Seeing the difference – or why guy with camera may not be your best choice

I belong to the Professional Photographers of America (PPA).   The mission of the PPA, from their own website, is “Creating a vibrant community of successful professional photographers by providing education, resources and industry standards of excellence.”  With 22,000 members in 54 countries, they are world’s largest nonprofit association for professional photographers.

Recently the PPA embarked on an interesting (self-serving?) campaign.  Recognizing that everyone has a digital camera, why should clients pay for the pro?  Aside from the omnipresent iPhone, people have some really good, technically capable devices that can take good (and even excellent) pictures.  PPA  has prepared images and videos showing the differences between the pro and the “guy” (or mom) with camera. The image on the left is one of the more subtle differences from the PPA-prepped images.

A few years back I read the book  “How to Photograph Your Life” by Nick Kelsh.  Although Nick is a pro, he shot all the photos with his wife’s simple point-and-shoot.  Nick knew what he was doing – how to set up a shot, use complementary natural lighting, posing, good backgrounds.  And he got great images – all with a simple point-and- shoot – because he knew what he was doing.

Here’s what I’ve seen:  Lots of good equipment out there – Nikon D90, Canon G9-12, and some much higher-level equipment as well.  But most of the people I see don’t know how to take the camera out of auto mode.  And it’s a shame because these cameras can deliver much more than their owners are getting out of them.   But you gotta know something.  And one of the big things you gotta know is lighting.

And that’s the kicker – getting the flash off the camera. Separates the men from the boys.  When you see a photograph professionally lit you know you like it, but you’re not sure why – which is exactly the point behind the PPA campaign.

Here’s an example when you don’t know how to take it out of Auto mode.


Here are a couple that show the difference that professional lighting will make:



Not every event requires a pro photographer – but some life-cycle events deserve nothing less.

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