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How to Choose a Commercial Photographer

Whatever the size of your business, at some point you will probably need to hire a professional commercial photographer; whether you want to document an event, create social media promotions, or create product photography for your website. It is tempting today, with modern cameras being so good and accessible, for many businesses to simply point and shoot and use their own images, but a professional is worth the money and people really can tell the difference. It is not an investment you should skimp on. However, there are a lot of photographers out there with different pricing mechanisms and working practices. Not every photographer suits every business and there is plenty of work for everyone, but what should you be looking for?

The most obvious thing is quality. We live in a visual world and the quality of your images is THE most important thing. Photographers will have their own styles and their portfolio is incredibly important, but a lot of photographers will have private portfolios of images that they may not show publicly, or maybe don’t fit directly with the type of images they generally take for a living; so make sure you ask or check out their profiles on social media. Remember if they have not photographed shoes before that doesn’t mean they can’t, so if you like the general style and cut of the portfolios jib, it is always worth starting a conversation.

There are other considerations though that should influence who you hire, too many for a single post, but here is a starter for six.

      1. Don’t make price your only consideration.
      It is always tempting to simply get some quotes and go with the cheapest photographer, but that is likely to cost you in other ways later on down the line. All photographers have overheads, expensive equipment costs and will include some post-processing in their price. If a photographer is targeting the high-volume, low-margin market, think about whether or not this actually matches your needs. If someone provides you with a quote straight off the rack, that will be the service and quality you are likely to end up with – which might be fine, or it might not. Focus instead on setting an affordable budget and go with a photographer you can afford that matches your quality expectations.

      2. Customer service matters.
      A photographer can’t just let the camera do the talking, even if some of us would prefer it. If you email a photographer for a quote they should call you as soon as they can and ask any questions they may have regarding the commission over the phone. Photographers don’t always get the chance to speak to someone and some customers really do hate the phone and prefer emails, but this is the best way of getting a full understanding of the project, what is required, what equipment will be needed, and your full expectations. Customer service matters. Too many photographers quote without asking all the necessary questions and they either end up overcharging or undercharging or haggling over price, which is work for everyone. Make sure that they have a system in place that is GDPR compliant if applicable and whilst not essential, an online customer portal with all your info accessible online makes life nice and easy, especially if your organisation is a large one.

      3. Develop long term partnerships
      All businesses are looking for sustainable growth which in a service industry means customers have to keep coming back. Like any relationship the more time you spend together the more attuned to each other you become, and shoots and assignments get easier, quicker, offer more opportunity for open collaborative working, and provide additional security that everyone is going to be happy when the final images are produced. Build a partnership that is most useful to you. If you want to develop a partnership and you expect the shoots to vary in subject and outlook, try to find a photographer who is more generalist than specialist; someone who is at home shooting events, taking headshots, or product photography. If, however you sell classic cars from your garage and nothing else, you probably want a specialist car photographer.

      4. Availabilty reassurance
      Photographers have to make a living and sometimes they are simply not available or booked elsewhere, (we even occasionally like to take a holiday). But your usual photographer should be able to help you by recommending a replacement if they cannot help you when needed. You shouldn’t have to find spend ages finding a replacement and by using a referral rather than shopping around you will hire someone who has already impressed someone with similar standards and understands your requirements.

      5. Passion
      I genuinely think that passion is the extra ingredient that turns a passable photo into one that grabs your attention and pulls you in. If the photographer wakes up that morning, rolling their eyes and dreading that they have to attend your latest conference on window blind manufacturing processes, the likelihood is your images will be ok, but they won’t be great, no matter how talented a photographer they may be. Of course, they need talent AND passion, one without the other is just ineffectual. In the early days I took any job I could get whether I enjoyed it or not because I needed the money, now I only take a job if I think it is something that I can get passionate about. I can see it in my work if I am not committed and enjoying myself, and I never want to give less than 100% for my customers.

      6. Check it’s all Legal
      You should always check that your photographer is properly insured, is an equal opportunities employer and provides you with a contract to sign before the shoot takes place. That way everyone is clear on what the expectations are. For some larger businesses with an 'Approved Supplier' process your procurement team will take care of this I’m sure, but with smaller companies, I have rarely been asked to provide these documents, so I offer them up as a given. No matter how talented your photographer may be, make sure they and you are covered.
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