DIY Photography Vs Professional Photography
When it comes to photography, there are plenty of opinions about how any business should approach the use of photography and visual content. Choosing the right photography type and content for your business is important for your brand so it can have a big bearing on how you approach it – making the choice a lot harder than you might think.
Today we’re going to focus on DIY or Pro.
- You will have some (especially photographers!) saying “You must outsource and employ the services of a professional; or
- you can take the photographs yourself.
The decision isn’t always clear, as they both have their own set of considerations and benefits. Let’s explore whether you should be using DIY photography or not.
The Difference Between DIY and Professional Photography
Naturally, the big part of knowing whether to use DIY or professional photography or not is the difference between the two.
- Professional photography is photography which has been taken by an expert – outsourced to somebody with the tools and training to make you the proper set of photos.
- DIY photography is different. This is where you take the photographs for yourself, without the training or support of professionals.
The Benefits of Using the Pro-photographer
There are many benefits to using commercial photographers. Good professional photographers are not just about photography. Unless they’re following a strict brief, they should be looking at your strategy and existing content, working with you to identify your target market and bringing an outside perspective to the table.
When it’s your own business (especially in smaller businesses) there is potential you’re “too close” to the business emotionally and an extra pair of creative expert eyes can bring different perspectives to your brand.
- The level of technical skill you get is much higher and at the end of the day, you’re going to see consistently higher quality images than if you try and do it yourself. Taking the photo is only half the battle. The right (or wrong) editing can make or break your photos too.
- Expert experience & objectivity from the visual perspective – For example, you may be highly skilled at running your brilliant accountancy company – But are you also an expert visual content creator that can create consistently high-quality photography every time?
- The Photographers Eye! – Linked to the above, a professional is looking at the “scene” objectively and should notice distractions. Those things going on in the background that will draw attention from what you need the viewer to see. Or even worse, having something confidential on show! There have been numerous accounts of data protection leaks due to someone spotting confidential data on a computer screen because someone has shared a work selfie!
- A professional photographer also has access to better equipment which gives you better chances at quality photos. Modern smartphones are great of course. I use mine for nearly all of my personal photography, holidays and selfies, but they’re not necessarily for consistent business shots!
- Professionals understand the different digital image file formats too and most will shoot in the “Raw” format giving much more creative control in the post-processing and generating higher quality images.
- You don’t have to purchase additional equipment and learn how to use it.
- Saving you time – Preparing the shoot, taking the photos, sorting and culling, the post-processing and editing, as well as learning how to do it all too.
- It’s professional! High-quality professional imagery outperforms poor quality – You don’t see Rolex using substandard photos of their watches to showcase their advertisements…
- Cost-effective – The perception, especially in smaller businesses, focuses on the cost of photography vs investment of their brand. The longevity and repurposing opportunities of having access to your library of professional images balance the cost and return on investment.
- Convenience – Once you have your library of visual content. It’s always there ready to go.
Ultimately professionals will have the experience to create the right images to reflect your core business and tell your business story.
When should you use Pro Photographers?
It’s fair to say if you’re serious about your brand, growing your business and standing out from your competition you need to attract the clients you want.
Professional photography is an investment. If you want to get the best “bang for your buck” you need to get as much value from it as possible.
An evergreen asset is something which has longevity in its value. It’s content (in this case visual content) which is relevant for a long time. In other words, its value isn’t going to diminish and has a certain degree of permanency.
So when it comes to visual content (and using professional photography) you need to think about where those images will have the most impact over the longest time and not change too often. For example:
- Your signature brand images on your website and sales landing pages
- Your professional Headshot
- Business cards
- Banners/posters and printed materials
- EPK’s (Electronic Press Kit) or Public relations Kit
- eCommerce Products
- Property/360 Virtual Tours
- Rebranding your business / Website redesign
- Marketing campaigns
- Events/Workshops – Using professional images to promote future events. Also, do you want to be running and hosting your event or do you want to spend time taking professional photographs?
The idea is you’ll have this resource of professional photography you are free to use and repurpose over and again for multiple reasons. For example, you’re not having to take photos all the time because you have this evergreen content all ready to go for many different purposes.
Core Content working for you
On average it’s recommended you update your professional headshot every couple of years as a minimum (some industries much shorter). Keep in mind your photograph is going to be on display, “working for you” 24 hours a day 365 days a year (including weekends and bank holidays 😉). For argument’s sake, your single headshot may cost you £99 and given how long the image is on display, (doing its job) would be Less than 14 pence per day! Not bad for something which works all year round.
Ultimately you should be considering professional photography for your core content. The type that’s visibly “working for you” and going to be around for some while and part of your long-term marketing strategy.
Pros and Cons of DIY Photography
In an ideal world, it makes sense if you want to grow your presence and establish your professional brand then hiring professional photographers is the way to go no matter how big or small your business is.
However, I can also appreciate everyone is different and at different stages of their business. You may be in the early stages of starting your business and may not have the budget for professional photographers to come in and shoot all your content for you.
And taking cost out of the equation DIY photography still has an important place for brands.
For the big corporation, it comes in the form of user-generated content where customers and fans “share” their images and video about business services or products.
Take Google Business Profile Reviews. Have you ever taken photographs of your meal and shared them on google along with your thoughts about how good the meal was? Or you’re on holiday and about to have your favourite drink (A Belgium Beer for me please – Paix Dieu when I can get it or Leffe thank you!) and you take shots for your Instagram account.
The DIY Approach
We have all day-to-day storytelling opportunities of what’s happening in our busnesses.
As a photographer, I’d love to spend all day every day documenting your daily routines and capturing those unplanned, ad hoc moments as they happen. However, my family will probably have something to say about how much time I have with you and I don’t want to be known as a stalker… 😁
Seriously though, when something interesting and unexpected happened behind the scenes while you’re working and you want to quickly share on social media, you probably don’t need to call me, turn up immediately and then photograph it.
So yes. Even though I’m a professional photographer (and want you to book me) DIY Photography still has its place.
- DIY photography is quick. You can post photos straight from your phone or camera directly to your platform.
- It’s organic. It helps customers to get see what your business looks like on a day-to-day basis because nothing is doctored or edited.
- You have control at all stages of the process and get to oversee the entire photography process.
- Generally considered inexpensive than using a professional. If you have a phone, you can get it done for barely any cost.
While you can always look at the advantages of having a professional work and think about what you would be missing out on if you didn’t. Here are some other considerations for you.
- I know one of the advantages is it’s quick to take photos yourself and anyone can do it. However, DIY photography can also be time-consuming, as you’re doing everything else yourself (editing/post-processing etc) The time you’ll have to spend to generate something of quality makes all the difference. Speed does not equal quality! As the owner of your business, you have plenty of other things to think about and do.
- Linked to the above point is the skills/time ratio – I know some business owners are competent photographers yet the time you’ll have to spend to consistently generate something of quality would take would outweigh the time advantage of doing them yourself. Speed does not equal quality yet again!
- Less consistency and lower quality – See points below
- Access to higher-end equipment – I grant you the cameras in smartphones are excellent these days however the vast majority are still shot in standard JPEG format in an auto mode often with higher sensor sensitivity causing more noise/grain in the image and making the image “muddy” looking – Imagine if jewellery designers would want muddy/soft images of their work? I doubt Juleo Jewellery would have been too impressed if I’d taken their photographs on my phone to then have printed on 30 foot banners in Bluewater!
- Auto modes – While there will be exceptions, many will get their camera out point at the subject and take the shot without thinking about any manual settings. A good example is Auto White balance. Ever noticed some images will appear warm/orange and others more blue/cold even though they’ve been taken in the same conditions? It’s because the auto mode has got it wrong. And if it’s in a JPEG format the only way to “correct” that is with one of those phone app filters which actually degrades the quality of the file. There are of course settings on phones to set these things manually, but then we’re back to another thing to learn and more time.
- Objectivity. You’re close to the business in a personal way, creating the potential risk of not seeing the images from outside or objective perspectives.
So when is the best time to use DIY Photography?
I don’t want to come across as giving the DIY approach a disservice as it has a valuable purpose and I’d encourage the majority of small businesses to get stuck in!
You can use it for many different options and it all boils down to the situation at hand.
- If you post regularly on social media you need a fast turnaround of content.
- It could be you’re a startup and still establishing your brand so you might not have the budget for hiring professionals yet.
- You have the time in your business to do it along with running your business.
- Where you want to share everyday visual content such as quick behind-the-scenes, photos or videos for blogs or social media
- When you want to share something more personal about yourself personally For example, on your about me page of your website or personal blog.
- If you wanted to take some organic, intimate photos for community events.
- Where the highest quality isn’t essential for the purpose.
As long as your DIY Photography is in keeping with your brand, the much more natural, organic style of photography coming from doing it yourself can be effective in these kinds of situations, because the emphasis is on the humanity of the moment and telling a story.
A quick mention of using Stock Images
Please read this more detailed article I wrote on using stock photography. For now, only to say I’d use your DIY Photos over Stock images any day for the fact they are original and relatable to you and your brand. Not some “vanilla” stock photo would have been used many times over before you.
The Need to Balance the DIY Photography
This is where it all comes together. Balance is an important part of any successful business enterprise and this is never more true than when looking at your visual content.
A successful website doesn’t have to be all Pro. The combination of both DIY photography and professional photography has roles to play within any successful enterprise.
The fundamental goal of any photography you have is to support your brand and how you communicate who you are personally and as your business.
It’s important to realise your brand is directly represented by the visual content you use – DIY or professional should be your first consideration – Does it fit your brand? If so then go for it!
Examples of the balanced approach
- Pro – professional headshot is essential if you want to be taken seriously, images of you working with clients explaining complex concepts, or giving presentations in professional settings – Your showcase image on your homepage, onboarding/explainer videos.
- DIY – Daily routine behind the scenes, visiting conferences and some personal lifestyle photos appealing to your audience and show them your human side, quick video tips.
- Pro – Headshots, directed behind-the-scenes shoots of you working out, working with clients, or in the office working on training programs, brand details, branded clothing or product range.
- DIY – Daily/healthy life, breakfast meal prep, selfies with an ideal/happy client, before and after shots of client transformations, or where you are that particular day i.e. out running or in the gym.
The thing about photography, much like any other part of your business, is you need to be able to balance it with your needs and resources.
Every business has different perspectives, goals and brand values its not one size fits all for everyone. It could be that DIY photography is exactly what your brand stands for, in which case it should be very much part of your digital marketing strategy.
However, you can’t underestimate the power of professional photography & video. It looks great, it does the job well, and it provides you with an evergreen asset to showcase your website, marketing materials and brand in the best possible light. The reason big brands use professionals is that it works!
Of course, I’m always going to recommend you get access to professional photography whenever possible, but I also believe that you don’t always need professional photos all the time. The combination of DIY photography for that personal touch and professional photography together for your marketing strategy is an excellent one for any small to medium-sized business.
You need to decide what’s right for you. Doing it yourself, working with a professional photographer or using a branding experts who can guide you about both.
it’s important to ensure you get the best photos for your business, and even if you’re not quite ready for professional photography yet, or just need some advice with your visual strategy then please feel free to get in touch
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