GETTING THE GREATEST VALUE WHEN HIRING A PHOTOGRAPHER
I've been in the photography business for five years. And my company wouldn't still be here if we weren't doing something right, especially in these challenging economic times. I take pride in our photography but I also take pride in our business and our common sense. Part of that good sense is investing our money wisely whether it's for camera equipment, studio supplies, or hiring a talented web designer. It's a delicate balance of quality and cost.
It's no different for you and your company, I'm sure. So, whether you choose to work with us on your next photo project or someone else, it's important your homework results in the right photographer. Heck, we're not so righteous to believe we are the absolute best photographers, but we're extremely talented, exceptionally professional and easy to work with. When it comes to pricing, we aren't low ball photographers (nor are we the highest priced). In fact, if your budget only calls for the absolute lowest bid, then I'll provide you with a couple names of cheap for you to contact.
Here are five things you can do to hire the right photographer whether it's my company - business-portraits.com - or someone else:
1. Let the internet work for you. All pro photographers have websites, and most are professionally done. Study their websites to see if:
a) their work is of consistently high quality and fits the style or look you're interested in.
b) is the website more than just cool looking. Does it provide plenty of information about the photographer and the type of work and clients he/she has.
c) do a Google search of just the photographer's name. See what pops up. Unless the photographer you're considering is new to the business or doesn't know the internet exists, you should find more from other sources.
d) check to see if the photographer has a Facebook or MySpace page. Certainly, it's not all that important for a photographer to have one or both. But if they do, how professional is it? How does he/she present himself. We've all heard crazy stories about Human Resource departments checking out prospective employees' Facebook/MySpace pages. It should be no different for you.
2. Prepare notes & questions BEFORE emailing or calling the photographer for the first time. The more information you can provide a photographer about your forthcoming photo project, the better off you'll be. Here are some key pieces of information that will help any photographer prepare an estimate for you:
a) Your name, company you represent, your position there, return phone number AND email address.
b) The type of photo shoot you are preparing for: Will it be basic head-and-shoulders portraits on location at your office or maybe an environmental portrait of an executive on a work site? Will it be for marketing, an annual report, brochure, website, print materials, editorial publication, et al?
c) If you can, give him/her an idea of the number of different shots you're looking for. Do you need portraits at your office of just the CEO for an annual report or possibly eight employees at three different job sites?
3. Compare apples to apples. One of the biggest complaints I hear is that photographers competing for a shoot receive differing job details from the same prospective client. This often results in a large spread in estimate prices. Here's a personal example. I was asked to bid on a shoot for a mining company located two hours from Phoenix, Az. A competing photographer was told the job required traveling to the mine and photographing a new tunnel that had been built within the mine pit. I was told the same thing but I also asked a number of questions of the client. How long a drive? Would the client be driving, would I or would we go separately? What exactly are we photographing at the tunnel? The interior which would require us to bring pro lighting equipment, a generator to run the lights, an assistant or two to help with the setup and takedown? How many different angles or shots were needed and thus how many different setups and takedowns of lighting equipment? My competitor's estimate included two assistants, lots of lighting equipment, a generator, his own transportation and on and on. From my questioning, I learned from the client that he needed just a few shots of the tunnel entrance to be shot from outside, one angle and no special equipment required. We would not be shooting inside. My competitor's estimate was four times mine. According to the client, I got the job - not just because my estimate was lower (though it helped) - but because I asked for more details of the shoot, offered some suggestions to the client and didn't require lighting equipment and assistants for this job. Communication made the difference. It was a win-win for both the client and me.
4. Don't expect a price quote over the phone the first time you speak with a photographer. The photographer most likely will have some additional questions beyond what info you initially provide. Remember, the more information you can provide, the more fair and accurate the quote will be. Once the photographer is satisfied with the details of your photo needs, he/she can take some time to properly estimate the fee and expenses. With my photo business, the fees and expenses are all computerized. I punch in all the information specific to that particular job and come up with a cost assessment which is fair to both the client and me. We email clients a formal, written estimate in PDF format - most often the same day the client contacts us unless we're out on assignment. Bottom line: if a photographer tosses out a price over the phone the first time you speak, be cautious. Three things could happen. The photographer later learns more details of the shoot (maybe while on the shoot itself) and demands more money. The photographer doesn't come properly prepared for your photo shoot. Or, his/her skills are inadequate for your needs.
5. If you have time, get two or three estimates. Compare the photographers' work online, how professional they come across from the website and on the telephone. And, of course, compare their pricing. If you're just looking for the lowballer, then by all means, take a chance on him/her. Let's face it, the economy is tough right now. Right now, there are some photographers on the brink. And we were prepared for the downturn. Arizona Business Portraits & Headshots has survived and grown over the years because we strive for long-term relationships and provide a great product on time and on budget.
When you're ready to select a photographer, examine the estimates carefully: the job description, fees, expenses and what you'll actually receive after the shoot. And then go with your gut feeling. It's what we do.
© 2010 Ryan B. Stevenson
Arizona Business Portraits & Headshots