Saturday, November 26, 2016

Why choose a professional?

Many people ask why they should pay a professional since they have a good camera and can ask a friend to take pictures.   As a professional photographer, though I am self taught and I have much to learn, I'd like to tackle that question.  

With the dawn of cell phones and really good, inexpensive cameras, you might wonder why you should choose a professional photographer.  I mean, don't the cameras do all the work for you?  The answer to that is yes and no.   While the cameras will record a quality image, it's how you take that image and what you do with it that sets the professionals apart.

When you ask a professional to take your photos here is what you are getting.

A practiced eye for composition.
Editing skills
Experience 

The list can go on, but these are three important skills which set the professionals apart from the every day photographers.  The first few photos in this blog were taken by my cell phone to show that I'm not being biased and using my big gun (The Canon 5D Mark III) to demonstrate my point.

Here are some examples.  As regards to composition. Note the differences in these two sets of photos.  In the first set, I wanted to show the marsh grasses, and include the boat dock in the photo.

Correct composition for the marsh grass.

Incorrect composition if marsh grass is your subject, too much sky and the inclusion of the railing is distracting.

In this second set, I wanted to show how you can see the water in the distance between the trees.  You can tell it's a moving waterway, a better composition.

   
You can see the water, but it looks like a blob held up by the trees.

Now lets talk editing skills.  Professional photographers invest in their editing software and use good programs to enhance the great photos they have already taken as opposed to fixing a bad shot. (Though we can to that well too.) 

In the following sets of photos you will see before and after photos.  I did minimal editing on both of the photos then took one extra step for the 2nd.
The before photo.  I did edit for color, straightened the horizon and added a few extra highlights.   





The after photo.  I enhanced the color, removed the distracting wire and brown smudge from the bridge railings and did selective highlighting to bring out the dock a bit more    

 
The before photo. This trail in Windsor Castle Park in Smithfield, VA winds it way around the historic home and barns.  My goal was to capture how it curves.  In this picture though, everything is treated the same, it's hard to tell what my subject was. Was it the trail, the trees, or the bunch of leaves? 

   
The after photo. By softening the surrounding trees and highlighting the trail it's quite clear what the photo is about.

 Experience.  A fledgling photographer can take a beautiful photo, but in some situations using a camera in automatic mode, just doesn't work well.  Any situation where the lighting is dim or non existent, is a sure way of telling if a photographer has experience.  Since this is not an example I can demonstrate with my phone, which is terrible in low light situations, I used photos taken with my "real" camera for this example.


This is a photo taken in manual mode, meaning I decided the exposure, aperture and shutter speed.  I was using a wide angle lens and chose to expose the image so I could see the mother's face.  This is straight out of the camera.  (I did not edit it). (Flash was not allowed) 

This was taken in automatic mode with my other camera.  Notice how the camera chose to expose the image darker.  The people's faces are shadowed.   This is what happens in a low light situation when you let the camera make all the decisions.  Even good cameras, this was a Canon 6D full frame camera, will do this in automatic.  (Flash was not allowed.)
I then edited both photos.  Even after editing, the one shot in automatic is not as clear as the one shot in manual mode.



Yes, you can shoot all your photos in automatic and then "edit" them afterwards, but bringing up shadows in post processing usually also adds a lot of noise to the image.  It makes a difference to  shoot in manual mode and that comes with experience.

Photography is a never ending learning cycle. There is always something you can learn which will improved the next shot.  If you have a choice between using your camera in automatic mode or choosing a professional to take your photos, I hope you now have some understanding as to why we are worth the investment.