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.

Everyone’s a Photographer Series (5/5)

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 5

Summary – Making the Choice

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.

  1. What is my budget?
  2. What are my expectations and are they realistic?
  3. How important are the images to me?
  4. 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.

What does it take to be an event photographer?

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. 

Recruitment International Awards 2017
© Copyright. Dragon Papillon Photography. 2017.  From Recruitment International Awards 2017

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
  • to smile and laugh often