Once upon a time
In 1999, DSLR (digital single-lens reflex) cameras hit the market. The photo industry was revolutionized by the promise of taking a two- or three-megapixel photo. But not for nothing: just the body of a DSLR came at a whopping $5,000, not to mention the cost of lenses and additional equipment. That’s definitely not what one would consider accessible pricing. Flash forward almost 20 years, and now we’re all walking around with 10+ megapixel cameras in our back pockets.
Technology evolves, and updates and adaptions make precursors obsolete. DSLRs are rapidly going the way of the dinosaur in our increasingly DIY world where low-cost, high-quality photography is now widely available on cell phones. It follows that businesses would wonder if professional photoshoots are still a sound investment, or if the cameras they have on hand will do the job.
DIY or go pro?
We can look at this issue through two lenses (haha, get it?): you can set up a professional photoshoot with the highest-quality equipment and trained photographers, or you can strike out with an in-house vision and your cellphones or consumer cameras.
Here’s a quick analogy to help with your decision: while most people have access to a kitchen, not everyone can cook well. Some people may make a passable meal that won’t give you food poisoning, but you wouldn’t ask them to cater your holiday party. If you’re going to be doing the photography yourself, make sure you have a darn good cook on your team. Otherwise, go hire a professional chef.
What’s at stake.
Keep in mind, photography often acts as the first visual impression your organization presents to the rest of the world. People are making instant judgements—conscious and subconscious—about your brand: its trustworthiness, value, professionalism and personality. It’s setting the tone for the rest of their brand experience and contributing to their decision of whether or not to invest in what you are doing.
Answer the following questions:
- What’s your subject mater?
- What are the photos going to be used for?
- What will the lifespan of these photos need to be?
- Who are your target demographics and audiences?
- How will consumers and customers be interacting with your photos?
Keeping it casual.
Don’t let the high stakes scare you out of a more casual approach. There are several good reasons to use the cameras you’ve got on hand:
- They’re easily adaptable and accessible, which is good for quick turn-around projects
- They’re good for documenting things that you wouldn’t normally invest a full production in
- They’re good for quick, “real life” moments that humanize your brand and show what goes on BTS
- On social media, people are posting photos they’ve taken themselves, so your pics will look native to the platform
Committing to a more professional production with high end equipment is good if you want:
- Complete control of your shots, their quality and the final outcome
- The experience of a pro who’s dedicated to their craft and gives you the benefit of an outside perspective
- Someone who knows how to navigate technical logistics (and the editing process), as well as awareness of industry hacks and techniques
- Proprietary ownership of an enduring series of photos with cohesive and consistent quality.
At the end of the day, it mainly boils down to time, place and purpose. A professional photoshoot is worth it if you’re designing your homepage, crafting national ads or sharing media that will represent your brand for the foreseeable future. You don’t, however, need one for every photo you want to take and post. If it’s more of a casual Friday type of social post, DIY is an acceptable way to go. Ultimately, “Why not both?” is a good way to go to make sure you cover all your bases.