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Know what you're getting when you book a photographer

Over the past couple months as I have been working to expand the capabilities and capacity of Skill Capture Media, I have been looking at the photography ads, responses to requests for photographers, and business posts on community pages. I realized there are a lot of things the public does not understand about quality photography, and they may not realize they are not getting as good a deal as they thought. My aim today is to break down some of that for the community.

“Offering a mini session with 15 edited photos – only $99!”

This is one of the cringiest things professional photographers run into in the wild. There is so much wrong with everything being offered, and the public falls into this trap every time. First, I don’t care for mini sessions outside of some quick, cute child seasonal photos to put online along with your “baby’s first pumpkin” post on Facebook.

These should never be booked in place of a quality portrait session. Why? How relaxed are you in the first 10-15 minutes in front of a camera? How well does the photographer know you and your expressions in 10 minutes? Unless you’re shooting with a family friend of 10 years, it’s unlikely you will be natural, nor is it likely that the photographer will extract your best look in those 20-minute minis. For a quality portrait session, we offer a consult prior to the shoot in order to ensure you know what to expect. We take time prior to putting you in front of the camera to get comfortable and begin to identify those natural smiles and expressions. We take several minutes of photos we expect to be throw-aways just to get the client into the rhythm of shooting. We also like to go through several looks and poses, as not everything you pick out for a photo shoot looks as you expect day-of. If you have a 20-minute mini session, good luck getting a wardrobe change in there. So, you now spent $99 for the wrong outfit, terrible expressions, no direction or posing, and you still have to find someone else to get what you thought you were getting with the mini.

The last part of this is there is a BIG difference between “edited photos” and “retouched photos.” Edited photos typically means they took out a pimple or two and threw a preset color filter on it. So, congratulations, not only do you have the issues above, but you paid for 15 Instagram filters to be put on your photos. At Skill Capture Media, we may put a filter on for a stylized shoot, but we are also adjusting skin tones, removing blemishes, smoothing skin as requested/needed, enhancing eyes and coloration, modifying environmental distractions, and changing color tone in the entire photo to give the perfect look. We do this per-photo and have a per-photo cost that is a bit more, but you’re getting quality photos with industry leading retouching.

“I can shoot anything you want, plus video”

Look, this is going to be short – there’s absolutely no way you are an expert at weddings, babies, headshots, portraits, maternity, graduations, products, food, cars, AND video all in one person with less than 100 shoots in your portfolio. I have 10+ years of experience, hundreds of thousands of photos taken, and thousands of shoots worth of knowledge, and I will not touch half of that. I shoot what I’m strongest at, and that my style fits, and the rest is for someone else who has experience there. I’ve seen a few posts lately offering over 10 services and topics from photographers I know only started a year ago. If you see more than 3 or 4 primary topics, keep walking. We focus on headshots/portraits, food/products, and sports. I know I am not the best athlete for newborn or maternity shoots, and I refuse to touch weddings. If you talk to someone who thinks they can do it all, you will likely find out that’s not actually the case.

Use your eyes, not your heart

I know it’s hard to say no when there’s a great story behind a photographer, but if their photos look worse than what your 3-year-old took at the family BBQ, then maybe look past the story. I see so many photoshoot posts from local folks who have harsh glare on their face, or they’re making terrible expressions, or the sky has no detail at all, or the grass behind them is brighter than they are, or their left knee is the only thing in focus… These are all bad. And real examples.

Folks, if a photographer blames the sun or lighting for their terribly exposed photos, ask for a refund. They should have diffusion with them to shade your face. They should have filters to cut the glare and background lighting. They should know how to expose a photo. And if they can’t focus their camera, well, that’s hard to even fathom what happened – cameras do this automatically for you these days. If the photographer shows up with just a camera at 2 pm, unless you’re in a forest, they’re either going to mess up your exposure or the settings around you. That’s ok though, they will throw an Instagram-style filter and call it their “style.” No, it’s not a style – it’s a band-aid because you can’t do it right.

Framing – Why are you awkwardly hanging off the photo?

While most photography rules are meant to be broken and called style, if you are finding yourself upstaged by a palm tree or park bench, that was not a rule meant to be broken. You should be either in the center or on one of the two lines dividing the photo into thirds, your eyes should be on the top third horizontally, and you should not be cut off at the knees or any other weird edit. If you’re missing a hand or leg and you aren’t supposed to be, that’s on the photographer. We shoot as much as possible tethered to a computer so we can review our framing on a bigger screen and make sure everything we shoot is usable.

Community Recommendations

While feedback on a photographer can be very useful, when the bar is set very low on what quality means, this may just perpetuate the low-quality offerings as being standard. I understand you can get a cheap photo at certain retail locations, or from someone who just picked up a camera during the pandemic, but that doesn’t make them the right choice. I see a lot of recommendations for a couple of local folks who can’t expose or compose a photo to save their lives. The only reason I think they keep getting recommended is because folks don’t know there are better quality options out there. Is it better than a cell phone? Maybe. But it’s not to our quality, and it shouldn’t be to yours either.

I write this not to specifically bash other photographers, or hold Skill Capture Media on a pedestal, but I am concerned regularly with the choices being made in these request threads. I don’t know if it is a lack of understanding of what should be considered good photography, or because folks love to save a few dollars. But I can’t believe that someone could look at these poorly constructed portraits/headshots and nod and say “yep, that’s good enough.” Never settle for good enough. If you’re a professional getting professional headshots, remember, you are your best marketing. And if you don’t look your best, you’ll likely get passed over. Invest in yourself, and invest in your photos.

If you have questions, comments, or concerns, don’t hesitate to reach out. And as always, we are available for booking.

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