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Friday, April 10, 2015

5 RED FLAGS | When Hiring A Photographer

Last year I had to select an out of state photographer to photograph my family. My little brother was graduating from college (GO AFA!) and I knew it would be a very rare opportunity to have my immediate family photographed together. So I set out to find a photographer and purchase a session to gift to my mom. I want to share this experience with you so you can learn from my mistake.

I went against my instincts. I selected a shoot and burn photographer* after viewing their website that had very few images from each of their sessions. We only spoke (via messaging) to set the session date and no advise was given about the shoot itself.  The photographer put us in to a chaotic frenzy when he/she decided to move up the session time merely hours before the shoot. The shoot itself was awkward and uncomfortable and I was left confused the majority of the time.   

Long story short when the gallery was released, I was not pleased. Of course there were a few photographs that I liked but nothing was reflective of the work I saw on-line. As a photographer I could tell that not much time went into the editing of my images. My father even commented on how the effect that the photographer added to the images made him look “old” because it turned his light brown hair white. I was upset that I hadn’t seen the red flags. So let me share with you what those “red flags” are. 

Red flags:

1. You can only find 1-2 images from a session and there is nowhere to find more.

If you take 50 pictures and have no idea what you are doing. At least one of these images is bound to come out decent. If you can only find one or two images from a photographer's session, you may only be seeing that one “lucky” image they landed. Most photographers will post multiple images from a session on their blog or have a featured “session/wedding” on their website. That’s important to view. By viewing multiple images from a session you are then able to view the full picture of what they are capable of and what you will be receiving in the end.

2. The photographer ONLY gives digital images.

As with anything this red flag doesn’t apply in ALL cases but it shouldn’t be overlooked. It is quite possible that a photographer only provides digitals because they lack the skills or means to provide products. Some labs require you to be a professional photographer or a business with business ID to print through them. Its possible that these photographers don’t print images because they can’t. There is a huge craze of clients seeking digitals right now and there are some wonderful photographers who provide them, so just let this be a small warning.

 I am an advocate for products. It has nothing to do with money or work as you might think. In fact it is WAY easier for me to shoot a session and hand over the digitals, I mean like crazy easy. It’s not as time consuming as designing and ordering products. I feel like if would be a disservice to my clients to only offer digitals. I want my clients to know that when they come to Silver Lane Photography not only are they going to receive amazing images but they'll also receive top to the line products. Not only should a photographer be able to provide quality they also know the best way to crop your image to an 8x10 and how to sharpen your image based on size and print medium. Why put all that pressure on yourself? Choose a photographer that knows what they’re doing.

3. A photographer who charges next to nothing for their services is a RED FLAG.

This day in age it is easy to get hung up on pricing. So lets talk about photography pricing from a consumer stand point. It’s safe to say that you get what you pay for. The value that you put on your family's memories is individual to you. In addition to the value that you see in photography are other factors to consider like what you can actually afford.  There are a wide range of photography price points, BUT the red flag is going to be “if it sounds too good to be true then IT IS!” I’m  totally vomiting up cliché after cliché right now but just one more time…YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR. 
Here is a real life example for you. I had a potential client contact me. She was distraught because her photographer had cancelled on her less than 24 hours before her scheduled session. This photographer did not communicate any emergency or hardship. The photographer flaked. So this potential client asked if I’d be willing to schedule them for a last min session. I accommodated her and sent over my pricing. To which point I received a reply that I was out of budget. Long story short I find out that the photographer she had booked charged a total of $75 dollars for the session AND disc of images. 

From where I’m sitting its not hard to see how this $75 photographer could just flake. There is no real investment on either end. 

SO, be careful if someone is charging too little, it could very well be a RED FLAG!

 In addition to the aforementioned reasons I have a little photo industry insight for you: newbies are cheap!  Most photographers just starting out have extremely low price points. They’re learning their craft and they are seeking you as a model to practice on and essentially luring you in with the “incredible” pricing.  So keep that in mind. As I said earlier to each their own.

4. No communication on session prep. 

I view this red flag as a pretty important one. If a photographer isn’t openly sharing with you the do’s and don’t of what you should wear that is a HUGE red flag. Think about it for a minute. If they don’t care about the prep they may as well not care about the session. It is our job as photographers to make sure we communicate what you need to know prior to your session. Things like: what to expect, what to wear, and how the process works are all important things to know. If a photographer is not sharing this information with you please run as fast as you can in the other direction!

5. They have no credentials.

Lets talk about things that are not credentials. 5,000 facebook fans is not a credential. 2,000 twitter followers, or 10,000 Instagram followers does not mean dittily squat. Even on-line reviews can be misleading. I am all for checking out reviews, but lets be honest. Who is to say that every review you just read wasn’t that of a family member or friend? Credentials are things like schools attended, work-shops attended, awards won, publications. If your photographer has not one credential, what is it that makes them a professional photographer? 

Don’t trust just anyone with your precious family memories, with once in a life time moments, and the documentation of your life if they don’t have what it takes. Be alert and aware, and pay attention to the red flags! If you are in search of a professional photographer do what I should have done and do your research. Use sources like (professional photographers of america) NACP (national association of children photographers)and WPPI. Look in local publications and pay attention to whom the photo is credited too. There are plenty of resources. Just because you know someone or are referred a friend of a friend  does not mean that they are the photog for you. 

*shoot and burn photographer = a photographer who does not sell products. Their business model is usually based around a high quantity of clientele. 

Important note: I started my career as a shoot and burn photographer, I also charged very little. I am not knocking anyone in the photography industry AT ALL. We all have a place and we all have to start somewhere. I view photography like a tasty burger. Burgers can be obtained from most any food service but you have 3 main categories: fast food, restaurant, and a fine dining establishment to choose from. It's all in the consumers choice and financial discrepancy as to where they buy their burger from. The point here is don't go to a fast-food establishment and expect a fine dining experience. 

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