How to choose a photographer
How to choose a photographer
Let’s get started... Whether you get a photographer's name through a referral or a web search, this will help determine whether or not the photographer is right for you.
Obviously you'll only consider working with someone whose work love, so here's what happens AFTER you find some juicy options.
Photography shoppers generally fall into two distinct categories,
1) Price, or
2) Something Else
It's clear what it means to be a Price Shopper. It means you are looking for someone to do the job for the price you want to pay.
Quality, personality, choice, reputation are all less important.
If the photos are necessary but not that important, it's perfectly fair to communicate that you're a price-shopper to the photographer you're interviewing.
Valuing Something Else
Those who value Something Else are emotionally connected to the reason for needing a photographer.
They will choose based on finding someone who meets that emotional need. This is not to say that Something Else shoppers don't have a budget, but it will probably be more elastic that a pure Price Shopper.
How important are the photos? This is the most important question to answer honestly. If you're getting married for the first time, there's a very good chance that the wedding photographer is as important as the venue.
However, if you're getting married for the second time, the food may be far more important.
If your photographer choice is based on Something Else and less on price, make a list of the other things that are important to you.
Start with these questions
1. Do you need a personality that will fit you and the other people at the shoot or will you put up with a diva?
- The best service providers are part chameleon; they change their stripes and colors to mimic the person paying the bill.
- If you stumble upon one who didn't inherit this gene, don't despair.
- It might be worth tolerating a diva personality who can deliver the look and feel of photography that is important to you.
2. Do you need assurance that the photographer will show up on time and deliver your prints, proofs and albums in a timely manner?
- If missed deadlines and tardy arrivals get your dander up, the photographer has got to make you comfortable.
3. Do you want to name-drop your photographer so that you can impress your friends and family?
- Plenty of people love to share their brilliant taste and ability to pay for a name.
- If this is important to you, choose a photographer who speaks at the trade events (Imaging USA, WPPI, Photo Plus, etc.)
4. Need confidence that your photographer can offer choices and options appropriate for your lifestyle and budget?
- I recently had a client whose engagement photos were delivered mounted. This meant that she had to custom-frame the prints at a significantly increased expense.
- Clearly the photographer thought he was delivering a value-added product, but it backfired on him and unpleasantly surprised the client.
- If your budget is fixed or if you just plain old don't appreciate financial surprises, it's important to understand all the costs of your photography project, including framing.
- Be sure to ask about this at the initial interview.
Equipment - Does it matter?
In a word, no. The iPhone has a wonderful app called Hipstamatic. It adds special effects to iPhone pictures which are preciously distinct. If you saw them, you just might want a whole set. And that would be a good thing.
Cameras range in price from practically nothing to the price of a nice SUV ($65,000). While an expensive camera can create an image with more information, it doesn’t mean that it's a better image.
What does matter is that the photographer understands his or her equipment. He or she must know how to control the camera.
Are you laughing yet?
I spoke with a photographer who bought a digital SLR on eBay which she says"...shoots only on Auto because the camera knows what it’s doing."
If you're a Price Shopper, this should be fine. If you're looking for Something Else, keep looking.
What are you going to do with the photos?
Next to how important the photos are to you, your vision for what to do with the photos comes next.
If you're a Price Shopper, it might be fine if the photos live temporarily or forever in a drawer or on a disk.
If you have something else in mind, a wall portrait, album or folio, it’s important to share that with your photographer.
If you don't have something specific envisioned, it’s also fine not to know. Many of my clients tell me they have no idea, but they always get inspired when we do the proof review session.
I project life-sized images that can switch between color and black and white, and show multi-print layouts. Plenty of inspiration comes out of these sessions, including this favorite story...
I had a client who couldn't decide between color, black and white and sepia. I put the same image up on the sreen in each of the three color spaces, and voila! She said, "I love THAT!"
We printed the same image in each of those colors on a single, large print. Who knew?
Physical attributes... I’ve heard some crazy rules. My favorite is, “Don't hire a female photographer for your wedding because she'll never want to make the bride look better than her.” (I know that's bad grammar). How do you respond to this? I'm in the business of making all women look their best. If this quote were true, I'd be long bankrupt.
"Don't hire a short photographer because she’ll always be looking up at you."
Oh, the irony.
If your photographer is shooting a 35mm with a zoom lens (which most of them are), the lens automatically bends the image so that objects at the outside of the frame are smaller than the center.
The ideal position for the lens is about half-way between the top and bottom of the framed object. If it's a full-length body, then the lens should be at the waist.
Since this is virtually impossible based on the way 35mm cameras are designed, you're definitely better off hiring a SHORT photographer rather than a tall one!
Also, it's generally pleasing to look direclty at or slightly up at a human photographic subject. This may be based on the emotional tie we have to celebrities and dignitaries that we “look up to”.
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