Portrait-300x300-1 Choosing the right photographer
Ten aspects that are crucial when recruiting a photographer.

Agencies need them. Online shops need them. Website operators need them: photographers. Our checklist helps clients make the right choice – to avoid falling into the hands of a charlatan, hobby photographer or talentless rip-off artist.

Those who do not work with photographers on a regular basis and do not have an established photographer on their supplier list are often faced with the problem of identifying the right professional partner even before the contract is awarded. After all, very few companies can afford the time and costs of ordering a shooting several times from different photographers.

In the worst case, it is a one-off event for which there is photographically only one chance. So what should I as a client pay attention to before placing an order with a photographer? How do I avoid falling into the hands of a charlatan, hobby photographer or talentless rip-off artist? On the one hand, the photos he takes and the way he works. But both can only be seen during or after the shooting. How you can recognize a professional photographer even before the order is placed:

1. The website.
A professional photographer will present his pictures and services on an up-to-date website. This is the business card of his business. Besides samples of his work, you should also find information about his services, qualifications and references. Are there sample images for the area where you are looking for photographers?

2. The services
What services does it offer? Does he own a studio (and not just a converted garage in his parents’ house)? Does he do professional retouching work? Does he work closely together with professional third parties (make-up artists, videographers, printers, fine art printers)? Can he organise coordination with these third party providers (one-stop shop)?

Even if these services are not required in every case (a pure reportage photographer may need a studio in rare cases). You must weigh up the importance of these services for your project. However, they can be important criteria for assessing the professionalism of the photographer.

3. The offer.
Ask any photographer for a project to send you an offer with a detailed description of his or her services. It is important that you already define your requirements in great detail here, so that the photographer can take this into account in his or her offer.

Define the location, if necessary the duration, the people involved. Specify exactly what result you expect from the photographer (image rights, prints, images on DVD/CD, quality, format, quantities, additional services, set-up and travel costs, assistance costs). Expect post-production of the images (retouching work or general EBV work – if so, to what extent?) Is a make-up artist or a food designer required? Who hires these people? Is this part of the offer? A good photographer will be able to answer all essential questions in advance and should also be able to establish contacts to reliable cooperation partners. Consultation and preliminary talks are part of the service and are of course included at no extra cost for a good photographer.

4. The price.
As always, the rule of thumb is also valid for the photographer – you rarely get more than you paid the photographer (You get what you pay for). Nevertheless it is worth taking a close look. Those who offer photographic services at a low price usually do not work full-time as photographers, do not have to finance expensive equipment, studio or staff. This does not have to be a disadvantage – but it gives an indication of the level of work.

The iBusiness Fee Guide or the professional association of freelance photographers and film designers e.V. to the homepage of this company Relation Browser . are usual in the industry:

daily rate press photographer, reportage photographer: from 250€ / day
Daily rate photographer at an editorial shoot for a magazine: from 300-500€ / day
daily rate wedding photographer: from 500 – 1000€ / day
Daily rate advertising photographer: from 700 – 1500 € / day

An hourly wage of a freelance advertising photographer well below 100€ should make you wonder. There are usually hidden costs involved (high additional costs for further prints, limited rights of use whose extension costs a lot, assistance costs, very high surcharges for digital RAW prints etc.) or the risk is high that you have fallen into the hands of an amateur. Therefore check the scope of services very carefully.

The same applies of course to photographers with high hourly rates. Ask what you get for it. If things are unclear, check again on the basis of the offer made and ask for a new, more detailed offer. Certainly the statement “amateur = bad photographer – professional = good photographer” is not always applicable. However, your project risks increase considerably if you work with a low-price photographer.

5. The references.
Convince yourself in advance with and for whom the photographer has already worked. Professional photographers will be happy to provide you with a list of reference customers for whom they have already worked. Those who have well-known names and companies in their portfolio and have been booked by them several times are usually already tested for reliability and quality by these companies. Here you can already see the main focus of the photographer’s work. If you need a food photographer, he should not only present architectural images in his portfolio.

6. The portfolio.
Get your own picture of the photographic qualification of your potential supplier. Are the pictures in his portfolio (gallery) photographically flawless (correctly exposed, sharp, appealing, but not overly retouched, good image composition) and does the photographer’s image style meet your needs? Does his picture style also fit into the picture language of your or your customer company?

7. The confidentiality clauses.
Some photographers often (have to) work under confidentiality clauses. This can lead to the fact that no or only few reference pictures in the portfolio can be released. However, in most cases the photographer then has genre-typical alternative photos at hand – ask for them.

8. Adherence to deadlines.
Make sure that the photographer meticulously keeps his appointments and promises already at preliminary meetings, callbacks and offers. Those who are already sloppy here have great potential for not working on schedule later in the project and thus possibly jeopardizing your project planning.

9. The language.
Do you work with international models and customers? Make sure in advance that the photographer speaks good English, at least in word. Think in advance, e.g. during the preliminary meeting, whether he can appear as your service provider in front of your customers/models in a representative manner (clothing, behaviour). A photographer who does not speak English will find it difficult to give the right instructions to a model who speaks only English. In the best case this will increase the length of the shooting and thus the costs – in the worst case the shooting will go to hell.

10. The explanations.
Talk to the photographer beforehand and have his or her working methods explained to you. Which things does he value? What distinguishes him? Let him explain to you why you should choose him and not the competitor. Depending on the photo project, different qualifications are required from the photographer – a model or portrait shoot requires additional communication skills, for product photos special lighting skills and the appropriate hardware are necessary. A professional will know this and will emphasize it accordingly in conversation.

If you have dealt with these points before placing the final order, you should already have a good impression of the photographer’s quality and standards. Of course, in the end it is always the result that counts, but the previous aspects taken into account in advance can help you to get rid of rotten eggs in time and identify the potentially right service provider for your project at an early stage.

Timo Bierbaum