While this is not meant as a comprehensive guide for choosing a photographer, there are a few things every potential client should be asking. You are hiring a professional to provide a service. It’s no different than hiring a plumber when your pipes break or a contractor when your roof needs replaced. You wouldn’t just hire the first guy that showed up with a wrench or a hammer, you would check them out. Get some quotes. Ask questions! Hopefully these examples will point you in the right direction.
1. What will you be delivering to me and when will I be receiving it?
This is a big one. You and your photographer should be perfectly clear about this long before the day of the event. In fact, if your photographer doesn’t present to you some sort of Client Agreement Form, you should be wary. A Client Agreement Form is a type of contract but it isn’t quite as formal. It doesn’t have to be prepared by attorneys or get notarized or anything like that. But it should spell out exactly what both parties are expecting. If you want prints or a book, that should be in the Agreement. If you are expecting low-resolution files on a thumb drive, then that should be spelled out as well. There should also be a time frame written in to the Agreement. I always let my clients know when they can expect delivery and put it in writing. Naturally, any discussion of payment needs to go in there as well. The bottom line is this, if the photographer you are considering does not present you with a Client Agreement Form, or worse, has no idea what you’re talking about. You should think twice before giving them money.
2. What am I getting for my money?
You wouldn't think this would be a mystery, but photography isn't like other tangible goods. It's a service, so you probably want to make sure you know exactly what you're getting. There are many valid pricing models commonly used by photographers. Some charge by the hour, some charge a flat rate and both are perfectly acceptable. Personally, I essentially charge by the photo. Photos are tangible items and it's a little easier to wrap your mind around what you're getting. To simplify things, I put together packages but I make it clear what the client is going to get in return and how much it's going to cost. Again, they're all valid methods, the important thing is to make sure there is a clear understanding between you and your photographer.
3. What sets you apart from other photographers?
Let's face it, there are a lot of photographers out there. Some good, some bad, but none of us are the same. Each photographer brings their own style and vision to the equation and they should be able to communicate that to prospective clients. If the only thing they can offer you as an answer to that question is that they have this cool camera, then you might want to keep looking. It's not about the equipment, it never has been and never will be. It's about professionalism, conducting business honestly, delivering photos in a timely manner and showing up on time.
So let me know what you think...what else should you be asking your photographer?