Know what you are buying

Early morning light

Photography is one of those jobs where you are paid based on your talent, which means you are constantly second-guessing yourself and your work. But, some days I like to put myself in my client’s shoes. You, as a client, are hiring a person based on some photos on social media, or a website, which you actually have no guarantee belong to the photographer at all (don’t worry, all of my images and words are my own!).

You, as the client, have to trust that your photographer is going to do a great job, and deliver the photos to you. I am a member of a lot of online photography groups and, daily there are horror stories of a gallery of all blurry wedding photos, photos where faces are completely in shadow, photos not delivered at all, or people using professional artists photographs as their own, charging a professional’s prices, and then delivering photos that my cat could take without much effort.

So, how do you as a client know whether a photographer is going to deliver what you want, when you want it? Well, here are some tips:

  1. A proper professional photographer will ask you to sign a photoshoot contract, written by a legal firm. This contract protects both you the client, and the photographer, and outlines the expectations for both sides. This contract will protect you if your photographer does not deliver, and protects the photographer if you, the client bounces a check, or asks for a reshoot under unreasonable circumstances. NEVER agree to a photoshoot without a contract in place.
  2. Signing a model release as well as a contract is standard procedure (sometimes these are bundled into the same document) – this outlines what the photographer can and cannot do with the images i.e. the photographer always retains all rights to their own work (unless you pay a hefty fee to acquire those rights (several thousand dollars in most cases) You, the client are buying usage rights.
  3. A professional photographer will call you, or meet you face-to-face at least once before the photoshoot. To properly understand a client’s needs, we (because we are artists, and a bit weird) like to get to know the people we are photographing a little bit. This is so we can get an idea of the flow of the shoot, the editing style that will suit the shoot, and your expectations of US. We also like to see your style, and build a connection before we take photos.
  4. Deposits. A professional will require a deposit. This can take many forms – a non-refundable booking fee, a session fee, or a package deposit (am sure there are more, but I can’t think today!). If you are not asked to pay upfront, be wary. If the photographer does not value their own work, neither should you.
  5. Check out their social media. Make sure there is a consistency of quality. If you see a brilliant image or two, but the rest are mediocre at best, either they are stealing the good images, or they are a one-off and you won’t know whether you will get a good day or a bad day when they do your shoot.
  6. If you are really concerned, check the metadata of one of their photos, most professional photographers include their copyright in the meta data (a quick google search will take you to a how to, such as this one)

These are just a few general guidelines, although most of these go for all professional photographers. I hope many of you find some useful tidbits in here.