© Heidi I Koehler
For people looking to get a photographer at a reasonable price I will list some things you should ask about to determine weather you are getting a good deal from that “person you know who takes good pictures.’ A quick look around shows that there are a lot of people with professional looking equipment willing to take on photography assignments.
The first thing you SHOULD look for are actual examples of a photographer’s work- this has nothing to do with what equipment he or she shoots with. It should be very easy these days to find a showcase of photography work online…you can determine a lot about a photographer when you see what he or she photographs, how the subject is photographed, and weather or not there are additional treatments to images available.
Online places to check are direct keyword searches in Google for your location. Adding in search terms for large website like Facebook or Deviant Art are also helpful. Facebook (currently) allows limitless photo uploads although you may have to become a member to view some pages. Deviant Art allows limitless image uploads as well with no restrictions on size and very little restrictions on content.
The more you see of a person’s photography and related content the more you can determine if it suits your needs. You can always ask the photographer about their camera bodies, lenses, tripods etc. (If you discover the photographer does not own a tripod it’s time to find a different photographer.)
On the other hand, the less you find may indicate that a lot of a photographer’s energies are devoted to a particular website where additional photographic services influence the price you pay. For instance, the convenience of choosing images from a password protected web gallery and online payment options are an additional overhead for the photographer…and you may not even need such services.
So, what are the basics of photographic services and what escalates the prices?
Owning a camera and a having a willingness to do the job are GIVENS: the person taking your photos should be prepared with camera, spare batteries or an extra camera and a tripod to be called a photographer. This person should also be able to tell you how large your photos can be printed out at- this is determined by the resolution of the camera, which should be between 8 and 11 mega pixels for 8x10 (inch) prints. I wouldn’t go with a photographer using less than 8 because to me it indicates an older camera, which is more susceptible to breakdown. It also indicates an unwillingness to invest in equipment. Resolutions greater than 11 tend to be overkill unless you want to use your photos on a huge banner some day.
And of course, a commitment to the nature of the assignment, which should be discussed prior to the actual job. This is particularly important for interior shots where additional equipment in the way of lights and flash set-ups may be required. Part of your price may in the form of rented equipment.
How will the images be provided?
I know of one or two people who simply hand over the camera’s memory card and consider the job finished. I would never recommend hiring such a person for reasons to numerous to mention.
Images should at the very least be provided on portable media (like a usb drive) but better still, ‘burned’ onto permanent media like cd/dvd discs.
You may also be able to obtain your images from an online gallery; this is very often the case where photographers use online payment options.
The more elaborate, sophisticated or convenient your options get the more you will be paying.
What are the editing options for your images?
Assuming your photographer offers editing services (and he or she should) the basics would be adjustments made for colour and contrast.
Further edits can involve enhancements that go much further: digital makeovers towards flattering the subject by removing facial blemishes all the way to turning that babies frown upside-down!
I personally will edit out distracting elements in a background- I also format an image for standard dimensions like 8x10 (inches). Some photographers don’t bother with this or charge additionally because it is extra work.
What else should I know about?
The most important thing you should know about beyond the technical aspects is who owns your pictures. Generally the photographer owns the copyright to your photos unless you specifically have a contract that gives the copyright to you.
A lot of the really expensive services will have contracts specifically informing you about this if you read the fine print. This is very often because part of their services includes providing you with prints. Wedding photography is known for this. You need to look at the contract carefully because it may legally prevent you from using your photos in certain ways; commercial use is almost always prohibited. (Example of commercial use is uploading images you don’t own to a stock agency for profit or giving images to an advertiser to use in selling something- regardless of whether or not you were compensated.)
You are king but the photographer is not your servant.
It is really important to remember that you are hiring a person to capture moments that you likely will be remembering for decades to come. You need to have respect for the commitment your photographer will give you because the images he or she provides you with will be an honest reflection of the feelings you had on that big day.
If you have a cordial and fun relationship with the photographer you will get better photos- it’s that simple. 2 years down the road your computer may suffer an irreparable crash taking all your photos with it- if you had a really good photographer he or she may well be able to provide you with the images you originally contracted for only the time it costs to burn a disc.
Your photographer most likely is trying to make a living at doing this kind of work amongst a lot of competition; he or she has a substantial investment in camera bodies, lenses, flashes, lights, tripods, computers, scanners, photo editing software, online presence etc.
If children or pets are to be part of the shoot you need to extra aware of what it means in costs if equipment becomes damaged because someone wasn’t paying attention.
He or she goes to a lot of effort to plan your shoot and set up the actual shots- don’t be surprised if there are stipulations that prohibit other people in a group from taking photos of the same set up- particularly true for weddings and large groups.