One of my biggest pet peeves is when a client (or potential client) says something like, "I could do these pictures myself if only I had the right camera". I typically choose to give them the benefit of the doubt that they aren't actually trying to be rude. But, clearly they're implying that being a great photographer is somehow dependent solely on the equipment -- no consideration is given to the photographer's inherent artistic talent, training, nor skills developed through many years of experience. Telling a professional photographer that you could create commercial photos just as effectively as he can is exactly like telling Kobe Bryant that you could play basketball just as well as he can if only you had a good basketball to play with!
Part of the problem is that some people simply can't tell the difference between a strong photo versus a weak photo. Here's a true story -- I was hired to do a product photo shoot for a small business that is owned by two partners, a man and a woman. They both wanted to be present when I conducted the photography of their products (small fashion accessories). It soon became clear that hiring me had been the man's idea and the woman thought they should save money by doing the photography themselves. Midway through the photo shoot, we reviewed the completed images. The man and I agreed that the images were turning out very well and that they'd look great on their website. The woman responded by pulling out her iPhone and proudly showing me some images she had taken earlier of the same products, which she had lighted with a desk lamp. Shockingly, she announced that she felt her iPhone photos looked just as good as my professional images! Luckily, I didn't have to tell her just how wrong she was, because her partner jumped in to defend my photography and he actually went farther than I could have by telling her she was crazy. I'll never know if her comments were calculated as some kind of strategy to get me to lower my price, or if she genuinely couldn't tell the difference between my professional photography versus her iPhone snapshots. The most positive conclusion I can reach is that she's one of those people who simply can't tell the difference between a strong, professional looking image and a poorly lit, low resolution camera phone snapshot. The problem is, they wanted these photos to promote their business and generate sales of their products. There was too much riding on having strong images - not the right time to play photographer if you're not qualified.
Last week, I received a phone call from a potential client who described the product photography he needed for his e-commerce website. After hearing my quote for the proposed job (which I thought was a bargain low price), he responded by saying -- you guessed it -- that he'd do it himself if only he had the right camera. I wasn't in the mood to argue with him, so I simply gave him the phone number to Samy's Camera and I encouraged him to rent a camera and give it a try himself. I didn't tell him that approximately 90% of my clients are business owners who first tried to do their own photography, then ended up calling me when they realized that their own photos sucked and good photography is much more complicated and difficult than it may appear to be!
Most people would never dream of telling their surgeon that they could do surgery on themselves if only they had a scalpel, some clamps and a few bandaids. But, that's the kind of "logic" professional photographers are faced with far too often when dealing with certain clients. My theory is that this apparent lack of respect for the special talents and skills it takes to be a pro photographer stems from our society's low perception of "creatives" in general. Most of us grew up attending schools where art was treated as a fun and nearly mindless activity that filled in the time between the "real" subjects like math and history. No one ever judged the crayon drawings, tempera paintings and macaroni sculptures, and no one ever rated them as strong or weak -- everyone's work was considered equal, since art really isn't that important and anyone can do it. Art was simply a trick to keep the kids occupied whenever the playground was closed due to rain, or the teacher felt like giving herself a break. Unfortunately, that conditioning has ultimately led to some people believing -- now as grown-ups -- that anyone can take great photos and that there's no such thing as a bad photo versus a great photo. The truth is, there's a huge difference.
Using top quality professional equipment certainly helps when shooting commercial photographs. However, the equipment is only part of the equation if you're hoping for great photos that will win customers to your business. The other factor (and some would argue the primary factor) is the talent, skill, and experience of the artist/photographer operating that equipment. A professional photographer is more than just a guy (or gal) with a nice camera. Consider the fact that a Ferrari may be an awesome car that can go over 200 miles per hour and turn on a dime. But, the car doesn't drive itself, and who is behind the wheel makes all the difference when it comes to winning or losing a race. Please keep that concept in mind whenever you consider hiring a pro photographer for something as important as your business photos.