Short answer? Yes.
Ok, I'm a little bit biased on this one, but hear me out. In an age where literally EVERYONE has a half-decent camera in their pocket, it can be a bit hard to convince yourself to dish out the cash for a professional photographer. However, even in 2017, the need for professional photography is very real. No, not every moment of your life needs to be documented by a professional photographer, but there are certain applications that require the equipment, expertise, and people skills that talented photographers can offer. Here are a couple of examples:
Headshots are one of the most important, and most often overlooked, things for business professionals in today's world. People have very short attention spans now. The first image they see of you can heavily influence a snap judgement call on whether or not they want to work with you. You can't trust that kind of marketing power to someone who doesn't know what they're doing.
The image above is a perfect example of why you need a professional photographer for this kind of application. The woman pictured is a local realtor who was coming out of a 3-year hiatus and needed updated images for business cards and marketing. She also informed me that she's hated every picture that photographer's have taken of her and that she was very self-conscious about her age...no pressure, right? However, after speaking with her and being personable in the studio, I was able to draw out good expressions and pose her in ways that minimalized the features she was self-conscious about. 24 hours later, I delivered the images, and she was ecstatic. While it makes me feel good as a photographer to get a glowing review from a client who wasn't necessarily excited about getting headshots, it's my job to deal with situations like this. Every picture sends a message. A good photographer will make sure that your headshot will send the message you want to come across to your clients.
I don't think wedding photography will ever go away. Yes, wedding photographers seem to be a dime-a-dozen now, but the good ones stand out. The downside is that the good ones cost...a lot. When you're already spending thousands on your wedding, it can be really hard to tell yourself that pictures are worth a few more zeroes, but photographers are offering so much more than just documentation. We're not just capturing what happened on your wedding day. We're capturing how it made you feel. We're immortalizing the fantasy of your wedding that you built up in your mind. No, not every wedding is glamorous, but you should be able to remember it that way. These moments are only going to happen once, and if your photographer drops the ball, no one else is going to pick it up.
The irony in my current (albeit biased) opinion is that I "cheaped out" on my wedding photography. My soon-to-be wife and I were broke and putting together a wedding on a shoe-string budget and I didn't think the pictures would be worth it (this was years before I had discovered my love for photography). However my wife talked me into spending a couple hundred on a student photographer and the pictures were TERRIBLE. My biggest regret about our wedding was that I didn't put the time or effort into finding a talented photographer who genuinely cared about preserving such a special day in my and my wife's lives. The money doesn't seem so important now.
There are countless other applications that warrant the employ of a professional photographer, such as: family portraits, acting/modeling portfolios, event photography, the list goes on and on! The short answer to the question this article poses is yes, you do still need to hire professional photographers, but the world has changed. You no longer need a degree to operate a camera properly. Lots of people now have "professional" cameras and decide their services are worth money, but that's not what a professional photographer is. A professional photographer is honestly more psychologist than photographer. He/she will work closely with you, before and after the shoot, and make sure that your needs are met. A professional will go above and beyond, because taking a picture is so much more than just pressing the shutter button. It's psychology, customer service, technical expertise, people skills and much, much more! So, when you're asking yourself "Do I need to hire a professional photographer?", also ask yourself what the message of the picture is worth to you. If it's worth enough, I highly recommend letting a professional work through it with you.