I was thinking about the difference between what our photographers do and what I can do. I'm an uncle Bob - sort of. As Jeff Youngren can attest, I stay out of the way of the pros and shoot my own stuff. I'm really basically looking for one image that I can give my friends as a gift after the event. (Jeff shot my closest friend's daughter's wedding). Frankly, that event really brought this subject home for me.
I've been shooting since I was 11 years old. I currently own a Canon 5D Mark2 and a 5D. I have a 70 200 2.8L IS, a 24-105 4.0L IS, a 17-40 4.0 L, and a 50 1.4. I’m buying a 24-70 2.8L right now. I also own and know how to use a 580EX. (all in, that’s about $8K worth of gear). So here's the deal ... The equipment I have isn't just as good as the equipment the pros have, it's the same. But does that mean I can shoot an event? In a word, no.
First off, I only have one of each. Having a spare body is nice, but if my flash died I’d be up the proverbial smelly creek. Each of my lenses is useful, but if I knocked my 24-105 on something, or God forbid dropped it, the 17-40 is not a stand in. Granted, I can use the 50 for most things, especially with half decent post production skills. (which I don’t have because Kevin Swan hasn’t taught me how to use Lightroom yet and Jason Aten is too busy to teach me Aperture. Yes, I’m still trying to decide). But the real thing is it’s not about equipment.
My very best images are average for a professional. Their command of light and focus and their vision gives them an enormous advantage. If I see something that works, it’s basically luck. A professional creates their own luck. They are aware of the light sources. They are experienced with the events themselves, and the flow. They physically move to places that allow them to take full advantage of the venue. They are tireless.
Once the event is shot their expertise in post-production takes over. They know how to use the new software to their full advantage, and they have the good stuff. They’re not using iPhoto to de-noise an image because the presets in Lightroom or Aperture work way better. They have an ability to see the hidden gems in an otherwise unremarkable image, and then reframe the image to highlight them. They will make the entire event look contiguous. They do this by manipulating the colors, but what you’ll notice is that it looks like everyone is wearing the same clothes for the whole event. You won’t see green dresses in one setting and blue dresses in another. You won’t be healthy and tan in one image and sickly pale in the next. There won’t be a blemish, a crumb or a smudge on any of your images.
I own the higher end software products, but I have a day job, so I don’t really know how to use them. Likewise, I own some of the best camera gear that money can buy, but I have no idea how to change my white balance in camera to deal with the florescent lighting in the room, which creates an ugly, green hue. I am too slow to capture you on the move and I will likely miss important moments because I’m in the wrong place.
Am I a bad photographer? No. In fact, it’s not unusual for people to look at my stuff and ask me whether or not I’m a pro. It’s just that for me the ratio of good to bad is like 1 in 50, and every once in a while I will miss something that I really wanted to get. (I’m sorry Edgar, Tera, Steph and Sean!)
Take it from me, hire a pro. You’ll be happy you did.