5 Questions to Ask Your Next Photographer
Questions to Ask Your Photographer to Get the Most out of Your Session
Photographers are all different. Know what questions to ask your photographer is challenging if you aren’t an experienced shopper! Since the introduction of digital cameras, you can swing a dead cat and hit 20 photographers (sorry, I’m from Texas and that’s just how we talk.) You may fall in love with someone’s style but without asking the right questions, your experience could turn into a huge headache.
So how do you decide who to work with? Here are a few key points to touch on when when searching for a photographer
1) What is your speciality?
One of the biggest misconceptions about photographers is that we can all photograph any genre you throw at us. Many people think that if you have a camera, you can probably use it in any situation! But the truth is, most professional photographers specialize in a specific type of photography.
If you are looking for a wedding photographer, a newborn photographer, or a real estate photographer, for example, you’ll be looking for different qualities. Photographers have different equipment, editing techniques, policies, and skills depending on what they specialize in.
Now, that doesn’t mean that a real estate photographer could never properly photograph a wedding! Some people have multiple specialities and some are generalists, meaning they are comfortable shooting a little bit of everything. You should feel empowered to ask your photographer to see more specific examples of work similar to what you need.
2) What’s your backup plan?
Life happens! Photographer’s get sick, equipment breaks, rain pours, and tragedy strikes. What will your photographer do to complete the job if something unexpected happens?
Though there is no way to anticipate every scenario that could ruin your photoshoot, professional photographers almost always have backup plan. This includes having a system in place to ensure the digital files created during your session are safe (dual memory card slots) and are backed up to multiple places (external hard drives and cloud storage) and delivered securely (password protected online galleries or direct image transfer.)
In the event that something comes up that would prevent the photographer from being at the session on the scheduled date, find out in advance about their rescheduling policy. If the session cannot be rescheduled, ask if they have a replacement photographer lined up. If the session is outdoors and the weather is bad, do they have a studio that can be used instead?
When the worst happens, many professional photographers also have insurance. If an accident occurs during the shoot, their insurance company can help make everything a little less stressful. Ask your photographer if they will have insurance that will cover them in case of injury or damage to equipment or rented locations.
3) Who will own the photos?
This is possibly one of the most misunderstood parts of a photography session. Many people think that if they pay a photographer to create photos for them, those photos become their property. While laws vary across the world, in the United States, whoever presses the shutter button owns the photo. The copyright can be transferred to another person through a written agreement, often with an additional fee.
In most circumstances, clients do not need to own the copyright to the photos. Wedding photos, headshots, and even band photos like I specialize in do not necessarily need to be owned by the client to be used by the client. Often photos are sold with a License for Personal Use which may allow for printing (restricted sizing is common) or a Limited Commercial Usage License which allows the photos to be used to promote a business or money-making endeavor. You may need to purchase copyright to certain commercial photos if you wish to use them without ever having to credit or acknowledge the photographer or have the right to use or alter the photos in any way.
Ask your photographer what restrictions will be placed on the images and how you can/can’t use them.
4) What differentiates you from other photographers?
Chances are, you’ve already seen their work and you like what you see.
But what goes on behind the scenes that makes this photographer stand out from the rest? Answers can vary anywhere from the way they create the photos to the way they deliver the images. Some photographers build elaborate sets for their clients, some have exclusive access to unique locations, and others offer services beyond just photography such as videography to create an unforgettable experience. Other specialize in certain body types, relationships, stages of life, or specific lighting styles.
One example of a service that fewer and fewer photographers offer that may be important to you is printing. Digital images may be all you need, but consider a photographer who can walk you through the process of making those digital images into fine art prints. You’ll love seeing the images displayed properly in your home or office. If your photographer is selling prints for dirt cheap, however, it’s possible they are skirting their tax obligations. You can check on that by asking if they have the appropriate tax ID requirements to sell physical products!
And if your photographer doesn’t have a good answer to this question, perhaps they haven’t taken the time to create their brand story and they may not be the right fit for you.
5) What should I do to best prepare for the session?
As photographers, our job is to ensure you are fully prepared from start to finish for the session. That means plenty of communication and explanation up front in regards to how to prepare yourself or your product for the session, what styling will be best, what locations will and won’t work, etc. If you’ve found a photographer who isn’t giving you enough information up front to ensure you feel fully prepared, it may be time to start looking elsewhere!
I try to meet with all of my first-time clients in person so we can discuss the details of the session and make sure I know exactly what they are looking for – leaving a little room as possible for error or misinterpretation! When appropriate, I create custom mood boards for each client so they know I understand the vibe and energy of what they’re hoping to achieve in the session.