June 2012 Archives

      If the thought of hiring a photographer starts your heart racing and palms sweating,  you're not alone.

    Searching for a photographer for a company project can bring a dizzying array of photo specialties, terms, styles and business expertise.  Anyone with a camera and some business cards can hang out a shingle and call himself a photographer.  And given the prevalence of digital cameras, it's even easier for someone with marginal talents and business acumen to pass himself off as a professional.

    To increase the chances of your finding the best person for your brochure or promotional project, let's review the photo business and look at strategies in searching for and working with a professional photographer.

    First, that word professional is the key. Since there are no licensing standards a photographer must pass, you'll need to look at other signs of competence and reliability.

    Of course, if your company is already working with a PR firm or ad agency, you can have them vet candidates for a project.  But if you're a smaller company, perhaps hiring a photographer for the first time, you will need to tackle this job yourself.

      As you would with any business, ask your colleagues for recommendations.  Who worked for them?  If someone successfully photographed an industrial plant for their company or division, it's a good bet they can do so again for you.  Start your search at the site of professional organizations like ASMP, (asmp.org), the largest trade association of photographers in the country.  ASMP sets standards for admittance, so you're more likely to find an experienced person there.  

      Of course a Google search will give you a large number of potential photographers in your area.  Just remember the flashiest web site doesn't necessarily mean the best photographer for you.  Be sure to hire someone whose skills fit your needs.  A product photographer most likely will not be the best choice for candid people photography.

    Look for signs of professionalism.  When you talk to a photographer, ask about professional affiliations.  What companies like yours has he or she worked for recently?  Do they carry liability insurance?  If you're getting stuttering answers at this point, it's time to move on.  

    And don't fall into the trap of shopping just for price instead of value.  In no industry is the phrase 'you get what you pay for' more applicable than in photography. A low, low estimate may sound like a bargain until you're faced with amateurish photos and poor business practices.  You will find an experienced photographer with professional capabilities and equipment holds a value that far outweighs a higher fee.  

    Many if not most experienced photographers factor in usage as a critical part of the photography or creative fee. Generally, the more extensive the media exposure and higher profile the project, the higher the fee will be for producing it.   Any photographer calling himself a professional should be asking you a number of questions about the project, from usage to duration to onsite conditions and delivery dates.   Once a photographer has all the information, expect a written estimate to be faxed or emailed to you.  This should  spell out all aspects of the job, including times and locations, usage, expenses and terms. Again, if  a photographer says 'Oh, we don't need to write anything down', walk away.  Would you enter into an agreement with any other vendor without a full understanding of the terms?  Finally, all images delivered to you should be accompanied with a delivery memo.  

    Consider finally that photography has undergone a revolutionary change in this digital world. You'll need to become conversant in this new technology and increase the capability of your company to handle digital images.  A graphics support person may be essential to assure photos appear in print as envisioned by the photographer.  Here again, be sure to ask a photographer how much experience she has shooting digitally as well as in post production.  The quality of images often suffers with how they're handled after the shoot.  If you've found that digital photos just don't look right, the problem may be with your monitor.  In order for you to see on your monitor what the photographer sees on his, you'll need to calibrate the monitor to industry standards using  software like Monaco Optix or Spyder.  Again, a graphics professional or photographer with digitial experience should be able to advise you.

    Remember to do some homework, know what you want to accomplish and follow through in writing.  
I recently spent a morning photographing vascular surgery for Siemens, a company that makes state of the art CT scanners and monitoring equipment for operating rooms.  The full body scanner in the operating room rotates around the operating table to give a detailed 3D image of the patient. 

The first operation I photographed many years ago was a procedure on a young boy's eyes, by coincidence at the same hospital.  But boy, what a difference 30 some years makes.  Today's operating rooms are bright, sleek, advanced spaces that are light years ahead of their predecessors; chocked full of the latest technology with soothing nature images in high definition covering one wall. 

At the end of the procedure, a nurse showed me the blockage taken from the man's artery in his neck, a small lump in the palm of her hand.  Leaning in she whispered, "That's the result of a lot of french fries."

There's more healthcare photos at my website.

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