I have been asked many times about whether portrait photography as a business is dead. My response is and always has been that the art of photography is booming more now than ever before. The opportunities for photographers are greater now than ever before. Yes, millions of people now own cameras. So many people have equipment in their hands with Iphones, Ipads etc. and much of this technology is getting better and better every day. In the days before camera phones, few people could afford a camera and now everyone has a camera. But that is where the differences from the past to the present end.
Photography equipment, to a photographer, has always been a part of their arsenal used to produce professional images. Throughout the years, a photographer bought the best equipment that he/she required. Today, we do the same thing. A camera on the back of a phone is all that is required for millions of people. To a product photographer, he may need some specialized lenses and if you are producing a poster you may need the ability to have larger files.
We are forgetting two things, however. The first refers to the fact that equipment is only one part of the photography equation. Photography is more about the use of light and shadows and knowing how they work on your subject. Without an understanding of how light behaves when interacting with people or products, it really does not matter how good your camera equipment is. It takes quite a bit of practice to learn light, shadow patterns and get the look you or your client want.. and to repeat it on a consistent basis. Wouldn’t it be terrible if your wedding photographer had never shot on a sunny day before and had no idea how to handle it? Unlikely situation, but one church lighting can be different from the next. Each dress and wedding colours are different, height of groom and bride. Knowing how to handle the different light and different conditions is so important to master to be able to produce consistent, quality images.
The second thing we overlook is that photography is a service. People pay for a service. We see it all the time and in the next decade, paying for services will only increase. What do I mean by services? People pay for food delivery, food preparation, hair cuts, car washes, dog walkers, etc. You name it. I have a car and can go get my own food, but I pay for the convenience of the delivery service. I pay for prepared food… even though I am in the grocery store! It is the convenience and the service. Photography is a service. People can take their own head shots or portraits or video their own wedding or take their own product shots. They don’t because the may not have the time or may not have the knowledge.. Photography is a service and in my opinion, the best service wins.
When I am asked about choosing a photographer, there are two rules of thumb I suggest. The first is to look over the photographers portfolio and see if there are images you like. You will know when you see the pictures when you say “I want that” There are 100’s of photographers in your area, so once you find 3 that you think can photograph the style you want, contact them. The second consideration involves the service the photographer can offer. The photographer might not have availability for you, may not have a price you like, may be rude, may not be helpful. This is where the service comes in. “My photography is as good as any other photographer in the city!” I hear that all the time, but in the world of professional photography ( or any business ), you have to provide the service that your clients want. If everyone wanted the best, there would only be one business for every business type out there! Even if you are the best, if you do not follow that up with quality service, you will go nowhere.
To sum up, a photographer is not just about having a camera. It involves a complete understanding of light and shadow and how they react with your subject and to have the best service for your customers.