Hiring A Photographer

Six Things You Need To Know Before Hiring A Photographer Six Things You Need To Know BEFORE Hiring A Photographer

When our older son graduated from high school a few years ago, I was happy to sit in the stands and enjoy the ceremony, content that a qualified professional photographer would get the walk-across-the- stage images I had requested.  The photographer arrived on time and was busy taking pictures of the soon-to-be grads. Two weeks after the ceremony I eagerly began to watch the mail for my package of 5x7 prints to arrive. After another week, I called friends to see if their packages had arrived. When no one had gotten their pictures I tried calling the photographer. The phone rang unanswered. I later learned he had suddenly gone out of the photography business—with our checks in hand—and taken a job at a Walmart in a neighboring city.

It really wasn’t a lesson I should have known to avoid. He was the only professional photographer on hand to do the graduation images, he had been in business for a number of years, and he had seemed to do acceptable work in the past. But he was gone and so were my graduation pictures.

Like this example, not all unfortunate scenarios can be avoided. There are, however, a number of informational pieces that can help ensure a better outcome than the one described above. Here, then, are six things you need to know before hiring a photographer. Though not foolproof, answers to these questions can go a long way toward making your next experience at hiring a photographer a success.

  • Does the photographer have a solid reputation in the professional community? Indicators like membership in professional organizations, a list of satisfied clients, and possession of a business license can show some professional recognition and stability in the business community.
  • Does the photographer regularly produce the type of images that you are looking for? Style and quality are generally consistent over time. A professional who specializes in commercial product photography, for example, may not be the best choice for your wedding photographer. Unless you’ve seen plenty of work samples that you like, you may be wise to choose a photographer who specializes in the type and style of photography that you desire.
  • Does s/he have a workable communication style? Be wary if you have a difficult time reaching your photographer. With so many methods of communication available--in person, mobile phone, website/blog presence, social media—you should be able to reach your photographer and get a response within a reasonable amount of time. Written agreements, model releases, and a printed price list are also signs of good business communication skills.
  • Are the photographer’s fees compatible with your budget? And do you know exactly what those fees include and what you will receive for the services? Generally speaking, you get what you pay for and, as a photographer’s skills increase, so likely will his rates. This makes both the photographer’s work samples and communication skills and documents critically important to evaluate.
  • Is s/he available for follow up services? At some point you may need additional services from your photographer whether it be advice on the correct resolution for images for web devices or help choosing an image for an office wall mount.
  • Does s/he have a personality/temperament that fits with you and your family? We all want our photography experience to be positive regardless of the amount of contact we have with the professional we hire. With photographers who work with children and young people, an engaging personality is especially welcome while a business-like demeanor may be more appropriate for corporate work.

A good match between a photographer and a client can span many years and include many generations. The time you take to learn about a prospective photographer will pay off not only in your satisfaction with the real-time experience but also with the product and the follow up services you receive.

Photographs are not just for preserving memories anymore. They play very important roles in communicating who we are socially, our levels of performance and achievement, our life experiences, our hobbies and interests, and our children’s milestones. As such, it behooves us to carefully interview and choose our professional assistants wisely.


©Kathy Lancaster, July 2012

Kathy Lancaster Photography

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