What You Pay For

People like me have ruined the profession of photography.

I know this for certain, now that I am a professional photographer.

You see, as an enthusiastic amateur, I provided my services for free, getting an education in the field for six years, but also devaluing my work. And devaluing everyone else’s work too. Now that I can consistently produce professional quality photographs in my niche of headshots and publicity, I wish to charge for my time and knowledge, but I’m meeting some resistance.

That’s just how the market works. Why would anyone pay for good photos if they can get good enough images for free? Until I establish the value of my knowledge and experience in the mind of the client, I cannot expect to get paid, because there are thousands of enthusiastic amateurs out there, willing to work for free.

What are some of the things I’ve learned that might make my images more valuable than your Uncle Ed’s? Lots of little things, really, but my ongoing study of lighting, composition, color, and subject psychology add up to this: I’m a pretty good problem-solver. I can walk into most situations and produce what the client needs. Quickly, too. Now the trick is to find people who value that experience.

Does Uncle Ed know how to use rim-lighting to separate the subject from the background? Does he know when to sidelight men and why we butterfly light women? Does he know when to break the rules?

Does Uncle Ed know how to eliminate harsh shadows from outdoor portraits? How well does he control the plane of focus to minimize background distractions?

Uncle Ed would struggle with this group shot, and so would many professionals. This required location scouting, careful lighting design, careful post-processing, and sensitivity to the fact that these lovely people were in full costume on an unpleasantly warm day. We worked fast, but we got the shot. (By the way, to look this natural required two powerful flash units and a large reflector. Can you tell where they were positioned?)

Can Uncle Ed work with lights and props to help a model recreate herself?

Knowledge and experience aren’t everything, of course. Now I need to develop a style/look that thrills clients and distinguishes me from other photographers. I look forward to growing with every new assignment.

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Filed under Composition, Lighting, Motivation, Portraiture, Professional vs. Amateur

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