The market is flooded with digital cameras and salespeople extolling the quality of computer-printed photos. So who needs a professional photographer to record their remodeling work? An expensive digital camera will do the trick, right? Wrong.

High-quality professional photography isn't just about the equipment. “People think that having a digital camera makes them a photographer — especially if they spend $1,000 or more on it. Megapixels do not make a good shot. It is still about lighting and composition,” says photographer Mark Samu, in Saratoga Springs, N.Y.

Pros know more than just how to take a good shot. Lighting and composition are part of their expertise.
Pros know more than just how to take a good shot. Lighting and composition are part of their expertise.

Amateur vs. Pro “An amateur photo taken with a digital camera might look good, but most of the time the room will not be appropriately lit for the camera's eye and it will show in the photo,” says Bob Shimer, manager of the Hedrich Blessing photo studio in Chicago. A dead giveaway of an amateur photo is the appearance of glare spots or areas that are washed out or too dark.

A professional can also do color correction and can retouch images when inconsistencies arising from varied light sources within the room or from room to room affect the photo.

Styling the Room Well-composed photographs are not only shot from the best angles, the rooms themselves are appropriately accessorized. “Styling absolutely makes or breaks a photo,” Samu says. “Professional styling is very different from simply putting some flowers in a vase on the counter. You want to make the room look lived in, but not cluttered or empty.”

What It Will Cost Prices vary according to where in the country you're located and the photographer's experience. Mark Samu's prices range from $2,000 to $2,500 for up to 10 images.

At Hedrich Blessing, shoots range from $2,500 to $3,200 for four images. That fee includes the photo assistant and materials. A stylist would cost an additional $500, not including expenses, props, etc.

Before deciding on a photographer, look at examples of their work and speak to some of their clients to get an idea of how the photographer is to work with.

How Many To Take The number of photographs to take depends on the room size and how you intend to use the images.

“In a kitchen,” Shimer says, “you might do an overall shot and shots of the island, the eating area ... perhaps the cooking area and any special design features. In a powder room, one shot may be all you can get in such a small space.”

Format To determine the right format, Shimer says you should talk to the photographer about how you will use the images. But, as a general rule, he recommends asking for Adobe RGB 1998 in TIFF (a file format), which is a universal profile in itself.

“The size should be as large as possible,” he says. “Sixty megabytes may seem like overkill, but you can have a 16-by-20-inch poster printed from that or crop an image and get a detail in a large size from it.”

Clients Know “Your affluent clients are visually sophisticated, and they will recognize when something has not been done in as artful a manner as it should be,” Shimer says.

“And one new job or client will pay 10 times what one photo session is worth,” Samu points out.

“The problem with contractors is that they often don't know how to market themselves. My studio helps clients understand how to use the shots we take for them,” Samu says. “When it comes to photography, ultimately, you get what you pay for,” Shimer adds.