It's all about the pixels!
**IMPORTANT** Take a minute to read about pixels! They are at the core of your digital image.
How many pixels an image has will determine it's size and how it looks. Industry printing standard for an 8x10 image is 3000x2400 pixels at 300dpi (dots per inch, or ppi - pixels per inch).
Now let's say that a photo came out of the camera at 3500pixels (a little larger than 10") and I cropped it to the face - it now might have a print quality of about 1"-2" (800 pixels) - so, if you purchase it, but want an 8x10 of that face, what a computer does is tries to read the color of the pixels closest, then fill those in to get back to that 3000 mark - now it is blurry and what is known as "pixelated" edgy or jagged.
Now you have compression! Everytime a .jpg image is opened, edited and resaved, it compresses a little more, degrading the quality. The internet will also automatically compress an image for faster loading. So, if an image doesn't look good on the internet, I guarantee it will be bad when you get it! That is also because of sizing, when made smaller on the internet, pictures pixels will compress and it might look better - but at full size, garbage!
If your show photographer sells through SmugMug - Look for a few things!! When you are viewing an individual photo, in the bottom right corner you an "i" icon inside of a circle. Click on that and info about the image will appear telling you all about that photo! Where it says "size" 702x914, you can now know that picture is barely 3"! So this photographer is selling this image as an original download for $26 and prints up to 5x7 - yet this image is barely 3"! This is why knowing about pixels is so important!! Check out image samples here.
Another SmugMug warning - that site allows photographers to sell by MP (megapixel). That is simply the bulk size, not the actual size! Meaning if I take a dog on white at 5x7, it maybe only be 1.0MP in size, so SmugMug would sell it for say $10 - but the same dog, the same size of 5x7, now shot out in the woods with color and trees and grass and sun, means for info embedded in the picture, so now the MP size would jump to 2.5MP and they would sell you the same image for $25!!! Always ask the pixel size and dpi before ordering!!!
Fake HDR can be really, really bad
**IMPORTANT** Take a minute to read about HDR! Understanding High Dynamic Range will help.
When you hear about someone talking about an HDR image, do you wonder, what are they talking about? High Dynamic Range refers to pulling out the light, color, and details at all ranges of an image.
Normally, HDR is NOT used in action photography. There are a lot of nice plugins that can use one image to pull out details and give a single image an HDR look. I find these programs also create noise and grainy areas where it used to be dark and now it's trying to lighten it. HDR from a single image, especially if done poorly, will have a sort of "gray" appearance to it.
HDR is best used with a tripod and multiple STILL images shot at different shutter speeds. When combined, you can use the lighter image areas masked over the darker. Best to go to the sample page to view good and bad samples of HDR images.
Beware of the poacher! Uninvited photographers hurt everyone!
Many events have "Sponsor" or Invited Event Photographrs - and many have photographers just show up and think they are entitled to shoot and sell photos without checking with organizers.
Not all events will have sponsor photographers, so how will you know? Simple, if you are at a dog event, there will be a check in area, or a secretary or chairperson - just ask them. They will let you know if there is a sponsor photographer for that event and who they are.
Most events are simply not large enough to support multiple companies, this is just one reason for having event photographers. It is to everyone's benefit to have established, professional photographer have the exclusive to shoot your event.
Not having a sponsor photographer does not mean the photographers there won't capture good images, but there is less control over quality when anyone can show up and shoot. This does not mean that a poacher doesn't take good photos, but by purchasing from poachers, photographers who have not asked for permission to sell at an event, or have a license or vendor permit, they will run off professionals by selling a sub-quality product at a lower price to get you to buy their photo. This will hurt everyone in the end.