Why should I pay for a professional photographer? - dradd's photography

Or more to the point:  Why should I pay for a professional photographer (to photograph my pets) when I can get the photos I want from my smartphone?

(March 2019)

This was the question a friend posed to me over a pint while we were out the other night.

He had a good point. To the uninitiated why indeed spend out on paying for a professional photographer to photograph your pet dog or cat, or child, or whatever, when you can use the device that most of us carry around in our pockets instead?

And with the technology of these devices improving all the time, all of us no matter how ill-informed in photographic techniques we are can get some pretty amazing photos. Sadly it will be 90% of the camera doing the work (using multiple built in lenses and AI to fine tune the photo), but who cares when you wind up with a photo that looks good and makes you happy?

So with this in mind I got to thinking, why WOULD you employ a professional photographer to photograph your pets?

I mean, let's look at this photo below. This is a photo of one of our pet rats (yes, we keep domestic rats as pets), and was taken with my iPhone.

The shot looks okay, there's lots of detail in it, and the colours and lighting is good. But would I print from it? Not really. Read on to find out why.

Let's look what the difference is between taking a photo of your pet on your phone versus taking a photograph on a DSLR camera.

(And if around now you are thinking "I don't care because the photos I get on my smartphone of my dog/horse/cat/giraffe are fine for me." I implore you to humour me and stick with this... Thanks. )

Photo size

Compare how large a photo taken with a smartphone can be compared to that taken with a full frame DSLR camera. You might be thinking why you need to worry about this, but if you are planning to print that photo out this will become a factor you need to consider.

It's all down to sensor size, the thing that actually is responsible for capturing the image you are asking it to.

Think of a camera's imaging sensor to being like the back of our eyes and its processor is like our brain. The sensor gathers light and information about the objects upon which light bounces and sends the data to the processor, which then delivers the image.

So the bigger the sensor the better as a large sensor can capture more light and image detail information.

In a smartphone the sensor is quite small, whereas in a DSLR camera it is significantly bigger.

Now there is a lot of information already out there on the web, so I'm not going to repeat it all here, but if you search for something along the lines of "smartphone sensor size versus DSLR sensor" you'll find MANY articles.

Also this type of diagram below will show up giving a graphical representation of the different sensor sizes found in different types of camera. I have simplified it for the purpose of this blog, but far more detailed ones exist out on the web, and are changing all the time as different manufacturers increase the size of their sensors.

Can I just ask you to take note of the size of the smartphone sensor when compared to the size of the full frame sensor. For photographic quality, bigger is better. Quite a difference eh?

(For info, 'Micro 4/3rds', 'Crop sensor' and 'Full frame' are different types of camera sensors. Most professional DSLR cameras use what is called a 'Full frame' sensor.)

File format:JPEG vs RAW and how this affects editing

This is about file formats that your camera is saving your photo to the memory card/onboard memory in. Don't worry if you don't follow this, just take away that one (RAW) is better than the other (JPEG).

If your smartphone is capturing images in JPEG format, then it is compressing the data that makes up the photo as JPEG is a compressed file format.

Photos captured in RAW format (as a DSLR will capture a photo, and some smartphones with the right software) have much more data available to them as the camera grabs all the information available to it and makes this available in the photo file, and as such can be edited (post processed) to higher level. In essence the photographer has more control over the photo and can do more with it after it has been taken.

Some areas where this is relevant:

- Recovering a photo which is too dark (or light)

- Fine tuning colours

- Fine tuning detail and sharpening a photo

The list is pretty endless, so again a web search of JPEG vs RAW will give you more reading material on this subject.

At the end of the day, a photographer shooting photos in RAW format will be able to do more with the photo they have taken in terms of editing, than someone who has taken their photos in JPEG format.

Composition of photo

For me the composition of a photograph lies in the skills of the photographer - you either have it or you don't. It can be taught and some people nail photo composition every time, while others (even some professionals) still struggle with it.

Personally I find it awkward to compose a photo properly using a smartphone, given their slim form factor and thin rounded edges it is tricky to hold the device properly and press the screen (or edge button) to take a photo that is of a halfway decent composition.

Using a DSLR camera on the other hand, is a lot easier as there is more to hold onto, and you can get your hands move the camera while your eye looks through the viewfinder in order to get a decent composition. You're not fighting to hold onto the camera while taking the photo. DSLR cameras are built and designed to be held onto with one purpose in mind: taking a photo. Smartphones are not designed with this as their primary task.

Controlling depth of field and, well anything really!

Let me be clear, with the right 'camera' software on your smartphone you can control pretty much any facet of photograph taking now. Yes, you can even shoot photos in RAW, edit them on your phone and beam them around the world, without even having to change device.

But controlling the elements you need to take a 'professional' looking photograph is to be quite blunt, a massive pain on a smartphone.

If I want to change the aperture settings (controlling depth of field), or shutter speed, or ISO using one of the many camera applications that are available for my smartphone, I inevitably have to touch the screen of the phone, and in doing so I have just moved the phone so the composition has changed (unless I have it attached to a tri-pod).

Also I have just touched the screen, and got my greasy fingermark all over it, again disrupting the composition of the shot as I now have to look through a greasy smudge to compose my shot.

With a DSLR there are dedicated buttons to controlling ISO, Aperture, Shutter speed and the like, and I don't have to lift my eye from the viewfinder while I am composing a shot in order to make any adjustments to them. As a 'professional' photographer I know where these buttons are on my kit, and can change them with ease, and without messing up my composition, moving the device or putting a dirty great fingerprint on the viewfinder or lens.

Essentially it's just easier using a device that is designed to just take photos to do this job, rather than a multi-function tool that takes pictures.

The photo below was taken of a good friend's dog while out on a photo shoot. I defy you to get this quality of photo with a smartphone.

Printing: the final destination is print?

We're going to come back to that sensor size thing again that was mentioned at the beginning of this blog: the smaller the sensor that takes the photograph, the smaller the range of prints sizes that will be available to you.

Try printing a photo from a smartphone at anything over 30 inches wide and expect it to be razor sharp, and you'll soon see how poor the quality of the photo actually is.

This comes down to the size of the sensor as I mentioned. At the time of writing this blog, the iPhone XS Max has a 12-megapixel sensor for each of its two lenses.

Compare that with a modern professional DSLR camera which will have between 25 and 50 megapixels.

So as a rough guide you are going to get a super-sharp high quality print from one of the latest smartphones no bigger than 16 x 24 inches. Of course this size can go up to 30 x 40 inches if you drop the quality of the photo, but to my mind, why would you want to do that?

For a DSLR I'm going to get prints in excess of 30 inches wide and not have to worry about the quality as I know by using a professional camera body with a full frame sensor I have the image quality to back up any large prints I want doing.

Sure, not everyone will want a 20 or 30 inch print of their beloved pet adorning their wall, but some do, and that's where using a professional photographer with professional kit can help you get that large size print of your furry pride and joy.

Below is a chart showing the range of print sizes you can hope to get with a photo from a smartphone, printed out at a high quality. It is unintentional that the layout of this chart looks similar to the layout of the sensor chart above, but it works if you think that the larger the camera sensor size, the larger the print you will be able to get from it. Just saying. 

Summing up

Given the above arguments, after all that you still might not see the need, but these are the facts as to why using a professional photographer to capture important moments for you will be better in most cases than doing it yourself using your smartphone.

You might think that I'm bound to say that as this is my job. Well yes, I am, as I want to promote my work and produce amazing images for my clients, and also I get annoyed for people at the lack of quality photos that are taken by people with smartphones. Don't believe the hype of the marketing of smartphone vendors telling you that you can get studio quality shots from your phone: you can only do this by shooting in a studio or in studio conditions because that's how they do it!

What I've briefly covered in this article are the facts, and you are free to take them as you wish, but if nothing else, please don't skimp on photographic quality for pictures that matter to you. If you look at this gallery, you'll see examples of photos I have taken with a professional DSLR camera, and NOT my smartphone. :)

Thanks for reading, and if you'd like to enquire about my pet photography services, click the button below.

Keith.



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