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Considerations When Hiring a Professional Photographer


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The photography world is broken down into two main categories - retail and commercial.

Retail generally involves wedding, family, school and pet portraits, while commercial photography encompasses photography tailored specifically to support the marketing/advertising/investor relations efforts of business concerns.

Most retail photographers are generally not well equipped or experienced with high pressure annual report shoots, architectural photography, product illustration or location photography.
If you are in the market for a commercial photographer, there are a number of elements to consider.

  • Decide what type of commercial photography you will require. Are you looking for architectural photography or trying to illustrate a service? Are you shooting on location or do you need a studio setting? Are you focusing on people or products?

  • Find a photographer. Word of mouth referral, especially in the communications community, is probably one of the best ways. If you need someone in another city or you have very specialized needs, you can Google or Yahoo your search terms and/or check local chapters of the International Association of Business Communicators, American Advertising Federation or other local creative directories.

  • Request For Proposal. Provide a list that is as specific as possible delineating the photo shoot objectives shot by shot. Will all the shots be in the same building or area? Will some of the shots be off site? Are there any time constraints that need to be communicated? How soon will you need the finished images? Does the vendor have the technical knowledge to shoot to specifications provided by the client home office? Does the vendor have the bandwidth to take on your project and fulfill it within your expectations?

  • Post Production. Inquire about editing . . . is it a separate line item on the estimate? Is cropping included . . . web optimization? Will the photographer post the images to his or her website for convenient timely review?

  • A site visit. If possible, have the photographer do a site visit prior to the shoot. You will gain immensely in quality of the images, execution, and potentially more set- ups, by utilizing the walk-through as a dress rehearsal for the real shoot.

  • Usage rights. If there is any standard criteria here it's that there is no standard. Generally, if there is no agreement in advance of the photo shoot, the photography vendor controls and has legal right to the intellectual property value of the images. This is a critical issue to discuss up front - decide in advance what you think your project might require in the way of usage and consider asking for a buyout or unlimited use clause in your agreement. Expect to pay an additional line item for this privilege.

  • Model Releases. Double check that the employees being used in the photographs have release forms on file as part of their employment process with your company. If you are not sure, have them sign another one. This could protect you down the road if a terminated unhappy employee finds an eager attorney that is willing to sue for non-authorized use of their likeness. If you have contractors in your images, make sure you get a signed release form.

  • Digital capture. Most high-end pros will provide a 4000 pixel file that may have an image size somewhere around 10" x 15" @ 300ppi. Will that be sufficient for your output needs?

  • Finally. . . Don't base your decision solely on the estimate. Use phone interviews with the vendors and ask specific questions about how they work. Does the vendor have good people skills? Are they punctual? Do they have enough experience to solve problems on the photo shoot? Do they have prominent tattoos or body piercings anywhere?

    Oh yeah, one more thing. The ultimate question - aside from the vendor's expertise, will this person work well with me, keep on schedule and deliver the images when I need them, keeping me informed via email and phone. If the answer is yes, sign off on the agreement and expect the best! Good luck.

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