10 guidelines on hiring your next professional photographer
Hiring a photographer can be a daunting task yet alone getting reliable and desired results. Today, we will dissect the workflow into guidelines that will increase the odds of obtaining a successful result for your next commercial photography project.
1) Make a list of your needs and requirements
It may sound silly but make a clear list of your requirements actually helps the photographer in many ways such as drafting ideas, preparing a realistic quotations or even perform an early diagnosis whether the goals are achievable. In a way it helps to set expectations for both parties. In some occasions even reduces the hassle and deliver the best results within the budget constraints. If this is your first time hiring a professional photographer and have no idea what is needed, just list down everything, from ideas to briefs to detail descriptions. From there, find a professional photographer with a credible portfolio, sit down with them and discuss further. They will be able to guide you through the process. This is a crucial first step into getting started. There is nothing a photographer can deliver to if there is no clear requirements other than just a vague statement of "I need a good photo of..." or simply assuming the photographer will know what to do. Every project are uniquely different and there are many questions down the line to customise for your project. We are eager to help you out should you have any enquiries.
2) Time Allocation
An average timeline for a small to medium commercial project production easily takes up to 2 months from pre-production to production and post production. The planning stage usually takes up a minimum of 2 to 6 weeks. While production and post production will usually be 2-3 weeks. Be sure to allocate sufficient time for a project to go through its planning phase before production. Rushing into production might not be ideal and will usually end up producing sub-par results which eventually lead to unmatched expectation during delivery. Before you know it, we've all burn that one and only opportunity to make things right. The amount of planning would also heavily rely on point (1) which is the list of needs and requirements to be met and to align the expectations from both parties.
A lot of clients are afraid to bind their words through signing a terms and condition contract. Do not be afraid, and look at it as a way to protect yourself. Lay out the conditions that you need the photographer to fulfil and discuss it thoroughly with them so both party can agree on it. Chances are, your photographer will have his conditions as well. Take this opportunity to put all the words into a binding contract so both parties are committed. This contract will be a base reference to protect both parties should there be any unforeseen liabilities appears to ensure fairness. A terms and condition contract typically covers clear clause on duty of each party, final product delivery, copyright terms, usage rights, payments, reimbursements, etc. Be sure to go through every clause and raise questions during discussions to ensure both parties are clear of the conditions laid out in the contract. A binding contract is only form when both parties laid their agreement. It does not necessary need to involve a lawyer but just a list of conditions that both parties are able to agreed on to make the project work.
4) Get your feet wet and dirty
Not literally speaking but before you mention it, nope! Not everything is the responsibility of your photographer to deliver and you are just the boss that pays. A good project requires the collaboration of all parties to ensure the successful delivery of the final vision. As much planning as you may be able to do and discuss beforehand, things almost always go sideways (good or bad) during the shoot. It is usually in this 10-20% of the time, an extraordinary image out of your plan that sells is produced! Crafting and brainstorming together during these opportunity the way you envision it will allow you to gain an upper hand playing against the odds. Meanwhile learning and understanding the workflow of your photographers will open up even more possibilities of your imaginations as you are the one who understands where to leverage the upper hand of the project the most.
5) Access to final decision makers
It is always best to have the final decision makers or at best someone who is able to approve the work shot on site to communicate with on production. As situation might change on the fly, these changes often times required approvals to proceed to make sure all criteria are perfectly checked and delivered. Normally these final decision makers will also have access and authority to the right people from all involved parties to make some last minute changes to the set or on location unforeseen issues.
6) Transparent and open communicative relationship with your photographer
It is extremely crucial to maintain a healthy communicative relationship with your photographer. Take your photographer as part of your collaborative team and put the final results as your main priority. After all, a good result will make you look good in front of your boss and future customers. Hence, a win win scenario. Only through open communication, can a project output be successful to achieve all your needs and requirements. There is no way a photographer would know what your needs are if not communicated. Be transparent and communicate to them should there be any direction, ideas and changes that you wish upon and make it work together. We all have a role to play in producing great results in the project.
7) Do not constantly breathing down the photographer's neck.
Supervision is good but that is not what you hire a professional photographer for. Allow space for the photographer to work with their creativity, art sense and eye for details. Trust their vision and instinct after all that is what you hire them to do. Let the experts work with their creativity by providing them a set of agreed guidelines and expectations to match. Trust us, you will be surprised by the end results. Having said that, constantly pushing the photographer with your instructions might not always be the best decision especially if when the situation involves a lot of technicality and expertise to make the photo happen.
8) Avoiding last minute or constant change
Almost all the time this is the number one cause of disaster. A credible and experience photographer may be able to make changes on the fly but given the set of conditions, 80% of the time some compromises are made. This will affect the potential for the results to reach the best output possible. Last minute or constant changes are not favourable as it will affect the plan, timing, equipments, manpower or even budget that has already been set beforehand. So before making any changes it is advisable to communicate and work it out with your photographer especially if it touches the sensitive money zone. No one would be comfortable working under the situation where there is a possibility of losing money out of their own pocket every second during the project.
To aim for the best results, always allocate enough budget and prepare a set percentage of emergency margin to tolerate unforeseen circumstances. This budget flexibility will save you lots of trouble when handling a project production by not having you to keep going back to your boss trying to get approval for more funds. After all unused funds will always be a saving and not wasted. Do not undermine the benefit of having enough budget for your photography project, a lot of times it is needed to cater for last minute changes and even cover up mistakes that are left out during planning stage. It is extremely crucial to ensure smooth production towards the end.
10) Find a photographer with credible portfolio and proven track record
Words can always be twisted, promise can always be broken. However, only through hiring a professional photographer with credible portfolio and proven track record can guarantee a higher quality of deliverable product especially when the stakes are high. That being said, find a photographer that has the style that you desire and has enough experience to handle the project size similar to yours. This will greatly reduce the risk of having to fiddle with things when they gone south.
We hope the above guidelines will be able to help you out when you are hiring a photographer on your next commercial photography project. For more information on commercial photography project, feel free to check our portfolio or contact us for more info.