In the graphic design studio where I am found during normal working hours, the studio manager recently had a requirement for a photographer to take some specific shots for a project. A photographer was recommended and my colleague studied her website and all seemed well – she had her own local studio, decent gear and the evidence that she could take a great shot.
When the job was done, the images were sent to us on CD and the studio manager set about reviewing them and choosing candidates for inclusion in the publication. However, he was disappointed with the quality and asked for my opinion. Without going into great detail, it has to be said that the supplied images were technically awful. They looked like little JPEGs which had been blown up, overly sharpened and overly compressed. I put all my findings to the manager who forwarded them to the photographer. Her reply stunned me, although I still have not really concluded whether she was lying or had no idea what she was talking about. (I would like to paste her explanation here, but I really don’t want to risk her being identified)
We asked for a RAW file or two to be sent over so we could judge the originals for ourselves and the response to this was more (I have to say it!) stupidity. Eventually she agreed, but so far two CDs have got lost in the post, in spite of being sent by recorded delivery!
So what does make a photographer “professional”? This photographer has good equipment and has demonstrated the ability to point a digital SLR at a subject and end up with a top-notch image, possibly after some Photoshop work, but we all do that. Before digital it would have been essential to know what you were doing, to understand exposure and processing and all that stuff. There is not much chance of recovering from excessively under or over exposed film (I speak from bitter experience).
These days it is relatively easy and relatively cheap to set yourself up as a pro photographer. Great kit is readily available, PCs and Macs are cheap enough and setting up a website to show off your skills is quick and cheap too. But none of this makes you a professional, as far as I am concerned.
The sad thing in this case is that it is my belief the photographer made a silly mistake; maybe forgot to reset one or more settings on the camera after a previous shoot. We were able to use one of the shots she supplied, so we got away with it, but now we have a photographer we will not use again. A simple, honest explanation of the error would have at least given us some confidence and we could have all moved on.