I have had many people tell me that they have no clue where to start looking for a photographer, and have no idea what questions to even ask! As a member of PPA (Professional Photographers of America) I have access to a ton of wonderful resources, and I came across this great article! If you want to read the whole article you can find it here.
1. Are you insured?
If the answer is “yes,” ask as many questions as you like to determine if the relationship is right for you. If the answer is “no,” however, do not pass GO! Simply find another photographer. What happens if you hire a friend of a friend and he trips, injuring himself or breaking his brand new camera? When facing large medical bills, people sue easily! You need to be protected.
2. What’s your background and credentials?
Pretend that you’re on a job interview, but this time you’re the one doing the hiring. Don’t be shy about asking your photographer these questions:
1. How long have you been a professional photographer?
2. Where did you get your photography training?
3. What professional photographic associations do you belong to?
4. Are you a certified professional photographer (CPP)?
5. What photography degrees do you have?
6. Have you won any photographic competitions? If so, which ones and can you show me the winning photographs?
The pros have standards to uphold and membership in professional associations. When you choose someone who’s certified or holds a degree in photography, you’re starting with quality. Pros have unique skills and training in artistry and technology, so they know how to create beautiful images that reflect exactly the image you want to portray.
3. Can you provide references and may I see your portfolio?
A true professional will have no problem offering as many references as you need from previous clients, partners and even fellow photographers. Be sure to call the references and find out their take on the photographer. Here are some questions to ask:
1) What made you decide to hire this photographer?
2) Did the photographer capture the mood of your event in his or her photos?
3) Did the photographer give you photos that met your expectations?
4) How did you find this particular photographer?
Ask to see samples from an entire photography session or a collection of photographs from many different sessions to get a sense of the depth of a photographer’s work. This will show you how creative the photographer is and tell you if he or she is consistently good…or just lucky every now and then.
4. What is your photographic style?
A photographer’s style is reflected in their portfolio and asking them to shoot a radically different style is a recipe for disaster. Look for images that you can see yourself in. Tell the photographer why you’re having images created and the story you want your photographs to tell. Think of three words that describe you and share those with your photographer. You’re counting on their knowledge of art, lighting, posing and more to create images that fit your vision. The more comfortable you are with the person behind the camera, the more comfortable you’ll be in front of it, allowing your photographer to capture more authentic, intimate and emotional images.
5. What does your fee include and what’s the delivery timeline?
You’ll want to understand what you’re getting for your money: how much time, how many images, album types, the format for delivering proofs, what’s included in your package. How much editing can be done? How long after your session will you have to wait to see something? How much time will you have to order after you see the proofs? Will you get images that you can quickly share on social media? Seriously, ask all these questions, because you would not believe how often people assume that they are getting something and end up in an icky situation because the expectations were mismatched.
6. Do you have backup equipment?
While it may be cheaper to hire someone who does this on the side or a family member, you risk not getting any guarantee of the quality of images and risk losing your day or event forever should their equipment fail. Because memory cards do fail. Lenses do break and batteries do, unfortunately die. All at the wrong time! A professional photographer will always show up early with one or two backup cameras, lenses or flashes and additional lighting equipment. Well-connected and experienced PPA photographers will always have contingency plans and backup equipment. Most of the time, things actually do happen in the background that photographers handle without anyone noticing, things like camera swaps, flash changes and extra lights. That’s peace of mind you want to ensure your photographer will bring you.
7. Do you require a written contract?
A contract protects both you and the photographer and it’s a must have for larger events. It should spell out the expectations of you and the photographer so that everyone knows what to expect. How will the photographer ensure your satisfaction, what are their backup plans in the event they’re late or called away by an emergency? What happens if there’s equipment failure or some other unforeseen issue? While it is common practice for smaller photography projects to take place without the signature of a contract, it should be your first big red flag for a larger event like a wedding or bar mitzvah.
Perhaps the most important thing to look for when hiring a photographer is to find one that you both trust professionally and like personally. If you don’t, you risk losing those precious moments forever, won’t have as much fun the day of, will waste money and all that will reflect in your photos.
The more at ease you are with your photographer, the better your pictures will be. So, pay close attention to your rapport with the photographer as you move through this list of questions. A skilled professional will ask you additional questions and offer creative ideas that an amateur would never think of.
Remember, anyone can take a good picture every now and then. But when you’ve only got one chance to capture life’s biggest moments, you better make sure the person behind the camera is a pro.