This week, I am once again reminded of the power of the photograph as for the second time this month, we dropped off portraits to a family faced with the unexpected loss of a loved one. When a loved one passes, all that is left of their life is their memories in our hearts and the photographs of them. I treasure the photographs of my brother and it is through his photographs that he remains a part of my children’s lives.
In this day and age, anyone can become a “professional photographer” – all they need to do is pick up a camera and say they are a photographer. There is no required training, and no special license process. The self proclaimed photographer can look on facebook, or a photographer from the area who has training and copy their images or worse yet, steal images from facebook and present as their own!
My daughter plays volleyball and we recently had to volunteer to work in the kitchen for a community supper. To work in the kitchen, you had to be supervised by someone with a Food Safety Certificate. To even volunteer at school, you have to pass a criminal records check. It is literally easier to become a photographer than volunteer at school! This saddens me and it is one of the reasons I work so hard with the Professional Photographer’s of Canada to educate the general public on what is professional photography.
Take a look at the last portrait you had taken, is your face dark, is any part of your body cut off by accident, are you lit to showcase your body type or strongly flashed with a flash on the camera, and something I see a lot – are you even in focus? The very last portrait taken of my brother was out of focus – taken by an untrained photographer. The rock behind my brother is in perfect focus and he is not. His feet were also cut off – this really bothers me because my brother had size 13 feet, we always teased him about his “skis” but I cannot point out to my children how big they were.
At Dragon Hare – we work to ensure our clients receive images they can be proud to display. We continually put ourselves out there for peer review of our client work (I only submit images I have taken in a client session for print competitions!), and we continually work towards improving our technical skills. One of the only ways in Canada a photographer can prove their skills is to become accredited by the Professional Photographer’s of Canada. This is something I actively pursue to challenge myself and keep improving my skills.
An accreditation is a portfolio review on a given subject by a panel of master photographers. The images are judged on technical skill, composition, artistic quality, lighting, even colour balance and image quality. I submitted two accreditations this time around – one in Image Manipulation and one in Environmental Portraits. I am pleased to announce that my Image Manipulation was successful! For this accreditation, I had to show my skills in digital retouching, moving/adding objects into an image, restoration etc. This is a huge part of being a digital photographer – much like developing film for film photographers.
I encourage anyone seeking the services of a photographer to ask questions about technical training, whether or not they are accredited, a member of a professional photography organization, if they have a business license and liability insurance. These are questions that I feel should be asked first, before inquiring about the cost because what if, what if the unthinkable happens and this too is the last portrait you have of one of your loved ones? That portrait is priceless, and I hope that unlike me, you will have a beautiful portrait that will keep your loved one a part of your life always.
In order to keep Christmas card portraits a secret, I am afraid the only image I can share for this accreditation is a restoration that I did for a local family that wanted to preserve their family’s history: