The world of photography was shaken by the advent of digital cameras. Once, where hiring a professional photographer meant getting someone who had invested in equipment, experience, skills, and a study of the craft of photography, now it is hard to know what someone calling themselves a professional might offer. It is true that many people with cameras can now take a ‘nice’ picture, this is obvious because their mums tell them so and owning a new digital camera helps with this because they are so clever and there is no concern about film costs.
However as my favourite designer says ‘monkeys and typewriters’ (The infinite monkey theorem states that a monkey hitting keys at random on a typewriter keyboard for an infinite amount of time will almost surely type a given text, such as the complete works of William Shakespeare.) He is saying take enough pictures and surely one must be good enough.
However what if you need something more professional; a photographer that you can rely on to get the images you need in the best and most efficient way, not wasting your time and money. Pictures that are better than mere representations because the photographer has enough experience to be able to interpret your brief and understand what you need to achieve. How are you going to find that photographer, that professional?
You can search the web, it is full of photographers, so how do you choose? Here are some tips that might help
Look at the photographer’s portfolio on line. You should see images that reflect what you might need for your business. That doesn’t mean exactly the same industry as yours but similar to yours. If you are in high tech industries, look for a photographer who has worked in the same. If your needs are mostly to photograph people, look for a photographer who can get ordinary people looking good. Many photographers will show a portfolio of famous people, these subjects are photographed often, they know how to pose for a camera, and it is easy to photograph them.
Are your staff famous people who are photographed often? Make sure the photographer’s portfolio has a spread of similar clients not just one because that shows their experience in a particular field.
Experience, it is a vital thing, in your own work you are good at what you do, not just because of your training and expertise, but because you have experience. You have done the same things enough times to become really good, this is the case for photographers too. A photographer who has a wide range of experience as evidenced by their on line portfolio will be able to bring that knowledge and experience to your shoot.
- Tools for the Job
Equipment is an important part of what a photographer brings. Today even cheap cameras can do an OK job, but if you want professional results the photographer does need professional equipment. This means, camera, lenses, flash and all the other tools needed to successfully accomplish the task. That photographer also needs two of everything, a back up set just in case something fails. Expect a photographer to have invested heavily in equipment and to continually re-invest as technology moves forward. It is part of what you pay for when hiring a professional.
Insurance is something that every professional photographer will have. That is not just insurance in case they drop their camera but Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity cover. This means that whatever happens to your premises, products or people that might be the photographer’s fault they are covered to reimburse you. This should also apply to wedding photographers where the risks can be more substantial.
Personality, the photographer has one, is it the personality you can work with? You may need to spend time with your photographer, you will need to have initial meetings, briefing meetings and phone calls. If you have what the Italians call ‘simpatico’ with your photographer then the work will go much more smoothly and you will get better results.
- The Extra Mile
The photographer is not going to be your best friend but they have to understand what you need and to have empathy with your requirements. A photographer who believes they only know how to photograph something and cannot take input from the client is unlikely to produce what you need. A photographer who listens to a client is more likely to produce better images than one who only talks at a client.
So how are you going to get a photographer that can achieve the images you need? Do some research, this means using Google intelligently. If you just search for photographer (your town) you will be flooded by sites that only do weddings, baby portraits and other forms of social photography. So what do you do? Perhaps you actually need a commercial photographer (your town) or a corporate photographer, or an event photographer or PR, headshot, profile, product, pack-shot, architecture or industrial. Ask the right questions of Google and you are more likely to get relevant answers.
Look at a few photographers that your searches throw up, not all the best are on the first page. Once you have whittled down your choice don’t just send them an email and ask for prices call them up and talk to them, get a feel for what they bring to your project. Know what you need to photograph and how it is going to be used as this will be the start of the conversation, be specific as this will avoid confusion later in the process.
You will need to ask about what will be provided, digital files in what form, any copyright issues, any post production costs, delivery times and costs. Any decent photographer can give you an hourly, half day and day rate but that can only be based on what you tell them so don’t expect an accurate price until you have had a meeting and set out exactly what you need and how it will be achieved.
If you find a photographer that does a good job for you share the love and give them a review on Google.
Written by Keith Barnes, a professional photographer based in Oxford, UK and owner of Photographers Workshop which was founded in 1982.