So…You Want To Hire A Photographer?

As a photographer who has been plying his trade full-time in Calgary for over 15 years, it has often crossed my mind that I may be in a unique position to provide relevant and perhaps not readily obvious information to those often finding themselves tasked with seeking a photographer for a photography shoot, be it for corporate head-shots, an industrial on-site shoot, architectural or any of the other plethora of photography needs.

One typically starts with a Google search or someone’s recommendations, followed by a decision based largely on cost. But don’t overlook the following often more relevant information:

  • A photographer’s online portfolio can give you a very good idea of the quality of his/her work. However the photographer has probably spent a great deal of time post-processing (“Photoshopping”) those images to make them perfect.  If you’re expecting the same level of quality in your shoot, make sure the quoted price includes post-processing.
  • Experience brings consistency to a photographer’s work and a seasoned photographer’s portfolio will not display only the very best heavily Photoshopped images from a few years of shooting, rather what you see is what you should get.
  • “A photographer who specializes in a single genre such as fashion will always be the best.” Not necessarily. A market such as Calgary that does not have the scope as say New York, may require a photographer to excel in several areas and produce work that will stand up against the best specialist. Bear in mind, however, that a portfolio that is weak in any particular genre will likely have the photographer provide you with the same, if hired for that style of photography.
  • Is the photographer a full-time shooter and fully committed to her business? The importance of this item should be self-evident.
  • Peruse the photographer’s client list (if they have one) for this can be highly indicative of a photographer’s experience and the level of clientèle the photographer has been able to attract. Be wary of the ‘client list’ that seems to highlight only a few well-known companies as the photographer may have acquired a few contracts simply through friendly connections.
  • Will the photographer have an assistant(s) for the photo session? Most photographers will be far more proficient when working with an assistant and if you will be paying by the hour you may be particularly interested in this information.
  • Photographers typically require a large amount of equipment for needs can be very diverse depending on the shoot. If a photographer is renting equipment, that can bring a degree of unfamiliarity and unreliability to the session. Consider what the photographer may be using for more specialized work such as architectural where perspective correction lenses are quite essential, at the very least to have on hand.
  • Industrial photo shoots almost always require the photographer and assistant to be outfitted in safety gear and have varying levels of safety certifications. Check for these and inquire if the photographer will be able to supply his own gear, in particular steel-toed shoes, fire retardant coveralls and hard hat.
  • Does the photographer’s fee include exclusive and indefinite image use? You very likely will not require copyright (that can be expensive) but find out if you will be paying extra for images and image post-production.
  • Approximately how many images will you receive? Photographers can often find this to be a dilemma in persuading the client of the importance of quality over quantity. Great images take time. The seasoned photographer will understand the importance of collaboration and client commitment in a session’s successful outcome. Planning and preparation alongside extensive communication will be an experienced, solid photographer’s mantra from the get-go.
  • What will be the photographer’s turnaround time for the images? And will you receive both high resolution and web-ready images?
  • Is the photographer insured? Liability…..!
  • Some photographers work with an agent which is a good indication that they are the best at what they do. Working with an agent can also make the best match in terms of the best photographer for your requirements. Agents can also provide detailed and timely information for clients while photographers are out on shoots.

A referral or a flashy web site is too often the singular measure used in seeking the right photographer for the job, when there are many very relevant questions to be answered that will point you in the right direction to the photographer who will best satisfy your requirements.