Hiring the Best Event Photographer
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Published by TOP4 Team
Professional photography is an unregulated industry in Australia. As it's very easy to enter the profession, you can find any kind of photographers on the market, which makes the selection process a little bit harder. Keep in mind that you need to trust your photographer to have peace of mind, be able to relax and enjoy the event in the knowledge that your pictures will suit your needs and your personality.
Why do you have to choose a professional photographer?
If you’re on a budget, you may be tempted to ask a family member or a friend instead of a professional photographer to take pictures of the event. While it may be a good way to save money, it can also be very disappointing to have amateur photos of your event, especially if it's your wedding or a unique event.
Professional photographers have the technical skills, attention to detail and experience to deliver photos in all conditions (for example, in case of bad weather). They can capture the key moments, relax people and get great pictures of them. They also have the latest equipment to face all circumstances and protect your files, to print quality pictures that will stand the test of time, and to deliver albums made with the finest materials.
How can you choose the right professional photographer for your event?
1. Evaluate your needs.
You have to know what's important to you. Answer the following questions to have a more accurate idea of what you want.
- Do you want a particular style for your pictures?
- Which products do you want: handmade album, prints, etc?
- What's your budget?
- When do you need the pictures to be taken? For how long?
2. Create a shortlist on portfolio analysis.
Each photographer has his own distinct style and personality. Start by browsing as many online portfolios as possible to create a list of photographers whose work resonates with your personal style and tastes.
Don’t let your perception of the images be influenced by the sales pitch of photographers or the interface of their website. Keep in mind that you're searching for a photographer, not a marketer or a website designer.
Don’t look only at the portfolio, which is a selection of the favourite pictures, but ask to look at a full and complete event set. You'll have a better idea of the kind of pictures you can get for each key moment of the event.
Finally, be careful with studio portfolios. Photography studios employ several professional photographers and hire freelancers. That means that you have to know who exactly took the pictures that are the most appealing to you.
3. Check the experience and qualifications.
You have to figure out if the photographer is a full-time professional or a freelancer who tries to make extra income on weekends. Has the photographer formal academic qualifications or is he a “self-made” professional? How many years has he been in the business? A qualified photographer will have more expertise about posing, use of reflectors, natural light, studio light, highlighting and blurring, and choice of lens.
You should also check if the photographer has a professional accreditation from a recognised industry body, such as the Australian Institute of Professional Photographers (AIPP) or the Wedding and Portrait Photographers Institute (WPPI). Their members are supposed to respect a code of ethics and standards.
4. Make an appointment.
You can also ask to visit their studio and have a look at the quality of their products. This will give you an idea of their reliability. Take note how long it takes them to get back to you, how they listen to what you like and how they respond to your enquiries. Do they look and sound professional? Is their personality compatible with yours? It’s crucial that you have a great chemistry with your photographer and that you trust him enough to create something special for you. Furthermore, he'll be involved in every part of your event, which means you'll have to spend a lot of time with him.
Some specific questions should be covered during this meeting to make sure that the quote will be the most accurate as possible and that you'll get the service you want.
5. Do they carry backup equipment?
Cameras and lighting equipment can fail. You have to know that if something wrong happens, they have the means and expertise to handle it. Professional photographers should always carry a backup camera, flash, multiple lenses and lighting units on their jobs. They should also have your images duplicated, stored and backed up in several places and perhaps a copy off site. Be prepared to pay more for good backup plans.
6. Do they have insurances?
Liability insurance is important to cover the risk of liability for causing any physical injury.
7. Do they have an assistant?
A photographer’s assistant may be a wise expense to help the photographer focus on creative issues and not technical issues and increase his productivity. You also have to know if the assistant may take over the coverage of the event after a while.
8. What happens if he gets sick or has a family emergency?
If your event can't be rescheduled, your photographer should do everything in his power to find someone to replace him. It can be an assistant or a fellow photographer in his network. Make sure he has a similar style and price point. Sometimes, the photographer will offer a discount and pay the difference if the alternate photographer has a higher rate.
9. In what form will they deliver the work?
Will you receive the originals, such as negatives or digital files? Will you get the files on a CD or DVD? How about the resolution? The photographer may charge more to deliver high-resolution images so that you have to come to them for enlargements. Also, ask in what format the images will be saved. RAW files are of premium quality, but the photographers may request a higher rate because working with these files involves a lot of storage and computer processing time.
Some wedding photographers offer album packages with options to receive or buy the negatives or digital files. They often have access to unique and personalised products and will handle all aspects of the retouching, design and product ordering process for you. If you choose such packages, ask if you can choose the photos yourself and how long it takes to get the album back from them.
If you're receiving wall portraits, albums or extra pictures, make sure it has been included in the pricing and you know when it should be delivered.
10. Will they edit the images?
Most photographers provide at least the cropping of some images and corrections to exposure and colour balance. Some of them can also make more important corrections, but you should expect to pay more for this additional service.
11. Who has the “right” to use these photos? What kind of use can you do?
This question is especially relevant to commercial photography. You can agree upon “non-exclusive unlimited use” to allow you complete freedom to use the photos in any way you want and give at the same time the photographer the ability to display the images on his website.
12. Are they open to suggestions?
If you want to make sure your photographer will do a great job, make a short list of the poses you want and discuss it with him.
13. How many photographs will be taken and can you expect to receive?
The answer to this question will be related to the extra fee of the photographer.
14. How long will they cover the event?
The duration of the event will affect the price of the photographer.
15. What happens if you're not happy?
Disputes may arise if the photo coverage seems to lack the variety or even the standard of the portfolio. Make sure you have detailed in the contract the style you want, as well as the key moments and people. This will protect you in case of dispute.
16. Find references.
Call them and find out if they were happy with the photographer’s work. Don’t just take the customers they suggest, dig a little deeper.
17. Be clear about the payment.
What are the rates and how do they want to be paid? How much deposit is needed? When is the balance due? Is there a cancellation fee?
18. Compare quotes.
Narrow your shortlist to the photographers whose answers to the above questions are satisfactory enough for you. Now, you're in a good position to compare rates. Take a look at what’s included in the price and make sure you're clear on all charges and what you'll get for your money.
19. Get a written contract.
Know what's included in your package, as well as the terms and conditions. Don't sign until negotiations are completed and you're happy with everything.
How much and how can you cut costs?
The fee for average event photographers ranges between $50 and $200 per hour. They may quote a fixed price depending on the number of prints required.
Freelancers are less expensive than experienced and qualified photographers, but they're cheap for a reason. The quality of their work will probably be lower. Furthermore, there can be hidden costs for extra pages in the album, extra time at the event, extra editing time, etc. These costs should be clearly outlined up front. One more way to save money is by cutting extras. There may be extras included in the original package that you think are not relevant to your needs and expectations.