How to choose a professional photographer
A photographer raised his camera to his eye, stepped backwards to take the shot and knocked into someone who fell, banged their head and suffered brain damage.
The example above actually happened. Although being insured for £1 million public liability, it was not enough to cover the claim.
Some photographers rush at the opportunity to photograph a wedding without considering whether they are covered. Insurance is costly. Then there are additional buildings, vehicle and equipment insurance too; private home and car insurance probably won’t cover you for commercial use.
When employing a photographer, you are buying into some of their costs. They pay for ICO and other registration fees, advertising costs, web space, National Insurance and pension contributions, plus endless running expenses. A photoshoot may take a week’s work to process and edit so you are paying for that time too. Then there are the years of experience and training to both take and develop high-quality images. Plus, they need to feed their families.
You are also accessing the fortune invested in at least two sets of professional-grade equipment. Two sets? Imagine the photographer’s camera failing at an event – a friend’s DSLR lost its mirror halfway through a wedding service – or receiving blurry images because the lens was too slow and the camera’s low-light performance was not good enough.
Going through the trauma of getting a photographer’s fees refunded at a small claims court does not bring back a wedding day. Many disappointed couples learn a hard lesson getting what they paid for. Pay peanuts, get monkeys. Digitally fixing another photographer’s failed images is something many professionals, including me, have been asked to do.
A realistic fee is just one indicator of quality. A photographer’s gallery might demonstrate that their photos are good enough, but these galleries showcase only their best shots. They are not a true reflection of an overall standard. Furthermore, hundreds of photographers get caught and their reputations ruined after stealing others’ images from the internet. Beware!
Membership of a trade body may be a measure of quality, but some fantastic photographers shun these establishments.
The photographer can decide if he wants to work for you too. I am lucky, all my clients have been great. I do know photographers who have turned commissions away because the clients’ expectations were unrealistic, or simply because they just could not get on.
The best way of deciding whether to employ a photographer is getting a first-hand experience of them at work. Any photographer worth their salt will take you on a pre-event photoshoot. You will also discover if this is someone you want at your wedding or party and whether their photographic style is to your taste.
Do look at the photographer’s style. Do you like it? Consider whether it will still look good years from now. Modern fashions in editing will become dated. I predict that the current vogue of imitating phone apps in wedding albums will look as trendy as mullet hair-dos and platform shoes in a few years.
Oh, and check they are insured!
Thinking of becoming a professional photographer?
Are you thinking of becoming a professional photographer? It’s tempting
Seek first the honest opinion of your work from someone already doing it. Your friends may tell you how great your photos are, but do they have the knowledge to critique your images properly? They are nice people and won’t want to hurt your feelings, so may say your pictures are great no matter what.
Just as they would write a Shakespeare play if given sufficient typewriters, an infinite number of monkeys with cameras would produce images worthy of Eve Arnold or Ansel Adams. The billions of images taken over the last few years resulted in many great photographs taken by chance, swamping those resulting from ability.
It takes a lot of knowledge to be able to use a camera well. The many years’ progressive learning of the technical and artistic skills is why so many love the art. There are amateur photographers good enough to become professional but don’t want to turn their hobby into work. Amateurs can shoot what and when they want. They can take dozens of frames to get one good shot. Professionals don’t have those luxuries.
Throughout photographic history, businesses employed professionals because knew their trade. Photography has become more accessible, so professional standards are much higher. They need to deliver exactly what their customers want every time. They organise the shoot and guarantee great images. They must get along with everyone at an event, yet also become invisible. Then, they need the skills, time and money for all the organisational acrobatics of running a business.
Being an amateur photographer doesn’t usually risk ruining someone’s wedding or damaging a livelihood if it goes wrong. Although, a retired minister told me that inexperienced wedding photographers were a nightmare. Once, he was in the middle of a ceremony with the couple kneeling before him when a shadow fell across his shoulder. A family member had climbed on the altar to get the shot!
Sadly, there are professionals who give the industry a bad name. Are these charlatans trying to make a quick buck? They would be mistaken; it’s hard work. Or, were they misled into thinking their photography was good enough when it wasn’t? I suspect it’s mostly the latter, people who jumped into the profession without being ready.
Six people in as many weeks told me how disappointed they were with photos they had commissioned from what they discovered to be rogue photographers; people with all of the equipment but lacking the skills. I’ve seen wedding photos with a host of rudimentary mistakes, including a bridal portrait showing a road cone lying on its side in the background. I’ve been shown children’s pictures with blown-out highlights on sweaty faces, pets with crusty eyes and important family members missing from albums. This is sad both for the clients and for the photographers whose reputations are forever tarnished.
Let’s celebrate the amateur enthusiasts who strive to achieve great photographic skills. Three cheers to those who have potential of becoming great photographers, whether they want to turn professional or not. Let’s celebrate everyone starting on that journey, and help them become fantastic.