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.
In a world where everyone is a photographer, what are the critical things to check out before making an investment and hiring a photographer?
There are lots of photographers out there. The marketplace is saturated with photographers with a diverse range of skill, experience and competence. Choosing one that is right for you can be confusing.
There are lots of photography genres, each requiring a unique set of skills, equipment, and work approach. Selecting a photographer should not be based on equipment or price alone. In certain situations, the interpersonal skills of the photographer or creative eye are far more important.
Before selecting a photographer, there are four questions you can consider to narrow down your choices.
What is my budget?
What are my expectations and are they realistic?
How important are the images to me?
Does the photographer have all the right stuff (attitude, customer focus and technical equipment) to do my assignment?
Once you have narrowed down your list :
Check out the photographer’s online galleries and see if you like their style, interpretation and quality of work. Does their work match your expectations?
Read their testimonials
Make sure you fully understand the level of service the photographer will provide for the quoted fee ( every photographer will quote differently). For example, if you are expecting your images to be fully retouched, presented on a pure white background and delivered in a file size that can be used for hard copy printing, then you need to check that this level of post production is included in the service fees to avoid unexpected hidden costs.
If you are uncertain about anything, ask questions. Does the photographer try to convince you based on the equipment they own and using vague technical terms, or do they try to convince you by sharing examples of work they have done and explaining their work flow processes in a way that you can understand. A client-focussed photographer will take the time to make sure they understand your needs, ease your anxieties, and will explain things that are confusing to you.
Most importantly, do you feel confident entrusting this person with your images?
I will finish this series with some sage advice that I received in a former career as a Human Resources Executive. A world renowned expert in interviewing and hiring, Dr Paul Green, said to me : “It is not the interviewee’s responsibility to work out what you need to know for them to get the job, it is your responsibility to work out if their combined personal attributes and technical skills are the best fit for the job by asking the right questions.” Before hiring a photographer, ask lots of questions so you can have confidence that you will be able to make the most from your investment.
Insights from behind the lens, is a collection of articles, links and resources to help clients make the most from their photography investment. We will continue to build on this library of resources and add articles periodically.
Read More in the Everyone’s a Photographer Series.
We are all familiar with the proverb, “The eye is the window to the soul”. As a photographer, I am equally drawn to what the hands are communicating. We may have learnt to guard our facial expressions, …
We are all familiar with the proverb, “The eye is the window to the soul”. In portrait and event photography, there is something incredibly compelling about images when the subject is looking down into the lens of the camera and making a connection. As observers of the image we will project our own emotions, thoughts and assumptions into what is being communicated in that moment.
As a photographer, I am equally drawn to what the hands are communicating. Observing the non verbal communications and being attune to them can guide a photographer on how to connect with their subject to build trust and rapport. During events it is often hands that will draw my attention to a potential subject. Often at the beginning of a portrait session, I will observe clients holding a lot of tension in their hands and that they feel quite uncertain about what to do with them. It is as though, when suddenly under observation, we become very conscious of our hands and how awkward they can be. We may have learnt to guard our facial expressions, but very few of us are conscious of how our hands are communicating with the world.
From my experience, even if the hands are not included in the image, getting the subject to relax the tension in their hands by shaking it out, will lead them to a more natural positioning of their hands, the micro muscles in their face will relax, lending to a more natural portrait. It is a simple but effective technique.
Our hands have a language of their own. We are constantly in communication with the world through our hands – exploring, touching, connecting. Sometimes, I find hands to be far more honest communicators about a person’s inner emotional state than their facial expressions or words.
Walking into an unfamiliar room, cramped with strangers and dodgy lighting can be a daunting experience. It takes courage to instantly build rapport and to favourably capture the people and the action. With all my years of photography experience, event photography is not for the feint-hearted, but it is also a great opportunity to capture real people with real emotion in real unguarded moments.
Walking into an unfamiliar room, cramped with strangers and dodgy lighting can be a daunting experience. It takes courage to instantly build rapport and to favourably capture the people and the action. With all my years of photography experience, event photography is not for the feint-hearted, but it is also a great opportunity to capture real people with real emotion in real unguarded moments. Great event photography has an authentic and genuine feel to it – it can capture that split moment in time of human interaction and connection – moments that tell a much greater story about why we tribally gather to celebrate, to share, or commiserate. With great event photography, the image enables you to connect with the emotions, feel the atmosphere and almost hear the sounds.
With the greatest respect to my friends, when asked why I do event photography, I will often jokingly reply that event photography is my social life … my friends don’t throw the kinds of lavish parties like the ones I get to photograph! When I started out in event photography, I had to take a leap of faith in my technical photography skills and relied heavily on my intuition to “know when a moment was about to happen”. As with most things, diverse experience in diverse situations is the best way to learn to think quickly on your feet, to be attentive to your surroundings and to be ever present in the moment to capture the moment.
There are no second chances in event photography, but there are plenty of opportunities.
Event photography can be exhausting work. Shooting continuously for 4 to 6 hours is not only physically demanding, but to capture great energy shots, you also need to be constantly engaging with the crowd. When shooting events, I find myself in a personal space where all my antennae are on high alert – scanning the crowd and sensing out where the next piece of action or connection is going to spark, and getting myself into a position to capture that moment without disrupting the flow of events.
However, many event photographers shortchange their skills by sticking to a safe zone of “looking very uncomfortable, posed, now smile kind of shots”. In turn they deliver a boring gallery of images to their client that are quickly forgotten. Smart phones are more than capable of taking those kind of photos for quick social media consumption. I strongly believe that the challenge for today’s event photographer is not replicate the kind of photos attendees are taking with their smart phones, but to compliment those images with a more intimate, engaging and unique perspective of the event.
These days, everyone with a smart phone is an event photographer – cataloguing a moment in space and in time. Therefore, professional event photographers need to deliver something different, something memorable, something that sets them apart from all the i-phone photos already submitted to social media sites during the course of the event. To capture those moments, in my view, an event photographer needs to :
have immense empathy to readily connect and build rapport with attendees
have a personal energy that is spontaneous and engaging
be willing to give something of themselves in order to get a connection between camera lens and the subject
be ever present in the moment – simultaneously being able to pay attention to the broader vibe of the event as well as quickly focus in on specific interactions
to be ever ready and attentive, but also patient enough to wait for and anticipate the memorable moments