all-knowing photography wizard. The best of the best are still learning all of the time, innovating and practicing new techniques, experimenting with equipment and methods that were previously outside their wheelhouse. What I am saying is that the more serious and dedicated that photographer is to their craft, the more effort and skill they’re going to put into making sure that their client has the best photos at the end of the day.

Think I missed an important point? Let me know in the comments!

(Credit to Yulia Shilova for the article topic idea)