Book Your Event Venue Before Picking a Photographer
Whether planning a wedding, graduation, quinceañera, retirement party, or any other event, it’s important to secure your venue before hiring a photographer for several reasons. First, the type of photographer you need to hire could vary based on the location. For example, if you want an outdoor venue, you want a photographer familiar with lighting outdoors. Second, a vendor might only have a certain radius they’re willing to travel for work. To save time and effort, don’t start your search until you have enough context to ask up front if the photographer can even travel to your area. Securing your venue first also allows you to confirm that the date you’re asking your photographer about is actually when the event will take place. Given that it’s not uncommon to shift your preferred date for an event a weekend or two up or back based on venue availability, it’s important to book the venue before vendors.
Start Your Search Early
In a similar vein to the point above, it’s important to start your search early because photographers can book out months, if not a year, in advance. If you’re planning an event, you’re busy! Knowing whether someone is unavailable based on non-negotiables like date and travel distance will make it easier to whittle down the list of people you need to have more in-depth conversations with, giving you a more realistic list of vendors to pick from.
Phone a Friend
Word of mouth is a great way to get vendor recommendations, and photographers are no exception. Have any friends posted wedding photos recently that are just absolutely to die for? Reach out and see if they have contact information to share. Not only does going through a friend mean you’ve already seen at least a small sample of their work, but it also means you can get the inside scoop on whether the photographer was easy to work with. Consider also asking the venue if they have photographers they would recommend that have experience shooting at their facility.
Do a Meet & Greet
Photography needs for an event often last beyond the timeframe that guests are present. You might have a first look or bridal party shoot for a wedding. For a graduation, you might want portraits before the crowd arrives. In all odds, you’ll be spending a significant portion of your day with this person in close proximity to you, so it’s important that it’s someone you feel comfortable and relaxed around because being stiff or agitated will show in your photos. A great photographer should help make the process as calming as possible, so personality is a hugely important factor in making the right hire, especially if you’re nervous about having your photo taken.
Ask About Specialization
Some photographers specialize in certain areas – indoor vs. outdoor, in-motion vs. posed, etc. While having an area of expertise doesn’t mean that they couldn’t also take lovely photos of a different sort, keep in mind that if all of the examples you’re seeing of someone’s work fall into the same category (and it’s not the same category as your event), you might want to ask a few more questions about their comfort level with a different type of work to make sure you’re on the same page.
Look at Multiple Examples of Work
As mentioned in Tip #3, social media posts can be a great way to get a glimpse of someone’s style, but for a fuller picture, ask for permission to view a few galleries of photoshoots. This is a great way to better understand the scope of work you can expect if you decide to move forward with the hire.
Ask About Pricing
Ask upfront about pricing and packages. Since not all vendors price things the same way, knowing that you’re comparing options accurately can be challenging. For example, if one vendor charges by the hour or by how many photos you want to be edited, you’ll need to do some math to compare that price to someone who offers packages. Similarly, if someone offers packages, ask any questions necessary to ensure you have a complete understanding of the offering. The last thing you want is for the photographer to run out of payable hours when you still have time left in your event. Day-of misunderstandings will be easy to avoid if you have open communication upfront. Of course, you don’t need to have hour-long conversations with every photographer whose work you like. Shorten your list to three to four options by asking the non-negotiable questions above, like date and travel availability, before spending time on these deeper discussions.
Clarify Editing Times/Photo Rights Before Booking
It’s easy to be so focused on getting to your event that you don’t think about what happens after. But if you’re hosting a conference and need pictures for an advertising deadline versus if you just want the pictures eventually for the memories but don’t have a specific timeline, your expectations of the photography package could be very different. Talk with your prospective photographers about the expected turnaround time for editing, whether there will be a few sneak peek photos delivered before the rest, and your rights to share or reproduce the photos.
If you follow these eight tips, finding the perfect photographer for your event will be a breeze!