March 4, 2016

Finding a Photographer 101

How do you find the right photographer that fits your budget? And how to avoid a bad experience... (for bloggers alike, or someone looking for a quick project)

As a blogger (and a creative professional myself) I get what it means to be a striving artist. With that said, during my years as a blogger I have interacted with a lot of photographers, professionals and unfortunately some below par amateurs. There are those who are incredibly good hearted and want to help you out of their passion for the art; those who make blogging less of a job and remind you you can still have fun as well. Then there are the creepy dudes who do it for reasons I don't want to find out (you can usually tell within a few email exchanges), and those who want to charge you $1k for a five minute shoot that requires little to no editing. A blogger's photographer is 30% their business for obvious reasons, so it's important to develop a symbiotic relationship especially during crunch time. Let me tell you a little story about my experience at New York Fashion Week last month. 

I responded to an ad on craigslist from this student photographer that was willing to shoot for $15/session, so that she could build her non-existent portfolio. Fair enough, she sounded passionate. My photographer in NYC was unavailable, so I responded to her ad with the rate I thought was fair for both parties (much more than her advertised rate) at $50 for a couple hours each day after the shows, taking into consideration how damn cold it was & the turn around time needed for the photos. I offered to pay for her commute from Brooklyn at $7/day = $57. I felt $15 would be cheating her of what is the industry standard even for an inexperienced photographer. We talked on the phone and I really liked her attitude, plus her schedule worked. I proceeded to take down the ad I previously posted on craigslist searching for a photographer & rejected the handful of candidates on my list. 

Things went well the first couple of days, shoots took much less time than anticipated - technically, she was getting $50/hour for having no photography background. She was sweet and worked fast. We talked & bonded; I gave her some pointers on how to make a social media presence. I was incredibly happy with my partner for NYFW. She made her turn around time, which was awesome. For a photographer, this is a client's #1 requirement, next to well-edited photos, which was was the opposite of what I got sadly (you can see here my skin looks like Tom Hanks' in Castaway). 

She tells me she edited them on her phone. Who does this? Answer: no one. On the last day, she was unapologetically an hour late knowing I had a tight schedule that day. Blatant sign #1. We took photos, which turned out horribly (none of which I could use for my sponsors). There was no time left to redo the shoots even though she offered, a.k.a. she wasted my time. I told her to re-edit the photos from the previous days, and she started to give me attitude saying they were good enough. Sign #2. A week later, she missed her deadline for the edits saying she is having midterms. I was cool with it since these photos weren't needed until next weekend anyways. Sign #3. I get a random text saying I paid her for three days instead of four. I respond back telling her we only worked together for three. Sign #4, holy shit. Two weeks later, I wasn't going to send her the last payment until I see that she has worked on the edits... she goes and tells me I wasn't professional with the due dates and that she won't release them until I pay her. Um. Last straw. Yeah right, honey. Don't be too entitled and have no work ethics. We're all trying to make our own, but be reasonable. More importantly, be humble. SMH. Of course, I wasn't going to pay someone like this. Thank goodness, I copied and pasted all the raw photos I requested beforehand. Her loss. 

With only my own naivety to blame and lessons to learn for the future, I hereby give you some pointers on how to find the right photographer:

  1. Make a list of your conditions when circumstances don't go as planned & make them sign it (ie, what happens when they're late, what happens when there is a last min cancellation/the weather goes astray, etc)
  2. Specify the turn around time and be strict with it beforehand.
  3. Give them an example of what you want from the shoot beforehand. This helps a lot.
  4. Under what conditions will you pay a travel/food stipend (this all under the same document, yes this sounds harsh and demanding but it will prevent issues later on)
  5. Have a signed Release Form from both parties -- after payment, will they be able to use your photos? Are they exclusively yours? Etc. etc. If it's a paid gig I do not allow them to use it for any other reason, and copyright is solely mine. You can search for a release form template online.
  6. Unless you have a friend / referral who is willing to take photos for free to expand their portfolio or a boyfriend who is an experienced photo-taker, pay your photographers reasonably or what you think is rational for their time/ effort. Be realistic and what fits within your blogging means. I get it, it's not like we're hedge fund managers here... but communicate that with them and come to a compromise (ie, a lower fee in exchange for a few social media shoutouts to your followers?), if that doesn't work... well, onto the next one. That's the great thing about Craigslist...  which comes to my next point...
  7. Put out a free ad for a short term photog gig - trust me, you'll get plenty of people who are willing to work for the right terms & the right amount.
  8. Call them first before you meet, and ask a few questions. This gives you an idea of who they are, and what you can expect/ a little background check. I guess this is common sense.
  9. Make your invoices official - have them send you an invoice and pay via PayPal - you can retract this payment if it's shady. Plus, you're under PayPal's buyer protection.
  10. Ask to see the raw images and pick your own pictures for the photographer to edit (This is an important step, unless you work with someone you already trust), because no one knows your taste or the flow of your blog like you do. Professional photographers know this, and will have already provide you a contact sheet/ or a dropbox folder with raw images.
  11. If she/he doesn't not have an online portfolio or Instagram account, ask him/her who they have worked with before and ask for some samples. This is so you can get idea of their editing and shooting style, which you can direct or redirect from there.
  12. Be nice. Remember that it's a relationship just like any other relationship. I like to put out good vibes when I first meet someone and therefore expect the same back. I work hard on my blog and would expect the same professionalism back from the people I collaborate. 
Below are some useful sites:
I hope this helps & Good luck! If you have any other questions or suggestions, definitely comment below :) 

1 comment :

  1. Cool and photogenic face she has, attractive and her smile, i recommend her to wear these Sammy Dress, then she will look more attractive.