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Everyone’s a Photographer Series (2/5)

In a world dominated by images and a market place saturated with “professional photographers”, it may seem like a daunting task to find and choose a photographer that’s right for you. This series of articles covers the current trends, and provides some tips to help you in the selection process.

Part 2

Key Criteria for Professional Photographers

If it’s not about the equipment or the quality of the images, who are these “professional photographers”?

A professional photographer, in the true sense, is a person who earns the majority of their income from the business of photography and dedicates the majority of their time refining their craft in the field of photography.

At the end of the day, an independent professional photographer is a business person. As a commercially viable business faced with extreme competition, they may not necessarily have the most expensive equipment or the latest camera model; their images may not necessarily be the most artistically creative, or follow the latest trends on instagram. However, the professional photographer will be able to show a potential client, a gallery of images that respond to a commercial brief and shows the versatility in meeting the needs of a diverse range of clients over an extended period of time. The independent professional photographer will have:

  • a registered business (an ABN if operating in Australia) with business liability insurance.
  • business processes and contractual arrangements in place to interact with the client before, during and after the photoshoot.
  • a motivation to build long-term customer relationships, and are more likely to be customer-focussed.
  • a website or online galleries for public view to showcase their work with a number of previous clients.
  • measures in place to protect their clients’ images; have a good understanding of copyright, image licensing, model release forms, and be able to address concerns about privacy.
  • on request, be able to provide clear pricing and fees for services rendered.
  • protocols in place to manage situations when things don’t go as smoothly as planned.
  • they may (but not necessarily) have formal accreditation.

This list is vastly different from what a serious hobbyist will be able to provide as assurances to their client when entering a payment for service contract. As you will read in our next article, there may be many valid reasons and situations when you would hire a serious hobbyist, freelancing as a photographer rather than hiring a true professional.

However, there are some specific situations, when it is strongly recommended that you consider hiring a professional photographer in the true sense of the word; for example,

  • when a long term relationship will be beneficial; or
  • when the engagement of a photographer may have commercial ramifications to you and for your business; or
  • when you need to protect your images and investment;
  • when you want to mitigate the risks, in case something goes wrong.
Read More in the Everyone’s a Photographer Series.

Everyone’s a Photographer Series (3/5)

In a world dominated by images and a market place saturated with “professional photographers”, it may seem like a daunting task to find and choose a photographer that’s right for you. This series of articles covers the current trends, and provides some tips to help you in the selection process.

Part 3

Top Questions to Ask before Hiring a Photographer

So, in a world filled with people who have cameras, and therefore by definition have the necessary tools to take a photo, how do you choose who to work with for your photoshoot?

Some of the questions below may seem obvious, but I am often surprised by the number of clients who do not have answers to these questions while searching for a photographer to hire.

I trust that these questions will narrow down the field of photographers who are right for you, and guide you in that decision making process.

  • What is your budget?
  • What are you expecting for that investment, and are they realistic?
  • How important are the images to you?
  • Does the photographer have the right stuff for your particular photoshoot?
What is your budget?

From the outset, your budget may determine whether you do it yourself, hire a student photographer, a serious hobbyist, or a professional photographer. Typically, we do not expect to purchase a Lamborghini, if our budget will only allow the purchase of a second hand Ford Fiesta. Also, we usually do not ask a major grocery store chain to discount our food bill because we are a start up business with tight cash flow. However in creative service fields, such as photography, clients sometimes have the expectation that they will get the Lamborghini with the discount.

By the same token, I do not necessarily believe in the saying – “you get what you paid for” – that the service/ product quality is always commensurate with the amount spent. There are many professional photographers offering very competitive rates; and there are many highly talented serious hobbyists that can, and are willing to do the work for a much lower fee. However, it is unreasonable to expect to hire a seasoned professional photographer at the same rate offered by a tourist on a working holiday looking for some extra cash before they move on. As outlined in the previous article, professional photographers are running a service-based business with overheads and operating expenses, and are typically in it for the long haul.

Whether it is critical for you to hire a professional photographer or not, is most likely determined by the next three questions.

What are you expecting to receive for that investment?

It is important to have some understanding about the photography process so you can set realistic expectations of what you may get for your investment. I encourage you to delve into other articles on my website to learn more about the technical aspects that influence the costs charged to clients for photography services.

If your budget is about the same as what you would spend on a dinner for two at your local Thai restaurant, you cannot expect the photographer to deliver images looking as though they have been plucked from the glossy pages of a Vogue magazine.

It is important to note that different photographers will include different levels of service in their quotes. When trying to decide between two or more photographers, it may feel as though you are trying to compare apples with oranges (… you probably are). When requesting a quote from a photographer, it is important that you clearly understand what is and what is not included in the service fees.

If the photographer has provided little explanation of what is included in their fee, go back and ask for more detail before accepting the quote. Do not assume that service fees will automatically include a certain number of images or a certain level of post production work if it is not detailed. Just because your previous photographer provided this service, does not mean that your new hire has those services included in their fees.

Seek clarification from the photographer on photography terms such as original images, edited images, retouched images as well as copyright and licensing arrangements. Read more about photography terms here.

How important are the images to you?

If you only need some feel good images to post on your personal social media and probably never look at again, then you don’t need a seasoned professional to do the job, particularly if there are cheaper options on the table.

If the images are going to capture once in a lifetime memories, or are intended to represent your business/ brand and help drive your livelihood, then you will want to work with a seasoned photographer – someone that has demonstrated experience in that genre of photography.

When selecting a photographer, ask for examples of their previous work which reflects their ability to meet your particular photoshoot requirements. Provide the potential photographer with brief description of your requirements and even some reference images or a mood board. An experienced photographer will be able to advise you on what can be achieved based on your budget, if their natural photography style and experience matches your requirements, and they will be able to give you options and explain how they have managed comparable assignments in the past.

Does the photographer have the right stuff to do the job?

Typically, a photographer may provide services in one or more genres of photography. In the next article you will discover how different types of photoshoots may need a different type of photographer. I will not discuss all genres of photography, but the selection will give you an idea of the types of things you may want to check out before hiring your photographer of choice.

Read More in the Everyone’s a Photographer Series.

Everyone’s a Photographer Series (4/5)

In a world dominated by images and a market place saturated with “professional photographers”, it may seem like a daunting task to find and choose a photographer that’s right for you. This series of articles covers the current trends, and provides some tips to help you in the selection process.

Part 4

The Right Stuff – Best Photographers by Genre

To be a photographer, all you have to do is know how to use the camera and take a picture, right? And a professional photographer, can photograph anything, that’s why they are a professional, right?

Photographers for hire typically work in one or more genres of photography, depending on their personal preferences, style and access to specialist equipment. Selecting the photographer that is best for you, depends on the nature of the photography assignment, and finding a photographer with the right stuff. The right stuff is more than just the equipment the have and use.

In this article we will explore 6 different genres of photography and the different requirements that each of these genres have, in order to find a photographer with the right stuff.

  • Portrait Photographer
  • Event Photographer
  • Product Photographer
  • Wedding Photographer
  • Real Estate Photographer
  • Newborn Photographer
Corporate Headshots. © Copyright. 2020. Dragon Papillon Photography.  All rights reserved.
Portrait Photographer

The composition for a corporate headshot is fairly standard. The criteria that differentiates portrait photographers is not based on image composition, but how the photographer relates to you during an intimate and confronting time – having your portrait professionally taken.

It is likely that you have not had face-to-face interaction with your portrait photographer before hiring them. Therefore, my best tip on choosing a portrait photographer is to request to see examples of their past work. By looking at these strangers’ faces you will be able to quickly discern if the person looks as though they are engaging with the photographer during their photohoot. Do they look relaxed?, is their expression natural?, does the smile match the expression in their eyes?

Or do the photos look forced like many of our old school photos look with a fake smile at best? Do the portraits look over photoshopped and artificial? This may be your personal preference, but not all photographer’s offer a “glamour shoot” service.

Before hiring your portrait photographer of choice, check off these questions :

  • Have they explained the process and given you some tips on what to bring for the photoshoot?
  • Have they listed to your concerns, and given you an opportunity to express your anxiety about the shoot?
  • Do they have their own studio space and/ do they have equipment they can bring onsite for a professional looking outcome such as portable backdrops and lighting?
Event Photography. © Copyright. 2020. Dragon Papillon Photography.  All rights reserved.
Event Photographer

Event photography is action packed, requiring a highly intuitive photographer to anticipate memorable moments in a fluid and dynamic situation. Photographers shoot best in their natural style – some photographers have a preference for candid over posed images, others are comfortable with shoot red carpet style.

As the client, your preference for candid or posed will determine the photographer you want to hire for your event. Review the photographer’s gallery to see if you like their photography style.

Regardless of photographic style, the right photographer for events will:

Before hiring your event photographer, check off these items :

  • Have they asked for information about the event, the planned key moment (e.g. speeches), the VIPs, any special requirements you have for group shots etc.
  • Do they have a reasonable quick turn around time to deliver a high volume number of images. There is nothing more annoying than receiving photos from your event, months or weeks after the special day.
  • How will you receive the images? Are they able to deliver images in a gallery that you can easily share with event attendees.
  • Have they been responsive before the event, so you have confidence that they will turn up on the day, and on time?
Glass Product Photography © Copyright. 2020. Dragon Papillon Photography.  All rights reserved.
Product Photographer

Product photography is a broad genre, and within this field there may be additional requirements depending on the product that is being shot. Most the work for commercial product photography happens outside of the scheduled photoshoot time, in planning the photoshoot and secondly in the post production of the images.

A versatile product photographer does need specialist equipment such as a variety of lenses, studio lighting, and may have a collection of backdrops and props to match your requirements. In addition, most of the work for commercial Therefore it is important to understand how the photographer manages both the pre-photoshoot and the post-production processes.

In addition to the specialty equipment, a product photographer needs to be organised, methodical, have an eye for detail, and be able to translate your concept into images. If you find a product photographer that also has a creative eye, you have found a winner.

Again, the best advice is to review the photographer’s portfolio of product images and see if they have experience in shooting products that are similar to your products – you may need to find a specialist to shoot glass, jewellery, or ghosted mannequin images as all these products require access to different equipment and lighting setups.

Here’s some tips and questions to have answered before signing on with your product photographer.

  • Has the photographer understood your image requirements and conceptual brief as to how you want your products presented?
  • Does the photographer have a dedicated studio space and/ or do they have the necessary equipment to bring to photograph products at your location?
  • If shooting at your location, has the photographer explained their space requirements to set up for a product shoot outside of a studio, and how images may be compromised if not photographed in a controlled environment?
  • What level of post production is included in their service fees? Are the images supplied as shot (original); edited or retouched? Are the images deep etched for e-commerce shots.
  • Have you agreed a turn around time for the images to meet your business requirements?
  • What will be the process or recourse if the images do not meet a quality standard?
© Copyright. 2020. Dragon Papillon Photography.  All rights reserved.
Wedding Photographer

In the first instance, when considering the right stuff for a wedding photographer, supercharge the event photographer criteria tenfold and then add some extras. Wedding photography is probably one of the toughest gigs in photography (outside of being a photojournalist in a war zone).

The wedding photography business is changing though. According to Your Perfect Wedding Photographer, weddings are become less formal and clients more cost conscious, giving rise to documentary and candid styled photography. However, for most couples choosing a wedding photographer to entrust your big day with can be a daunting prospect. As in life, you may need to “date a few” before making the final decision to “I do”.

When choosing a wedding photographer, you will want to select a person that you feel comfortable with, someone who is great with people and able to give direction without stealing the show, a great wedding photographer has the ability to herd cats, and is able to handle stressful situations with poise.

Here are some things to consider in your final selection of a wedding photographer :

  • First and foremost review the galleries of a number of photographers. Most wedding photographers have a distinctive brand – a particular artistic style and interpretation of the iconic wedding shots. Are there particular styles that you like more than others?
  • Do they offer consultations before the wedding, have a plan for the day, and what processes are in place to review your images after the wedding?
  • Who else is on the photographer’s team e.g. is there a second shooter, videographer, post production retouching team?
  • How long will it take them to return the retouched images to you? Expect a longer lead time than you would for most photoshoots.

For some more great tips read this article.

Architecture - Marlow, Sydney CBD. © Copyright. 2020. Dragon Papillon Photography.  All rights reserved.
Real Estate Photographer

Real estate and architectural photographer is a specialised area of photography, requiring specialist equipment and sound technical expertise.

At the very least, a real estate photographer must have some special equipment – a wide angle lens to be able to photograph in tight spaces, a solid tripod, and access to flashes or other lighting. Real Estate photographers typically composite final images from a series of images photographed under different exposures. This process then requires experienced post production work to pull those original shots into a cohesive single image. Check out this gallery for some beautiful examples of architectural and real estate photography and some tip on how to prepare your property for a real estate photographer.

Like product photography, real estate photography depends more on technical understanding rather than interpersonal skills. They will have a high attention to detail.

Here are some tips for choosing a photographer to photograph one of your most major investments :

  • Review examples of their work. Are the images enticing and invite you to explore the house or enter the room?
  • Do the vertical lines in the images appear straight?
  • Do they have a solid post production workflow and HDR processing software, to composite the images photographed onsite and to make the final image pop.

For some more great tips read this article.

Baby Hands.  © Copyright. 2020. Dragon Papillon Photography.  All rights reserved.
Newborn Photographer

Photographing newborns is a delicate and precious art form, and for the more stylised newborn portraits that are popular today, the photographer will have a collection of interesting props and backdrops available.

Interpersonal skills, patience and flexibility are probably some of the most important traits in a newborn photographer’s arsenal. When choosing a newborn photographer, trust your parental instincts. Do interactions with the photographer before the photoshoot make you feel comfortable, or do you have concerns that are not being addressed?

Here are some of the things you may want to check before choosing your newborn photographer :

  • Review their gallery to see if you like their distinctive style in photographing babies. Here are some inspiring images by a newborn photographer whose work and approach to working with babies, I respect.
  • Confirm that the photographer a has a Working With Children Check. Do they have any other accreditations that confirm they have experience in working with babies or young children?
  • Ask about the safety measures they follow when photographing babies. What else do they do for you and your baby’s comfort.
  • Get a good understanding of their knowledge in posing babies – it is a skill.
  • Babies often get sick at the most inappropriate times, so it is worthwhile to know what are the penalties or options if this happens for your photoshoot.

Finding the photographer that is right for you depends on a whole range of factors. For each genre of photography, there is a different mix of interpersonal skills, access to equipment and work processes required to find the photographer with the right stuff for your particular photoshoot. Your final selection is then influenced by your budget and preference for a particular creative style of photography. In the final article in this series, “Everyone’s a Photographer” we will summarise a checklist to get you started in hiring the right photographer for your requirements.

Read More in the Everyone’s a Photographer Series.