Are photos from a pro photographer really that much better?

They say it’s better to show than to tell. But this being a blog post, that kind of necessitates me telling you a few things. I promise to include lots of photographic evidence. When you get to the end of this post, you can judge for yourself whether this is a service you need in Metro Manila or not.

Table of contents:

It’s in focus, right?*

Though not what you’d consider a tight-wad, I have opinions on what certain goods and services are worth. I struggle with balancing price vs quality. I often think that it’s okay for other people to pay for nicer things, whereas I tend to take the economy route. For me, getting quick studio headshots at the local studio, in and out in 5 minutes, had always been enough. Well, that’s the way I used to think.

Why am I never in our family photos? Don’t you love me?

When it came to getting family portraits done, I knew we needed a professional photographer. We had tons of family selfies and smartphone pics snapped by someone else. None of them were worthy of displaying. None of them popped. They always had at least one unwanted element – someone with their eyes closed, a stranger walking into frame, the background not quite right. Always something.

My wife is usually the one snapping pics. She (rightfully) complains that she’s never in our pics. She’s the one that takes the time to stop and take photos when we’re out as a family. It’s her that wants to preserve those memories. I’m the guy that never thinks to snap a picture. But I always appreciate looking at the ones other people took the time to capture.

Though not usually my thing, I decided to schedule a family photo shoot to surprise my wife. I was pretty sure we’d get some decent pics and knew that this way we’d all be in the shots together.

Though our shoot was a family session, we each also had several individual pics taken. Thus, we got a nice mix of professional group and individual shots. Including our family pet in the shoot was a great touch, and something our photographer was happy to accommodate.

Damn! Who are these people and why do they look so good?

When we got the pics, we were all overjoyed with the results. The first thing that was immediately noticeable was the quality of the images. Yeah, smartphone cameras are getting better and better – but they aren’t DSLRs. And while smartphones have been improving, so have those fancy cameras. Expensive equipment in the hands of an amateur won’t always make a difference. But the right tools in the hands of a pro – the results speak for themselves. The vibrant colors. The blurred background. The dog looking in the right direction! I don’t have any photos on my phone that look like that. My wife doesn’t have any on her phone either.

 We’re BOTH looking at the camera!

57 channels and nothing on – 1000s of pics and they all suck

Outdoor portrait of the man. Metro Manila-based professional portrait photographer Cristian Bucur
Who’s that handsome devil?

As I was setting up my website for my new English copywriting & proofreading business, I started sifting through my folders of images on my hard drive. I was looking for shots I could use on my ABOUT page. I was looking for pics that captured the real me. Not stuffy, posed shots, but professional looking ones that oozed natural. Though it was fun scrolling through 1000s of pics and reminiscing, I wasn’t finding any candidates for my ABOUT page. None of them were of a high enough quality. None of them were professional enough. They looked like phone pics. Then I stumbled on the folder containing images from our family photo shoot. Now these, these were what I was after! The majority of candidates came from that folder. But I couldn’t have all the pics on my ABOUT page with me wearing the same outfit. I’m no fashionista, but even I know that ain’t a good look.

I then turned to looking at the images I’d used as profile pics on my social media accounts. I found a few more candidates from that group. I realized I’d chosen them as profile pictures for a reason. They stood out to me. They captured me in a natural way. They were pics of myself I didn’t hate. I’d go so far as to say I actually liked them. They were simply good pictures. Interesting note – those profile pics had all come from the same source.

Need to get some good shots taken? I know a guy…

That source? The guy that did our family shoot. I’d known him for years. It was because I’d liked his previous work that I contacted him about getting our family portraits done. You see, he was also the ‘unofficial photographer’ for my old cycling club. He photographed our cycling events but also always brought his camera to our informal get togethers. I’d been using his photos from those events as profile pics for years. Why? Why did I keep choosing his photos for my profile pics? Was it just because he had a big fancy camera? Well, maybe, though I suspect he would’ve taken much better pics with my phone than I ever had. The reason I’d been using his images for profile pics was simple. They were unposed images that showed me looking natural. I didn’t have a stupid expression on my face. He’d snapped them at just the right moment. Quite simply, he took good pictures. 

Portrait from a "men's night out". Metro Manila-based professional portrait photographer Cristian Bucur
Will any studio headshot do? Is any studio photographer better than none?
Headshot or arrest photo?**

When I first set up my LinkedIn account years ago, I figured I needed a professional looking headshot. I used one of the few photos of me in a suit and tie I could find. I’d had it done at a local studio a few years ago. The studio photographer took 1 shot and glanced at the screen on his camera. He transferred it to his computer and showed it to me on the computer screen. I didn’t see anything wrong with it. My eyes weren’t closed. I had a neutral look on my face. It would suffice. It was a professional looking photo in that my appearance was professional. But it wasn’t what I would call professional looking. In fact, I wouldn’t even call it terribly good. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t particularly like it either. What do you think?

After setting up my website, I decided I needed to update my LinkedIn profile, including my photo. That headshot of me in a suit and tie wasn’t great and didn’t give off the vibe I was looking for with my new site. Again, I ended up going with one of the pics my favorite photographer had taken. It was a shot from one of our cycling events. I had no idea he’d taken it until afterwards. It was a little more casual, but the quality gave me a professional air. Perfect!

Portrait from a "men's night out". Metro Manila-based professional portrait photographer Cristian Bucur
Professional, yet approachable
Time for your decision – what say you? Yea or nay?

All the images I selected for my ABOUT page came from the images included on this page (creepy headshots aside). I’ve used several of them as profile pics on various platforms. Their quality coupled with how natural I look make it an easy choice. They’re pictures of myself that I actually like. 

I know I started this post by stating that you could be the judge. To hell with that. Does getting your photo taken by a professional photographer make a difference? Damn straight it does. If you find the right one. And if you don’t agree with that, I’ve only got one response…

Portrait of a man wearing sports goggles. Metro Manila-based professional portrait photographer Cristian Bucur
Headshot or mug shot?

P.S. If you haven’t figured out who this mysterious photographer is, you can go check out my ABOUT page and check the photo credits. 😉 

*, ** @credit to the local studio.
Guest article, courtesy of my dear friend, Dean @ English Copywriting & Proofreading.

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