Misconceptions and Myths in Professional Photography
Even since before I bought my first DSLR, I had been hearing non-photographers making assumptions on professional photography and photographers. To me, some of the myths can be easily rebutted using common sense while some may require true life experience to realise the misconceptions.
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As long as it's a DSLR, anyone can also produce good photos
No. Given a good DSLR, if someone doesn't have the knowledge and experience, he won't be able to produce good photographs, unless he's very lucky - good weather, subject, background... etc.
When I was new to photography, I attended my friend's convocation using a cropped body mirrorless DSLR while her rich classmate was blessed with a full frame DSLR (probably on full auto mode). After my friend uploaded the photographs I took for her, everyone was more impressed with mine.
Of course, no photographer can deny the fact that equipment is important for phototaking.
Regardless of the situation, photographers can produce good photos
No. Given good situations, photographs can turn out well quite easily but if it's a bad situation, photographers may need additional or better equipment.
However, if time doesn't permit or if the photographers have to move around (especially, during an event), he may not be able to set up additional lighting. For example, if the event is scheduled around noon time and in the open area, the sun will be shining harshly from the top angle and thus bad shadows will be casted on the faces. Since it's an event shoot, the photographer cannot set up his lighting and carry it all over the place. Even if an assistant is willing to carry the lighting around and can help to change the setting of the light as when necessary, the photographer won't be able to take natural snapshot with the attention.
This is why I always try to find out more about the shoots from clients to do necessary planning and provide suggestions, as to increase the chance of getting good photographs. Of course, there are some clients who are less concerned because they expect photographers to do wonders given any situation.
Photographers are being overpaid
When you pay for a shoot, you aren't paying for just the few hours of the photographer's time.
A photographer has to spend 10s of thousand dollars to buy his equipment, which will wear and tear. He has to spend time to discuss with you and plan for the shoot (what to bring and how to shoot). He has to spend time and effort to travel, set up and dismantle the heavy and bulky equipment. He needs to move around and uses his creativity and experience during the shoot. Most importantly, after the shoot, he needs to spend days to process your photos. Therefore, if you're paying for two-hour of shoot, don't assume you are only paying for the two hours of services.
The rates of different photographers can vary from $60/hr (or lower) to $300/hr (or much higher). The new and less confident ones, together with the quality and quantity of equipment will of course quote lower prices. After all, you get what you pay for.
If a professional photographer takes up a low paying job, he may be actually making a loss. Of course, there are many "photographers" who are only looking at short-term gains.
Some photographers charge very low prices
Do not compare professional photographers with other "photographers". I hope you are not confusing basic editing with advanced editing. Of course, there are professional photographers who outsource the editing work to retouchers, especially those from less developed countries who are willing to accept lower rate. However, do take note of the time and effort to do a good job. For me, I know well I cannot give in my best if I were to be underpaid and thus I will choose not to accept any underpaid job in the first place; I do not know how much effort other people will put in if they were to be badly underpaid. A wise friend has told me that, given my qualification (bachelor degree), I can give private tuition at the rate of $30/hr as a new full-time tutor, and thus it makes no sense if I cannot earn more given my expertise and effort in photo-editing.
There are many factors to why a photographer can afford to charge at a very low rate - it can be because of his skill level, confident level, equipment, editing skill, time spend on editing, or maybe he is rich enough to own a studio with equipment already set up (doesn't require setting up and dismantling).
Advanced editing/enhancement for photographs is overpriced
It really depends. Some photographers spend extra effort to make your portrait photographs looks good and natural. If it takes an average of an hour to edit a photograph for someone with reasonable good complexion, how much should the photographer charge per photo? Take note of the special skillset, effort and time required. If the photographer is good and detailed in his work, and yet he charges a low amount, will it make sense for him to go and give private tuition or even work at McDonald's instead?
For my natural and detailed style of editing, it takes around one to two hours on average to finish a photograph. My record is spending more than five hours on a photograph that is required for modelling portfolio.
I only need basic editing for my portrait photographs
It depends. Some people prefer to leave every flaw on the photos. However, for corporate and pre-wedding shoot, it is much better to have advanced enhancement done to hide flaws. Professional photographers produce photographs with high details, which also means that all your flaws are more visible compared to your selfie photographs taken by camera phone. Just like doing makeup, having advanced editing will make you look more presentable in the photograph. So, if you want to look good (for wedding or modelling portfolio) or are prepared to print out the photographs in large format, you are highly advised to request for advanced editing, although it will definitely cost you much more.
Every photographer's work is the same
No. Every photographer has his own style. For a professional shoot, the photographer decides on everything, including the outfits, styling and location. Different photographers prefer to use different camera, lens, lighting and angle of lighting. Post-production further differentiate the photographers. There are too many varieties of factors that will result in different work. Of course, an amateur may not be able to tell the differences.
I only need half an hour's time for the shoot
Unfortunately, most of the shoots, be it for product, food, interior or portrait, require longer time than any non professional photographer expects. Every photograph may require a lot of testing of light and angle. We are talking about professional photography and not just a simple snap; we may need multiple shots with adjustments in between the shots to get the perfect photograph.
Of course, if the requirement is only one good photograph, the actual shoot can take less than half an hour. However, don't forget about the time and effort for the discussion, preparation, travelling, setting up and dismantling of equipment that the photographer needs to spend on. As such, it's not efficient for any photographer to take up low duration job. Most professional photographers don't take up jobs that are less than two hours, unless the client is willing to pay the amount for two hours of job regardless of the time required. Some photographers may introduce a preparation, travel and set-up fee instead.
I can do my own hair and makeup
Many over-confident girls think they can do their own styling well. I have encountered some freelance models who think they can do better makeup than professional makeup artists because they know themselves better. Sadly, most of them don't live up to their imagination; of course, I won't comment to hurt them since it's pointless to ruin our friendship when it won't even change their mindset. Apart from being overconfident, I suspect it's due to laziness - they have to spend time to meet up with the makeup artist, while professional hair and makeup can take around two hours. On the other hand, some girls can do their own makeup within half an hour, which means they can wake up later if it's a morning shoot.
Think in another angle, isn't it easier for another person to do the work for you when she can easily move around you to do all the necessary styling? If you are good in photography, will you be your own photographer? Everyone has his or her own role in a shoot, why not just relax and let the professional do his or her roles, while you conserve your energy to do the modelling (portrait) job or play the host (event)?
Hair and makeup are important part of a shoot. With my experience, I can assure you that it affects the outcome a lot. If the model doesn't have good makeup, no matter how good the lighting is, the result is far least pleasing.
The photographer can PhotoShop everything
Yes and no. Yes, a photographer can PhotoShop everything but certain things can look very fake. A photographer is (likely) not a makeup artist and if he doesn't know how to do makeup physically for you, don't expect him to know how to do it on PhotoShop even if he knows the tools in PhotoShop well. Most photographers can do skin touch-up but their standards can vary a lot.
No, a good photographer cannot PhotoShop everything because he won't want to produce any fake work. There are some things cannot be done or will take too long time to accomplish.
I want all photos
During a shoot, be it portrait or event, most photographers will try to take multiple shots in the same and different angles to select the best one. Photographers may need to test the lighting at every new spot or when the sun changes. There are also high chances that the model would brink her eyes or give a non satisfactory expression or pose. There are chances of photobombs and other unforeseeable issues. In my usual shoot, when the model poses badly, I would continue to snap so that the model would change poses and not lose her confidence (if I were to tell her that her pose was ugly).
To conclude, there are many photographs that are considered bad or duplicated, which will damage your photographer's reputation if anyone else, including you, sees it. There are also high chances that non professional photographers would find certain bad photographs nice. In reality, even if you upload nine very good photographs in an album, one ugly one would kill the photographer's reputation.
I have experienced a few times that my friends pleaded with me to send them all the photographs I took for them, claiming they wanted to see the "behind the scene" photographs or to learn from their mistakes. Months later, they "forgot" about their promises and uploaded the photos. I don't mean to insult anyone but these people are those who have been uploading bad photographs taken by amateur photographers - they don't have the ability to judge photographs well, which isn't their fault. In contrast, most experienced professional models would expect just a couple of good photographs and they wouldn't even care about the rest.
There may be some super experienced and confident photographers who can claim that none of the photographs inside their camera is bad - I highly doubt so because no matter how perfect their photography skill is, the models (most clients are not professional models) are not perfect.
I don't need any editing for my photos
Some clients may be nice and don't want their photographers to spend too much time and effort. These are clients who don't really know how to appreciate photographs - it's not their job and there's nothing wrong with lack of interest for any form of art.
However, basic enhancement/editing is important because it differentiates a photographer from others while some things are meant to be edited. For example, a photographer may dim down the overall exposure during the actual shoot so that certain bright parts of the photograph would not lose its details due to overexpose; therefore, the photographer will need to increase the brightness on the other parts of the photograph during post-production in PhotoShop. During a shoot, especially for event, subjects and photobombs are moving around and thus a tiny cropping would make wonders to the framing of some photos. Lastly, any photograph that comes out straight from the camera will look too common - just like taken by anyone who holds the camera.
To conclude, basic editing is necessary to produce more unique and better photos.
I want my photographs back fast
Every photographer wants to return the photographs back to his clients as soon as possible so that he can have a peace of mind - will any professional photographer want to drag things on?
The main issue is you are probably not the photographer's only client - unless you can pay him the whole month of salary to turn down other jobs. In actual fact, photography jobs are very inconsistent and sometimes, jobs' schedules are near each other while there can be no job for a period of time. For event photography, nobody can ask couples to postpone their wedding date or make individual change his or her birthdate (for birthday celebration). In cases where there are many jobs within a few days, the photographer has to take them up as long as their schedules don't overlap, and thus can only spend time editing the photographs after the days of shoots are over. There are chances that the photographer has done a few shoots before yours and he would have to finish the post-production work for the earlier shoots before working on yours. If it happens that the photographer has other shoots after doing yours, he cannot start processing your photographs right away since he's not even in front of his computer.
There are, of course, "professional photographers" who boast a lot and collaborate with model-wannabes, cannot produce any good photo. Some of them are only interested in the process of shooting (sexy model) and don't really care about the result. They may drag on, until the "models" give up asking for the photos.
I want to edit the photographs myself
Phototaking and post-production come in a package. You engage a photographer because you like his work and why would you want to do the post-production work instead?
There are some immature receivers of photographs who upload them into Instagram with them being cropped and filters applied. When being confronted by the photographer, they would claim "Instagram doesn't allow uploading of photographs in portrait orientation in 2:3 ratio, I need to edit the photographs to suit my feed and the post before it is super bright that I need to increase the brightness of this photograph." - Excuses and excuses with inconsideration, selfish and over-confident mindset.
Imagine you're a singer and song composer and you work with a videographer to do a MV of your song. The videographer then (1) crops parts of the song off, (2) adds sounds of other instruments into the song and (3) increases the volume of it, before he posts it online. When you confront him, he gives you excuses that the software he uses can only output a certain length of the video and thus he has to shorten it. Next, all his videos have the sounds of the instruments and thus he needs to keep his feed consistent. Finally, the video of the song he has uploaded earlier is very loud and thus he has to increase the sound of your song as well. Eventually, his viewers judge your song based on his edited version.
Imagine you are a famous baker known for baking tasty and beautiful looking cakes. Someone goes to your shop and ask you to bake only the base and she will do the entire decoration herself. What's the point of buying the cake from you? Will you feel being insulted like as if your customer thinks she can do a better job?
Many people can pick up PhotoShop skill by themselves; I have learnt on my own too. However, knowing what to edit and what not to edit, and how to make the photographs look natural after editing, are beyond what non professional portrait photographers can do. That is to say, even a graphic designer who may probably know more of the PhotoShop's features may not know exactly what to edit for a portrait photo.
On the other hand, the professional photographer may have faced some limitations during the actual shoot and he may plan to do certain editing work during post-production. Only he knows what he intends to achieve.
Copyright of every photograph belongs to the photographer even if you are paying him for the shoot. Most professional photographers do not sell the copyright of the photograph(s), or otherwise, it will be charged at a high cost. If you want to risk insulting the photographer, you may request for it right at the start when you approach him.
Let the actual professional photographer do his job.
I want to know an estimated number of photographs for my event
The quantity of every shoot differs, especially for events. The quantity of photographs depends a lot on your programme outline, guests and conditions of the location. If your entire event is about dining, there will be much fewer interesting moments, and besides, most adults don't find it comfortable to be taken when they are eating. If your guests are very orderly and "gentle", there will be fewer interesting expressions to be captured. I have also experienced children refusing phototaking and a lot of time was wasted trying to coax them to take part in the group photos. As for conditions of the location, some will require more adjustments of setting due to different lighting, while some narrow venues don't allow photographers to move much.
The photographer should edit and slim down my face and body for my event's photos
If you are willing to pay him for advanced editing, which is chargeable by per photo, you can discuss with him to see if that specific photograph is doable.
Since every event shoot will eventually produce quite a large number of photos, unlike pre-wedding shoots that usually require around 20-30 photos, it will be too costly for clients to pay for advanced editing for all the photos. For event photography, the usual editing is only basic enhancement.
Photographer can just PhotoShop (instead of rectify on the spot)
If the error can be rectified on the spot, why would anyone not do it?
For instance, the theme is a lifestyle shoot of a girl in boyfriend shirt, which is supposed to give a sexy but tasteful feel. The girl insists in wearing a shorts underneath. Any slight movement would allow the shorts (covering more skin) to be shown out at the bottom and it appears in most of the photos. The girl then tells the photographer to PhotoShop the shorts away instead. The girl could have worn her normal underwear or short tights so that any extra clothes underneath the shirt will appear in fewer photographs (if the girl happens to over-stretch when posing).
In another instance, the girl is wearing a spaghetti top with "transparent" bra straps. The bra straps are actually translucent and would be shown strikingly in photographs due to reflection of lighting. The girl then tells the photographer to PhotoShop the straps away. The girl can simply use a normal bra, strapless bra, or a nude bra. If it's possible, in the worst case, the girl can detach the straps from the bra.
In both cases, if the best photograph (in expression and pose) reveals the unnecessary garment, it will take a lot of time and effort to remove them in PhotoShop. There will also be higher chance of showing flaws in editing. If more photographs are required to be produced, additional redundant work is required.
A good photographer will try to get every shot right during the actual shoot in order to reduce PhotoShop work during post-production; a photographer who doesn't do it is simply planning to fail. Every client should cooperate with the photographer if he or she wants to get better photos.
PhotoShop is easy
Editing work can be really easy but to make the photograph look natural like unedited requires knowledge, skill and hard work.
For normal tasks for skin touch-up, it can be simple but absolutely tedious. There are certain techniques, which non professional photographers don't know. Professional photographers also know better what to edit and what not to edit - it's not only about knowing the features in PhotoShop.
My record for post-production work for a photograph is over 5 hours. The girl wasn't in good shape. Her complexion was bad and her makeup wasn't done by a professional makeup artist. She had extreme uneven skin tone and she was revealing a lot of skin in the photo.
My phone app can do good editing job
If a phone application can do a better job than PhotoShop, photographers and retouchers won't be spending so much time on PhotoShop. From what I have seen, most phone applications are mainly blurring the skin and most of them make the model's face look like plastic. Perhaps, this is the cause of many ignorant (of photo-editing) people not able to appreciate the hard work of professional photographers. If you are not into details, there's a high chance that you will think a phone app can do the same job.
I don't want the photographer to upload my photos
Photographers need to keep updating their social media and portfolio to show their potential clients, including friends and fans, that they are still doing photography. The exposure is extremely important for the continuation of their photography career. Thus, if clients don't allow the photographers to upload the photos, it's definitely causing a big problem to the photographers.
Put yourself in the photographers' shoes - if you are an artist and you are not allowed to showcase your work as your portfolio after completion, will you be putting your 101% effort in the shoot and post-production? Likewise, if a photographer is making the shoot with you part of his portfolio, he will put in his best.
Therefore, some photographers may quote a much higher rate for clients who insist in making their photographs private. It's the clients' job to read through the terms and conditions, even though the photographer has probably highlighted it over his pages.
You may be interested in:
- Ways to insult a professional photographer
- Disadvantages of being a freelance photographer
- How to judge a photographer
- How can photographers return photographs fast
- Photography shooting style
- Photography post-production (editing)
- Quality and quantity of photographs - contributing factors
- Reasons to engage a professional photographer
- What makes a photographer professional
- Why do people do portrait photoshoot
- Why can't professional photographers take up cheap jobs