What makes a Pro’s images stand out?

We use this phrase a lot around here, “Everyone is a photographer these days”, and that’s because technology has advanced a lot in the last 20 years and has made capturing images and videos very accessible to the masses. Show me a cell phone that does NOT come with a built-in camera of some sort… it’s tough to find. I had this conversation with my 7 year old daughter the other day, her tiny iPod is more powerful than the computers I grew up learning on in school at her age! And with that accessibility, comes a lot more amateurs that are trying their hand at snapping pics. This is great because it puts a camera in the hands of someone that may otherwise not ever have one, and that person may have a great eye for photography! The downside is that many people who don’t have a good eye for capturing pics now have a camera in-hand and believe they can get the prize shots. And this is where things start to get further and further apart between the professionals in the photography industry and the amateurs that just enjoy taking pictures.

We all had to start somewhere, so I am by no means knocking anyone for trying things out and possibly starting down a lifelong journey of enjoyment capturing moments in time with a camera. But when it comes to you, the client, spending hard-earned money on an artist to capture your special memories or landmark events in life, you definitely want to make sure you’re getting the best results possible for your money. We’ve all been there, we’ve all had a friend or family member put in charge of capturing a family picture, or a party or even a wedding. But it’s likely that the results were about what you would expect for free…

Not all photographers are equal. Just like no painter has the exact same style or perspective on painting. So you will get different results from different photographers. Just because someone is a professional, does not automatically mean you will get great results. Always look through their portfolio and ask for sample images for what you are looking to have done so that you can get an idea of what to expect from them. Not even just skill level, it can come down to style differences between artists, and some of them out there only know how to shoot one thing and use one preset filter to edit their images. That’s great if that’s what you are looking for, but it’s not great if you’re looking for a variety, so just make sure and do your homework before you end up with pictures you don’t love!

Anyone can go out and buy professional level equipment, but unfortunately that doesn’t mean the pictures coming out of it will be professional. I’ve met quite a few photographers that have nice equipment but don’t know how to use it correctly, and at that point their work is limited by their capabilities. High-end equipment won’t make anything look great, in fact higher-end equipment amplifies the errors or lack of knowledge in the wrong hands. But if you have a great photographer that is using low-end equipment, there will be quality and details lacking from your pictures in the end also. And you don’t want that, I promise. As an ice-breaker I sometimes will start a photo shoot by pulling out my iPhone or one of my vintage Polaroid cameras and line up the first shot, and make them think they showed up and paid all this money for me to snap some pics on my phone or an old instant film camera. It always gets a good laugh to start things off, and then I pull my real camera out of the bag and get things started. It always gets a good laugh because people know that they’re paying me to provide higher quality images than they could capture themselves. So it’s an unspoken expectation from clients out in the real world, if they’re willing to pay you, they expect you to have better equipment than them.

Why is professional equipment necessary and what does it do for me you may ask? This could be talked about for hours, but I’ll show you a simple visual to help understand the difference between simply snapping pics on a cell phone versus using a high-end camera. The easiest way to show it is the basic quality of the image from an un-trained eye’s perspective. Everyone can tell a difference between a sharp and fuzzy looking picture. And although it may not always be as obvious between the high-end and low-end, the difference is there, and it is only amplified the further you get into the creative process of producing images.

Apple iPhone 11 Pro Max (left) – Nikon D850 (right)

Now I know a lot of you are probably looking at this on a cell phone screen, and the smaller the picture the harder it is to tell a difference in quality between two pictures. So I challenge you to move up to a tablet size screen, or a desktop/laptop computer screen and look at the images. And these days it’s very easy to cast pictures on your devices to your TV, so give that a try and take a closer look. You’ll notice a distinct difference between the left and right images of the Cadillac. Some pictures you have taken may never make it to the big screen, or get printed to hang in your home or office. But what if you get one that strikes you just right and you want to blow it up and hang it over your fireplace? Take another look at the quality difference between an iPhone 11 Pro Max and a Nikon D850 with Nikon lenses above and decide for yourself which you would rather see hanging? The equipment doesn’t make or break the artist, but if you settle for amateur level, the results will limit you in the end, which could mean that fantastic shot that is the best you’ve ever seen, just won’t be worthy of hanging on your wall.

Beyond the equipment that is used by a professional versus amateur, it goes without saying that if you don’t know how to use it, you still won’t get good results. But beyond that, people think these days that the computers do all the work. They do not. They assist greatly with the process and have helped many people get further along than they would have years ago. But that also means that professionals know how to push it even further and use the tools of the trade that much better to get better results than an amateur. Just as a lawyer goes to school to learn the laws and how to use them, a photographer goes to school to learn how to use a camera and the digital processing tools. If a photographer only learns to shoot the pictures, there can be a lot left on the table that can leave the final pictures lacking in the end. Just as it was in the days of film and printing where photographers had to tweak and adjust in the darkroom and use little tricks to get special results and effects in the images, there are many adjustments and tricks in the electronic processing that can make a world of difference in the results you will see. We won’t give away all of our secrets, but we will show you a before and after to show the dramatic results of how a picture looks simply taken on a high-end camera versus one that was taken on a high-end camera and then edited by a professional. We don’t usually like showing the before, because honestly they don’t have the same wow-factor, and that’s what we’re always going for!

Halloween themed Photo Session

Imagine if you hired someone to create a photographic story of one of your favorite scary movies, and the image on the left is what you got in return? Sure it captures the theme correctly, and everything is framed correctly. But does it truly feel like a scary movie, or just a snapshot? The image on the right has been edited and adjusted to give the photo a more appropriate feel to match the movie theme. I suppose this could be a matter of opinion, but if you know the movie and you were paying for these pictures, I’m certain which one you would be happier with. Again, a lot of people can capture a great shot, but in a digital world of photography, you also have to know how to process those great shots afterwards to get the best results and get the artwork to really be amazing in the end.

We know hiring a professional photographer is a luxury and can get expensive depending on the occasion, but keep in mind what you’re getting for your money and what you want to do with your pictures in the end. Just like any other professional you hire in your daily life, you would always prefer to hire the best professional with the best tools and toolsets to get the job done. There is a noticeable difference!


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