A Tale of Two Photos: Why Your Choice of Photographers Matters

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Guest blog post by Tina Creguer

In May 2014, I organized a headshot photo session for my department to populate our website.  I contacted a staff photographer at the large organization where I work.  A trained “professional.”  He dutifully came on the assigned day with his handy-dandy kit (a light, a screen background, and a camera), and snapped three, maybe four, photos of each of us.  We got a quick look, and off he went.  Our department was billed for two hours of work.  A week later, we received the photos – just the way we’d seen them in the camera.  The best one of me was the one on the left. 

At the time, I didn’t love the photo.  None of us loved our photos.  We looked pale, blotchy, and awkward.  But, he was a professional, and we figured we were just a bunch of un-photogenic people.  We shrugged and moved on.

Fast forward to January 2019.  The photo on the right came from a session with another professional.  To my eye, it’s better in every way—even with nearly five more years of wear and tear on my face.

So, what made the difference? 

Lots of things.  For the second photo, I went to a fully equipped studio, where there were professional lights, a state-of-the-art camera, and, most importantly, an expert photographer who is skilled at every aspect of photography (Andy Greenwell).  I also had makeup expertly applied by a professional makeup artist (Sue Stirling).

Lighting is a huge part of the equation.  Whereas the photo on the left was taken with one umbrella light, the photo on the right was taken with carefully positioned portrait lighting chosen specifically for my face – behind, in front, under, and above – to minimize flaws. The lens used in the one on the right is ideal for portraiture (as opposed to a basic lens the staff photographer used).  And let’s not forget the pose.  The first photographer never once told me my chin was ridiculously high.  In addition, the one on the right benefited from expert, custom retouching and proper cropping. 

And did I mention lighting?  Lighting, it turns out, is everything.  That “catch light” (the reflection of light twinkling in the eyeballs) in the photo on the right isn’t accidental; it’s there to brighten and bring attention to the eyes.  Every aspect of the setup was skillfully done to ensure the best possible photo.

But even the right lights and gadgets in the wrong hands will not produce great photos.  Only the combination of knowledge, skill, equipment, and talent will produce outstanding photos.  Which is why it’s important to look closely at a photographer’s work before setting up your session.

Lessons learned:

  • Not all professional photographers are equally equipped, skilled, or talented.  Check out the photo on the left again.  It was taken by a “professional.”  ‘Nuff said.
  • You get what you pay for.  We paid very little for the staff photographer.  And we got very little.
  • If a photographer is using a digital camera that picks up details not seen with the naked eye, then professional retouching will be needed.  At any age.  Your photo shouldn’t make you look worse than you look in person.

Whether you have a headshot or need one, my advice is to not settle for “okay” or think that a bad photo is your fault.  Do your research.  Your professional image and brand are on the line.  You deserve a great photo.  You need a great photo.

Find a truly professional photographer who will put you in the best light.  If you’re looking for one, I know a guy….

In addition to her day job, Tina Creguer serves as director of marketing and outreach for Greenwell Photography, which specializes in outstanding business photography – people, places, and products.  https://www.andygreenwell.com  Affordable headshot packages for individuals and teams are available.  Call for details.

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