Professional Photography: When Is It Worth it?
In the age of fancy smartphone cameras and unpolished, TikTok-style social media content, the world has largely moved away from “professional” photography for anything other than weddings and graduations. Though businesses are notoriously slow in catching up with what’s popular, the same kind of content is slowly creeping into the social media feeds of even the most traditional companies. As the world slowly abandons professional photography in favor of this new wave of phone-quality content, a question emerges: is professional photography even worth it anymore? After all, photographers can be expensive, and hiring someone means waiting on them to get the photos edited and delivered before you can use them on your website or social media. Even though the convenience of a smartphone camera can seem favorable to this approach, we’re here to make the case that there are many scenarios where businesses should invest in professional photography.
Here are some instances where professional photos are a must:
1. When the images will be used in large format
If you are taking photos with the intention of using them anywhere where they will be blown up to a large size, such as a billboard, banner, or as the hero image on your website, a phone camera just won’t cut it. Though smartphone photos can look crisp and high-resolution, they are designed to look that way on your relatively small phone screen. A professional DSLR or mirrorless camera has a much higher megapixel count than any smartphone, meaning that the photos are truly high-resolution, a difference that becomes very noticeable when the photo is blown up.
2. When you are selling a product that needs to look appetizing
If you own a restaurant or coffee shop, it is crucial that you have photos on your website and menu that make your food or drinks look mouth-watering (that’s how McDonald’s gets you to order way too much food every time😉). Though a phone photo could come close, when photos are shot with a professional camera and lighting setup, the difference is drastic. Not only will soft, even lighting eliminate harsh shadows or unwanted distractions in photo, but professional photographers can bring out details and enhance colors in editing to achieve that mouth-watering look that will wow your customers.
3. When you plan to use the photos far in the future
Though modern phone cameras take photos that appear to be high-resolution, standards are always changing as technology evolves. Think about it: there was a time when the world thought of camcorder video footage as high-quality, and now when we watch home movies, we laugh at how grainy it is. Unlike smartphone cameras, the technology that powers DSLR cameras has stayed largely the same over the years and will do so for the foreseeable future. That means that if you want photos that won’t look dated in 5-10 years, it’s a good idea to invest in professional photography.
4. When you need to stand out from your competition
Human beings are very superficial. Even though you know that the quality of your photos isn’t an indicator of the quality of your company’s products or services, visitors to your website and social media might not see it that way. For most people, if they see blurry, low-resolution cell phone pictures on your Facebook page and high-resolution, well-lit photos on your competitor’s page, they’ll pick your competitor every time. That’s why we strongly believe that to get ahead in your industry, you should always prioritize having better photos than your competition. Not only does it help you stand out from other companies, having professional photos helps you put your best foot forward and impress everyone that visits you online.
5. When you need photos to match a previous look
Oftentimes, your company needs to match the look of photos that were shot in the past. Whether it’s employee headshots or product photos, the last thing you want is for every photo in a gallery to look the same except for one, especially when that one is clearly lower quality than the rest. Professional photographers can replicate the lighting, style, and tone of a photo to match with an existing style, a skillset that most people with a cell phone camera just don’t have. If you need to take a new photo that matches the style of others in a set, investing in professional photography is well worth it.
6. If you just want that WOW factor!
As professional photographers, the Mavens often get comments from clients saying things like “the photos are just so clear and crisp” or “that’s 10 times better than anything I could have done myself.” Professional photos just “pop” on websites and social media feeds in a way that cell phone pictures don’t. You can chalk it up to better dynamic range, creamy blurred backgrounds with crisp subjects, or just the high megapixel count, but you know a professional photo when you see one. If you want your photos to stop people in their tracks, a phone picture won’t cut it.
There are also instances where phone pictures will get the job done:
1. When the photos are only going to be used once on social media
If you are taking photos that are only going to be posted one time on your Facebook or Instagram page, a phone picture will get you by. Generally, people are more forgiving when it comes to photo quality in social media content than on your website or print materials. It’s very often that you just want to pull out your phone and snap a quick photo of something happening in your office, and as far as the Mavens are concerned, that’s totally fine!
2. When you’re documenting an event
If the purpose of a set of photos is to recap an event, especially if it’s something smaller like a company Christmas party, posting phone-quality pictures to social media is totally acceptable. In cases where the main point of a photo is to convey what it felt like in the room at an event, people care much less about the quality of the pictures. However, if your company is having a big awards banquet or customer appreciation event, we’d recommend hiring a professional so that the photos look better and every moment gets captured. You or a coworker running around with a phone while also trying to mingle and have a good time is undoubtedly going to lead to some moments from the event getting missed. If you’re okay with that, go ahead and shoot the photos yourself using your phone.
3. If the photo won’t be used in large-format or on your website
In the same vein as posting to social media, if a photo is never going to get blown up or used for marketing campaigns, you can get away with phone pictures in many cases. Even for an employee headshot, if you have a clean lens and a general idea of good framing, you can get by with your phone. But for something like a product photo that will end up on a billboard, a cell phone just won’t cut it.
4. When you want a raw feel, like the viewer was there
There are cases where you do want to lean into that raw, TikTok style for your social media content, and that’s one case where phone cameras really shine. Between the familiar focal length and (frankly ugly) lighting correction, viewers will immediately recognize that the photo was shot on a phone camera. Since people associate that look with candid, everyday photos that they take in their own lives, it can be a great way to give them the feeling of being in the room with you. And because phone pictures appear much less polished, they can feel more down-to-earth and “real-life” than professional photos, which, despite their superior quality, can definitely feel stuffy at times. When you want to be raw and unpolished, your phone is the best tool at your disposal.
Hopefully these tips have been helpful to you as you try to help your business stand out in the modern social media landscape. There’s just no substitute for professional photography when you want your photos to really make a splash online! If you want to check out Marketing Maven’s photography portfolio and see the kinds of professional photos we’re talking about, visit us at HireAMaven.com.