Hiring an event photographer can be a long, arduous, and complicated process. First and foremost, most any geographic market you visit is going to have a fairly saturated selection of photographers to choose from – as entry into this occupation is far from either expensive or demanding. With an investment of less than a thousand dollars, most anyone can claim to be an event photographer and it is for this reason that means that there are plenty of moonlighters that you may have to wade through before coming across the portfolio of an actual photographer and not someone that has simply invested in an expensive camera.
This being said, there are certain things to look for when hiring event photographers that can be considered best practice.
While clients rarely request equipment breakdowns from potential hires, it isn’t outside the realm of standard practice for them to do so and, while many photographers will until the end of their days preach until they’re blue in the face that the camera doesn’t matter, and that it’s more about the photographer him/herself, it almost always does (and especially so when applying to event photography).
The reason why its mentioned that equipment plays a role in determining the experience level and quality of any one photographer, it’s because the better a photographer gets and the more experienced he or she is, the more frequently he or she will upgrade his/her equipment. This being said, it’s a bit like being a racecar driver. If one started out racing cars in a ford focus, and somehow subsequently won continuously over the course of the year, they wouldn’t remain in that ford focus the entire time, would they? They’d likely upgrade their car after each and every victory, because they aren’t likely to be going around saying ‘it isn’t the car, it’s the driver.’
Factually, it’s both.
Additionally, the reason why equipment very much matters in terms of finding the right event photographer is because events typically involve shooting in very low light – and no matter the talent or skill of a very seasoned photographer, basic, consumer grade cameras are simply not good options when the lighting is poor. Lighting sensitivity is defined by a measurement called ISO. The less light in the room there is, the higher the ISO one will need to shoot at. As the ISO increases, the image gets noisier and grainer with each increased level, and consumer grade cameras have not only lower ISO levels than professional ones, but simply produce considerably noisier and grainer images as well.
This being said, if you are considering hiring an event photographer, don’t be afraid to ask what sort of camera or what type of equipment he/she will be working with. A good starting point is what’s called a full frame camera and using that as a basic requirement from where to start.
Lighting is another place where the gap between professional photographers and those that have simply purchased equipment for a second source of income tends to widen. Typically, professional photographers will be fluent with not only a speedlight (or attachable flash), but natural lighting as well. Typically, less experienced photographers will rely almost exclusively on natural lighting to achieve their goals (despite said natural lighting being on neither the best nor sufficient side of things).
As far as speedlights go, professional photographers may even tend to go a step further and have theirs mounted on what are called flash brackets – or devices used to take the flash off of the camera and slightly above or to the side. As far as professional photography is concerned, lighting really is the key and king to creating compelling imagery.
Be sure to ask your photographer how he/she plans on delivering the images and, as well, whether or not they will be watermarked. Strangely, watermarks are found to be much more common amongst non-professional photographers that don’t have a strong handle on how else to get business. Unless agreed upon beforehand, receiving your images only to find each and every one has a semi transparent name stamped prominently over-top of them is never a pleasant experience.
As well, does the photographer plan on sending you a zip file with all of the images, or sharing a private album with a link that you can distribute for viewing? Or will the images be delivered on a USB/DVD, as well?
These are all fair questions, and you should feel free to use them in the hiring process.
4. Relevant experience
While you may think a photographer is a photographer and as such simply lump them all into one overarching and all-encompassing category, there are actually many different types that specialize in many different things.
Some of the more common types of photographers operating within a specific niche are food photographers, wedding photographers, portrait photographers, and, of course, event photographers.
Looking for an event photographer but then coming across a portfolio you really like that happens to be of a portraiture photographer doesn’t necessarily translate into the best hiring practices.
If you’re looking for an event photographer in nyc for instance, ensure that that is either that person’s exclusive specialty or he/she has enough of it in his/her portfolio to not be found wholly unprepared for any given situation. While you may think that hiring a photographer that creates stunning work but has none of it in the field of event work is a good idea, it typically isn’t the best hiring practice to follow.
Additionally, the field of event photography is so wide and overarching that there are many different types of sub-specialties contained within it. For instance, there are photographers that focus almost exclusively on live music (a form of event photography) while there is another branch of them that focuses on dance.
Finding one that suits your particular needs (ie you’re holding a corporate conference and need a corporate photographer) is generally always a good idea.
While this may be somewhat of a given, how your photographer communicates with you prior to your event and leading up to getting booked will give you a good glimpse into how he/she conducts himself professionally throughout the entirety of the interaction (from pre-booking, to booking, to delivery).
As photography lies within the creative arts, people tend to sometimes give photographers a little more leeway if their communications or way they conduct themselves tend to be a little less than ideal.
This being said, while photography does lie within the creative arts, it is also very much a business transaction that you’re engaging in and thus the person you’re engaging on the other end of your conversation should conduct him/herself professionally. If the photographer takes days to respond to your emails, it is almost a guarantee that will translate into how long it takes to get your images and how well they may or may not be edited.
Wrapping up, the above points should all be taken into account and act as a very strong starting point in terms of how you should go about hiring an event photographer. Those points, to summarize, however, are what sort of equipment the photographer uses. Is he/she comfortable in both natural as well as strobed lighting. What sort of image delivery will the photographer employ to submit your end images to you. Does the photographer have the relevant experience you’re looking for? And lastly, does he or she conduct themselves in a professional manner.