Recently on one of the lists I belong to there were some questions on hiring an Event Photographer. I offered some suggestions that I thought would be appropriate for a more permanent home here on my blog. Take a moment to read my response and let me know your thoughts or questions.
I am a professional photographer and have been shooting events professionally for over 8 years. I wanted to take a moment to address your questions about finding an event photographer.
I read one reply that someone said they paid $1500 for a 3 day event. I can tell you right away that although she got a heck of a deal, she was not dealing with an experienced professional. At that price the photographer in question is going to have problems replacing their equipment when the time comes and that doesn’t take into consideration their operating expenses.
Event photography is very similar to wedding photography with a little less pressure on the photographer. The reduction of pressure comes from not having to capture shots of Aunt Sally and Uncle Bill, who haven’t spoken for 30 years, actually dancing together. At the same time there is a pressure to get all the shots that will represent the event correctly and positively. The day to day shooting though is similar in the number of shots taken and processed each day. This can total literally thousands of shots over a 2.5 day event. Each shot has to be color corrected and then determined if it is worth final editing and presentation to you, the client. This can take longer than the actual event – sometimes as much as 3 times longer. So for your 2.5 day event, a good professional photographer can spend over a week prepping the images for delivery.
It is true that you can hire a photographer who is not a full time shooter or one who is new to the business that will cost you less, however at the same time that person may cost you more money in the long run if they don’t have the experience to capture the event correctly. If they are of the artistic mindset it is not unusual for them to capture the event in such a way that none of the images are useful to you at all. So if this person only charges you $1500 but few if any of the images are useful what is the true cost? If you are planning to use the images for marketing the cost can be astronomical.
My suggestion is to look at the responses from your RFP and look into the portfolio of each photographer. This can be done very quickly and it will save you huge headaches in the long run. Things you should look for are varied but below is a short list that applies across the board.
• Make sure that any online presence is hosted by the photographer. Sites host by Flickr, SmugMug, Zenfolio, or any other third party will show either a lack of commitment and/or experience. Eliminate these bidders first.
• Look at the style of work and that you like that style!
• Make sure that they have events on their website. If they don’t but they have an overall style you like ask for a sample of event work. Some photogs shoot events but don’t specialize in events. My site for example shows the work I specialize in, architectural and portrait. I do shoot events and I have thousands of images to show my abilities but I don’t advertise them on my site because that is not the main focus of my business.
• Ask for references. Testimonials will be a good quick view but remember: if there is a testimonial on a photogs site they are showing the best of the best. References will be more honest when you contact them directly.
• Ask for an insurance rider. Professionals will already have liability for at least $1million and getting a rider in your name should be an easy task for them. If they don’t have insurance don’t walk, but run away.
• Spend 5-10 minutes on the phone with them (more if you have time) and make sure that they ask the right questions and more importantly that you like them! My father said when I was young that “you don’t go fishing with a captain that you don’t like because you won’t catch any fish.” The same is true for your service providers. If you don’t get along the chances are reduced that they will work with and for you to get you the results you need.
Now you may be asking: why is this guy from Philadelphia writing and telling me all of this? There is no way you are going to hire him. He is just too far away if nothing else. There are many reasons but the main reason is that clients like you are being taken advantage of by inexperienced ‘wannabees’. These inexperienced shooters are trashing the reputation of my industry and I feel it is my job to assist anyone who has questions about hiring a professional photographer.
Always feel free to call me with any questions you may have.