Imagine this scenario. You’ve spent months or even a year planning your once-in-a-lifetime event. You’ve put countless hours into making all the arrangements and you’re shelling out thousands of hard-earned dollars.
The event goes well, but a few weeks later, you get your professional photos. You’re devastated. They look horrible and they don’t capture any of the picturesque moments you remember.
Even if you can get your money back, you can’t go back in time and get the pictures you wanted. The event has passed and you’ll always wish you had those photos you’d dreamed about.
We’re not trying to make you panic. We’re just trying to explain how crucial it is to choose your event photographer with care. These tips can help.
How to Compile Your List
If you want to be thorough in your search, you should break the task into two parts. First, you need to compile a big list of all your options. Second, you need to start narrowing that list by figuring out which photographers are the best.
To get started, here’s how you can build a great list of photographers.
1. Start with Recommendations
The best way to start making a list of the best event photographers is to ask people who have been there.
Talk to friends and family members who have planned great events in the past. Ask them which photographers they used. You can also ask for the other photographers they were considering.
Social media is a fast and easy way to do this. You might be amazed at how helpful the Twitterverse can be.
Ask you gather recommendations. You’ll want to make sure you discuss prices with the photographer themselves, but at least this will give you a ballpark.
2. Talk to Your Event Venue
This is a resource few people turn to, but it’s a great one to use. When you book the venue for your event, ask them if they have any photographer recommendations.
This is helpful for a few reasons. First, someone who manages an event venue has about as much experience with photographers as possible. They’ve seen who has shown up late or on time, who has kept the event hosts happen and who hasn’t.
On top of that, they know which photographers have the most experience shooting at their venue. When a photographer is familiar with a venue, they know all the best views, angles, and lighting adjustments.
3. Check Out Photography Blogs
Photography blogs can be fascinating to read, especially if you appreciate great art. In most cases, the photographers behind those blogs are available for you to hire for events.
Start looking for your favorite photography blogs, especially those in your area. Make a special note of the photographers behind the photos you like best.
Remember that not all photography blogs feature work by a sole photographer. Some feature a wide variety of photographers. These can still be helpful, though. Most will list the photographer’s name in small print under each photo.
4. Use Directories to Make Your List
Perhaps the fastest way to create a comprehensive list is by hitting up some directories.
You can start with something as simple as a Google search. Be sure to use more targeted directories too, though. For instance, there are countless wedding planning websites and many of them have listings for great photographers in each state.
Narrow Your Selection
Now that you have a long list of photographers in your area, it’s time to start narrowing it down and identifying the best among them.
5. Narrow Your Selection by Specialties
As with many crafts and careers, most photographers have specialties. Some are best at shooting events, others are better at portraits, others specialize in newborn photography.
Most photographers advertise based on their specialties. Head to each of your prospects’ websites to see what they emphasize.
Don’t feel like you need to do this all in one task. All the other steps on this list focus on learning more about each photographer. As you do, you’ll be able to pinpoint their specialties and see which are well-suited to your event.
6. Look Over Their Online Portfolios
A serious professional photographer will have a website that features all their best work. They might have the photos organized by type, so pay close attention to the photos from events.
As you peruse the examples, see if the photos match your artistic vision. Everyone has different tastes, and you want to make sure your photographer has the same idea of what a great photo looks like as you do.
7. Pay Attention to Online Reviews
Online reviews are a crucial way to find out which photographers are great and which aren’t. You can find reviews on Google, Bing, Yelp, and a variety of more specialized sites. Make sure you check out a variety of sites for a more accurate picture.
It’s also important to look beyond the star rating. Read through plenty of reviews, both positive and negative. That’s the only way to get the full picture.
For instance, a photographer may have three or four one-star reviews. While that takes down their average, you mind find that those reviewers’ criticisms were only about the photographer’s studio. If you’re hiring them to shoot an event, though, their studio doesn’t matter.
8. Set a Specific Budget
This is a step you need to take before you go too far into the process. Have a specific budget in mind for how much you can spend on photography. If you wait too long, you’ll fall in love with a photographer you can’t afford.
Think about what you’ll need, then budget to include it as well. How long will you need the photographer for on that day? Will they be shooting at multiple locations? About how many prints would you like to have?
This will make it easier for you to compare apples to apples as you interview different photographers.
9. Set Up Meetings or Interviews
At this point, you want to use the tips above to narrow down your list to your top three or four photographers. It’s a good idea to have some “alternates” in case none of your top choices are available on your event date, but focus on your top picks.
Now is the time to make contact with those photographers. It’s a good idea to set up a face-to-face meeting with each of them if possible, but a phone interview can suffice.
Before you start making calls, make a list of the questions you want to ask them. Perhaps you’re concerned about something you saw in their reviews. Maybe you want to know more about how much experience they have with event photography.
During your conversation, pay attention to how well you and the photographer communicate. Does it seem like you’re on the same page, or does it seem hard for you to get on common ground? This will affect how well you can communicate what you want, and as a result, the finished product you’ll get.
This is also the time when you’ll want to talk about availability. You probably have your venue booked already, so that’s an off-the-bat deal-breaker.
10. Talk About the Finished Product
Before you sign on with a specific photographer, talk about what you expect to get from them in the end.
Most photographers offer packages so that their event photography includes a certain number of prints or photo books. This should be an important part of your budget discussion too. You don’t want to get to the end of your event and find out that you have to pay extra for prints that you thought were included.
It’s also important to talk about the timeline as well. Find out how long after the event you can expect to see proofs of your photos. Set specific expectations and get this in writing.
11. Ask About Intellectual Property Rights
In most creative fields, the person who paid for the services is the one who owns the intellectual rights to the finished products. That’s not the case in photography. With photography, you need the photographer’s permission to get your own prints in the future.
As you’re interviewing photographers, this is a vital discussion to have. Do you have to go through the photographer every time you want new prints in the future? Are the digital files and the rights to use them included in your cost? Or will the photographer sell them to you for an extra fee?
Finding the Perfect Event Photographer
Booking an event photographer might just be one step in planning a great event, but it has long-lasting effects. The photographer you choose will impact the memorabilia of your big day for decades to come. Don’t take the choice lightly.
The tips above can help you wade through your options and identify the perfect photographer for your special event. For more tips about planning a great event everyone will remember, check out our event planning blog.