Tips for hiring a PROFESSIONAL photographer

I recently went to a local business to have my son’s hair cut. It is a classy, high end, men’s barber-shop. (Not your typical “chop-shop” chainstore salon.)   While sitting in the lobby I looked at their brochure. I was less than impressed with their photos. Under exposed, bad composition, etc. I knew the owner from a local networking group so I approached him about the photos. What shocked me is he told me he had hired a professional photographer….or he THOUGHT he had! It’s so frustrating that there is not a standard that defines a professional photographer! How was he to know…anyone can say they are a pro. I feel bad that he invested money in his advertising photos and was given photos that were far from professional.

The ASMP has a list of 10 things to look for in a pro photographer ” Ten reasons why to hire a pro “.

Here’s a simple list of tips:

1.   Check out their portfolio! Don’t hire someone just because a friend or neighbor says they are great.  Make sure their work is consistent in quality and that their style fits what you need.  Anyone can get a lucky shot if they shoot enough. You don’t want to rely on luck when you are investing in photos.  A professional has consistent quality and can handle many different lighting and location situations.  Look for diversity in lighting, indoors, outdoors, natural light, flash, points of view, etc.   Also make sure they specialize in what you need.  A portrait photographer may not have the skills or background to produce advertising photos, etc.

2.    Does your “photographer” have a business license and INSURANCE? Having liability insurance protects you as a client. Bad things happen and having insurance is an indication that your photographer is prepared for all types of situations. Very few hobbyists have liability insurance. Most professionals carry a minimum of 1 million dollars in liability insurance. Having a biz license and insurance also can be an indicator that your photographer is serious about his business and will most likely be around for awhile.

3.    Where is your photographer’s studio located?  Is it in his or her home or garage? Many very talented photographers do work out of their homes, but having a separate location can indicate a level of seriousness.  A photographer with a commercial location for a studio is not doing photography as a hobby or side job.

4.   Don’t be impressed by photography organization memberships. PPA , WPPI and several other organizations will let anyone who pays their fees be a member! Although these organizations are great resources, they are not an indicator that your photographer is truly a professional.

ASMP (American Society of Media Photographers) and NPS (Nikon Pro Services) both have standards to be professional member and include a qualifying process to separate pros from non-pros so you can take their memberships more seriously.

5.   REFERRALS! Don’t be embarrassed to ask for referrals! Ask your photographer for referrals for the type of photography you desire.  If you are hiring him or her for a wedding ask for WEDDING client referrals.  If its for commercial/advertising photography ask for COMMERCIAL/ADVERTISING referrals….and CALL them!  Talk to the referrals. Ask about their experience. Were  their photos what they expected? Did they receive them in a timely manner? Was the photographer easy to work with?       Most people are apprehensive about asking for referrals but it is one of the best things you can do in choosing a photographer, so DO IT!  You are investing money in your photos and you deserve to get what you are paying for.