Professionals battle with amateurs in the growing photography industry

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    By Hilarie Laukat

    On occasion, Jason McGrew will wake up and go for a drive ? just a casual drive around the area with his camera.

    ?I?m always looking for new places to photograph,? said McGrew, one of Utah?s many self-employed professional photographer-entrepreneurs. ?That?s part of my customer service to clients ? providing them with something unique and completely personal.?

    McGrew is always working to advance his edge in the business, as if his professional training wasn?t enough.

    In today?s world of developing technology and digital media, photography has become something quite accessible to the masses. New resources are making it possible to produce the aesthetically pleasing edited prints that only experts could produce 20 years ago. This has left consumers questioning why so many professionals are recommending they stick with trained photographers. What?s the difference?

    ?The best thing about photography is it has ? everything to do with the photographer,? said Tyler Nielsen, a junior at the University of Utah who enjoys shooting professional-looking photographs and editing them as a hobby. ?Someone with a point-and-shoot can create images that are just as fun and dynamic as someone with much more expensive equipment.?

    Nielsen is one of many young people who have adopted this mentality and discovered a love for the art. A surprising number of these ambitious amateurs are now starting their own photography businesses with little or no professional training under their belts, and penny-pinching consumers are taking advantage of it.

    ?Some amateurs are actually quite good,? said Kati Ellis, a BYU senior who will graduate with a BFA in photography this April. ?But I?ve noticed they are few and far between. There is usually a significant difference between trained photographers and those who just jump in.?

    Ellis?s time spent in the BYU visual arts department has taught her to differentiate between photos with nice aesthetic value and those shot with deliberate meaning.

    ?Knowledge of basic skills allows you to actually utilize your creativity,? Ellis said. ?What you don?t know restricts you from making something entirely unique ? and quality equipment gives you so much more control over your shots.?

    After purchasing top-of-the line, professional-grade equipment and investing in upwards of $50,000 of intensive training at the Hallmark School of Photography in Massachusetts, McGrew, now the owner

    and operator of Jason McGrew Photography, couldn?t agree with Ellis more.

    ?There are so many little details and conditions to be aware of,? McGrew said. ?It?s all about the lighting ? using it in the right way, where to place the subject, composition, so many things that easily get overlooked ? You can?t break the rules until you actually know them.?

    Many people legitimately believe that amateur work often turns out quite well, despite a lack of basic knowledge. One might browse through a portfolio and be pretty impressed with the cool effects they can still create. However, professionals are also advising consumers to be aware of the difference between getting lucky and being consistent.

    ?Amateurs may show you a few photos that are good, but a professional can give you that kind of quality with every shot,? said Madison Eppley, another senior studying in BYU?s photography program. ?When people are hiring a photographer for an event, they need to realize that when it?s over, all you have are your pictures.?

    McGrew believes the real question consumers should ask is whether they are willing to compromise quality and consistency for a thicker wallet. You?re generally going to get more if you pay more. That?s just the way it is in such a competitive market.

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