Everyone’s a Photographer Series (1/5)

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 1

Current Trends in the Market Place

Is there still a place for professional photographers in a world dominated by images?

In 2017 it was estimated that over 1.2 trillion images were taken worldwide with 85% of those images captured on a smartphone. In 2019, about 90% of Australians owned a smart phone and in effect were carrying a camera with them at all times. The image quality gap between smart phones and a DSLR camera is closing due to significant improvement in smart phone camera technology and automated image processing in recent years. Never before have so many people had access to a camera and been able to take photos with such ease and convenience.

Although smartphones may have contributed to a photography boom across the general population in the past decade, the field of professional photographers continues to grow and displays increasing competitiveness amongst the ranks. According to the last Australian census, there are over 13,000 professional photographers in the labour market, and this number excludes the growth in serious hobbyists who may freelance as a side hustle to their full time jobs. The rise of shared economy sites such as Airtasker, Freelancer and Snappr have all broken down the barriers of entry for interested photographers to find customers and to be paid for photography work.

We all live in a digital and visual world. There is a healthy appetite for images. Although almost everyone has a camera at their fingertips, it does not mean that everyone is a photographer. It simply means they own a smartphone with some really cool features to take pictures. Some of us still own expensive dedicated cameras to take photos “the old-fashioned way”. Paying a hefty price for a dedicated camera, will not magically improve your photography. The adage “it is not the size of the equipment but how you use it” aptly applies, and crudely differentiates a photographer from a person that takes photos.

Infographic: Smartphones Cause Photography Boom | Statista

There are some amazing and talented photographers that are not professionals. These individuals pursue their passion for creative expression or from a desire to master technical aspects in the field of photography. A serious hobbyist may produce quality of work equal to or even better than a professional photographer, but are more likely to be driven by self gratification rather than having a client-focussed outcome, and are less likely to have the processes, assurances and insurances in place to deliver against a contractual agreement. Serious hobbyists may be willing to do a photoshoot for free or for a very low fee because the experience or the nature of the work is appealing. They are not relying on the work to manage a business and earn a living, so it is natural that their approach and considerations while on the job are likely to differ from a professional photographer.

Although there are many benefits to seeking out serious hobbyist to do a photography assignment for you, there are also hidden risks. These risks can be mitigated if you choose to hire a professional photographer instead.

Read More in the Everyone’s a Photographer Series.

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.