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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Photographer Search pt.2

Now you know where to look... but other then price and style what should you be looking FOR in a photographer... Here is my list of things to look for or ask before meeting with the top candidates.

Most of these questions can be answered by viewing someones website. If you don't see the answer, or it's not clear, or up to your standards either move on to the next, or if it's not a deal breaker for you then ask for clarification or explanation on the phone prior to meeting. If your mind is at ease, and you like the style and price THEN put them on the short list of photographers to meet with! Remember, you want that list to be around 3. 

1. Stability. 
  •  Look how long they have been doing weddings?
  • How long they have been in business?
  • Do they work Full Time as a photographer? 
  • Do they have a studio location?
2. Price and Service.
  • Are they in your budget?
  • Does the portfolio fit your style? Can you imagine those images hanging on your walls?
  •  What is included in the package?
This is where I am going to put in my 2 cents... many people will want the photographer to hand over a disk of images, maybe even unedited images because they have Photoshop experience. Don't fall into the trap of discounting a photographer because they wont offer you that. First, understand digital files (unwatermarked) are basically like negatives as far as copyright laws stand. A photographer makes money based on sales, its retail as much as it is a service industry. So first, if they hand you a disk they know they wont see you again. But more importantly, photographers have a certain pride in their work as artists... handing over a disk, especially an unedited disk would be akin to a painter drawing a paint by numbers - without giving you the number code and dumping paints in your lap. It's not a finished product, and they wont give you a price break for saving them the work.

Is this true of everyone, no. I in fact sell disks of my images. However, even the "unedited" images have been touched in some way. I don't give RAW images, ever. Every image of mine is "processed" through Photoshop, in what I call my "editing" process. That doesn't mean that I am whitening teeth, or fixing out of place hairs... it means I am choosing the "best of images" tossing the accidentals, and ones I knew were bad as soon as I took them... and doing what I do to provide you with the best images I can. I offer all my clients the right to purchase a disk with a photo release so you can print your own images, or use in shops and online if it is product or commercial images. I choose to do this not because I don't want to see you again, but in truth I don't like shipping prints nor do I have the time to hand deliver them anymore. Quiet frankly I find constantly pulling out images 3 months, or a year later to print 1 or 2 images a huge pain and super time consuming... so for me, it simply makes sense to offer a disk. In addition, I offer clients what most would classify as "editing" as a retouching service. This allows me to fix the teeth, hair, and do creative edits if you want me to spend extra time on that... at your request.  I can charge you per image, or for everything, but I charge extra for that work.

Because every photographer is different in this way, it is VERY important to clarify what they mean, and include when they say "editing". Just as it is when they say they give you a "disk" of images... does that mean you get a release to print and share also, are they watermarked... etc. I will cover more of this in the contract details.. dont miss that!

3. Registered business
  • Are they registered as a business with the state? You can ask to see a business license, ask for the number, or go to your states official small business website and typically search there for the name. 
  • Are they registered with PPA, WPPA, or other photography groups? This just goes towards how serious they are... are they respected by peers, well known in the community? Don't discount someone because they are not members, I know many great photographers who are not. But you may ask them why they are not.
  • Do they have insurance? Not just on their gear, but what if they damage something at the location? When I was doing time as an assistant the photographer I was with took a large backdrop up an escalator for a commercial gig... and it punched a hole in the ceiling. oops. 
4. Equipment / Assistance

  • What kind of  equipment do they own? ( I suggest looking for professional grade slr equipment multiple flashes, lenses... this would be someone serious about guaranteeing quality for your day)
  • Do they have back up gear, what is that?
  • Do they have an assistant, or a second shooter? ( the difference being an assistant, helps.. carries things, holds reflectors etc. A second shooter does additional photography when they are not helping the photographer and doubles your chances or gives two perspectives of events like the bouquet toss... one photographer could capture your face - the other the bridesmaids)
  • Is the second shooter always the same? Many photographers don't have an official "go to second" but I think if you are going to have them shoot - you should be able to see THEIR work as well as the main photographer! (interview both if possible!)
5.  Turn around time.
  • When do you get to see your proofs? 
  • Are they printed or digital proofs
  • If digital, do you have a private gallery online that you can share with friends and family?
  • Are they posted to Facebook or a blog for public viewing? (personally I am not a fan of that... for privacy reasons)
  • How long before you see the finished product?

This should give you solid information to make a short list of photographers. Keep in mind, while some of it should be very openly displayed on the website, if it's not.... ask! Don't call a studio or office and expect to be able to ask them all of this just on a random call, however. Photographers don't make money sitting around answering phones! Be respectful of their time, tell them your a bride or groom looking for additional information and you would like to ask them a slew of questions prior to possibly meeting, ask if they will schedule a phone meeting with you, or if they have 15-20 minutes to answer your questions now.  That respect will go a long way! Also, they may have an assistant or office manager answering phones... don't feel like you have to talk to the photographer only... its a good chance to get an inside look at the dynamics of the team. If they have time and the answers you need you might get more information from them!

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