Choosing a Photographer

How do you go about selecting a photographer? This post may seem odd coming from a photographer (something about the fox in the henhouse comes to mind) so I’ll admit some of my views may be biased, if not self-serving – but I hope you’ll find value in at least some of the suggestions I have, and I’ll do my best to be as objective as possible.

Most pro photographers specialize in certain areas – headshots/portraits, weddings, real estate/architecture, etc.. Some cross over and have multiple specialties, others are very specialized. Visiting their website is a good first step to see what they focus on.

Next, it’s important to decide what you want from a photographer – do you want recommendations/advice and if so, in what specific areas? Or, if you already have an idea/concept you want to move forward with, then perhaps you’re looking for someone who can implement your vision, albeit with some recommendations. For example, some senior executives looking for headshots want to look professional, approachable, and already have an idea of the look they’re going for (for men, they’ve already decided they’ll wear a suit/tie, or a suit jacket for women). Others may be less certain of the look they’re going for, or are in the process of changing careers and may be seeking advice. Look at the photographers blog, FAQ, etc. to get a sense of their voice and what they say. Are they talking about things that are concerns of yours? Do they seem to have the “pulse” of the type of photography you’re looking for?

Of course, you’ll also want to see the types of images they shoot to get a sense of their eye, style, approach – do the images resonate with you? Are you drawn to them, and more importantly do you think the audience that will be viewing the photographs you’re asking the photographer to produce will like/be drawn to that style? There are many outstanding photographers out there who’s style may not be a match for what you’re looking for.

Be sure to understand the entire process and what you’re getting for the fees the photographer is charging – how many images will you receive, what are your rights to (i.e., how can you use) those images, what format/file size will they be? How long will the session be, will you be able to see the images as the shoot progresses? How many clothing changes (if any) can you make during the shoot? Is there any retouching done with the photos, and if not, what are the additional costs to have that done?

A few words about fees – some people ask why do the fees charged by different photographers vary so widely? This is a complex question and it’s not always related to the quality or uniqueness of the work. There can be a lot of overhead involved in running a photography business – the equipment is expensive, many photographers have full or part-time staff, studio/office rental/lease, etc. And, photographers often have different business models – hourly/day rates, fixed price, image usage fees, etc..  Be sure you understand what the photographers proposal entails when comparing bids.

Finally, talk with the photographer prior to contracting for any work – you want to feel comfortable and confident in working with him/her (regardless of the type of work being performed, although this is particularly important in photographing individuals and groups) – the camera is very revealing, and your level of comfort/ease in relating and working with the photographer will come through in the images created.