A Tale of Two Mushrooms (Or, Why Professional Photographers Are Worth the Investment)

Today was a sad day in the Diaz household. My son, getting ready for his first day of his Junior year of high school, called me frantically from the hallway outside of his room, “Mom, come here, quick.” I ran out of my bedroom to see his distressed face. “Penny died.”

Yes, Penny, Ronan’s first pet, a beloved red-eared slider turtle I’d bought for him when he turned 7 years old, nearly exactly 9 years ago today, had suddenly died. And if you’ve never owned a pet for 9 years, one who made the move with you from Maine to Hawaii and back again, or been a 7 year-old boy who once declared, “Penny is my best fwend,” you may not quite understand the sadness that discovery brought on for us today, but trust me: it was a very sad day.

And all of that brings me to this afternoon, when Ronan and I dug a hole (as big as we could manage in our rock-infested back yard) under a beautiful big tree, and had a little Penny funeral. Ronan recounted his favorite Penny memories, I talked about what a great turtle she was and how much she’ll be missed, we made extra sure she really was dead (sadly, she was), and then we buried her. We sat near the grave for a little bit, enjoying the nearly-fall breeze, and just being quiet, and then we got up and headed back toward the house. As we did, though, Ronan pointed out an enormous mushroom he’d spotted earlier, and I borrowed his iPhone 6s to grab a picture.


It’s not a bad picture. It definitely captures the enormous mushroom. I could probably fancy it up with some Instagram filters. There’s not a lot of style or substance beyond that, but yup, that’s definitely one big mushroom.

Later, though, after Ronan had left for his after-school job, I felt compelled to pick up my Nikon D810 and just sit with nature a bit. On the way to the line in my backyard where the grass ends and the wild begins, I stopped to take another picture of the mushroom, this time with full control of the lighting and focus.


Do you see the difference?

Couples every day make the choice between the two mushrooms, and they don’t even realize it. On one hand, they have the first mushroom: inexperienced photographers–sometimes their friends–with an affordable, or even free, price point, who seem like a convenient choice–a lot like that iPhone or Samsung most of us have in our back pocket for a quick picture when we’re in a pinch or just want to take a selfie with a friend, and wow, those other mushrooms are expensive!¬†On the other hand, many realize the value of the second mushroom: photographers with the real deal equipment, experience, and training to do the job right, and yes, they may be more expensive, but they’re definitely going to deliver what the client pays for.

Is there value in both mushrooms? Absolutely! I used to be that first mushroom, just learning with my old Nikon D200, doing weddings and portraits for friends on the cheap while I figured out what the heck I was doing with all these crazy settings on my camera. But I can also see the difference in my work from then to now, several years later, and I know I’m now worth the investment I ask. In those intervening years, I invested in two Nikon DSLRs, a Nikon D800 and a Nikon D810, and I will soon own the D850. I started shooting weddings years ago with a Nikkor 50mm prime lens and a single ancient Nikon speed light, but since then I’ve added Nikkor’s 70-200mm zoom, 24-70mm zoom, 85mm prime, and 14-24mm zoom to my carry list, as well as three Nikon speed lights, and a Paul C. Buff strobe to my equipment list (and that doesn’t even count the transmitters, tripods, light stands, light modifiers, and more). I’ve spent thousands on additional training and workshops. And I’ve spent TIME–my most valuable commodity of all–in learning how to run my business in a way that makes my clients feel valued, special, and satisfied when their wedding or lifestyle session is wrapped. All of that investment I’ve made in my business ensures that when a client invests in me, I know I can deliver the goods they’re investing in.

So which mushroom is better? Neither. The second mushroom could never happen without being the first mushroom–every new photographer needs to have the room to grow and learn, so they can become the second mushroom. My point isn’t which photographer makes the better choice to hire. My point is it’s worth recognizing that when a professional photographer asks you to make an investment in them, she’s asking you to trust that she’s worth investing in–just like that shot of the second mushroom will be the one I print and frame and hang on a wall of my house. When your eyes widen at what a professional photographer asks for a single wedding, know that photographer has most likely invested thousands of dollars, maybe even tens of thousands of dollars, in her equipment, that she is continuing to invest her time and energy in becoming the best photographer she can be, and that she will put dozens upon dozens more hours into your images in the days and weeks after your wedding than the time you pay for on the day itself. In short, she made an investment in YOU long before you knew you’d be investing in her.


I didn’t only take mushroom pics today! Here are a few more of the beautiful things I encountered today:

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