Do-it-yourself versus hire a pro


Michelle Wise
Michelle Wise

Rockford photographer discusses elements of professional portraits

owner, Wise Photography

 So how’s business? How have digital cameras affected the market for the professional photographer?

Sure, I get the phone call once in a great while: “We’re canceling our aappointment because we’re trying to save money,” or “We’re going to give our cousin Fred a shot at taking our senior pictures. We’ll call you if it doesn’t work out.”

A phone call or two like this doesn’t get me down, it makes me stand up and be a more excellent photographer. It also gets me motivated to educate. If the average person doesn’t know what a professional can do for them, they don’t know what they are missing.

There are so many elements to consider when making a professional portrait. Here are some factors to consider when making a portrait:

• composition, color and design;

• direction, quality and color of lighting;

• personality, attitude and experience of the photographer and the model;

• aperture, shutter speed and ISO settings;

• direction, angle and placement of the camera position to the model;

• focal length of lens and how it affects distortion of the image or background compression.

Notice that I haven’t mentioned what type of camera or how many megapixels you should have. Having a good keyboard doesn’t mean that you’ll write good books.

Many years back, I got a chance to fine tune one of these elements. A man was arguing with his son in my front lobby—to say it was a heated argument was a great understatement. The father stormed into the camera room and pointed his finger at me and shouted, “And we’re not buying pictures from you unless he smiles,” and slammed the door on the way out.

I stood there shocked and amazed at what just had happened and thought, “How in the world am I going to get that to happen?” I told the boy I would give him some time, and I left him alone and felt so bad for him. I didn’t even care if I was able to do his pictures at this point; I just wanted his situation to change.

A good five minutes passed by and I came back and had a “coffee talk” with him—shared a little bit about my life and how I got started in business and some real life challenges I went through. I put him in front of the camera and told him he didn’t have to smile. I took a few shots and jokingly said, “But if you smile once, I promise to end the session immediately.” He did, it ended, and they bought pictures.

I was preparing to teach a photography class a week or so ago, and the thought arose: “Why am I teaching people to do their own pictures when I want them to hire me?” I also thought briefly that the other professionals in the community may criticize me and think this would hinder business. By the time I finished the outline for the class, I rested secure. I realized I could teach and teach and teach as much as I wanted, but the students still have to go through what I have been through the past 20 years since I started photography.

You can’t put a price tag on education and experience. No matter what digital imaging has done to the photography market and who has what megapixel camera, photography is still technical and is still an art form.

Michelle will be offering two classes to amateur photographers. One will be Monday, September 28 from 7 to 9 p.m. in her studio, located at 1 North Main Street in downtown Rockford. The other will be Friday, October 9 from 2 to 4 p.m. The classes will be on operation of the manual functions of your camera. The cost is $30.

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