Monday, January 21, 2013

7 Tips to Success with Your Event Photographer

If you're involved in any behind-the-scenes event organizing this year, and you're wearing a marketing/communications hat, chances are you're the one who's going to be in charge of hiring and working with the event photographer, if you're not assigning that to a staff member. As someone who has both taken their own photos and videos at many events, and worked with freelance event photographers, here are some tips that I found helpful along the way in getting the best experience and results possible.
1. Research or Get Referrals for the Right Vendor or Freelancer
There are many ways to research who will be the best vendor for your event. A Google search for best photographer in your area should produce some helpful results to get you started. If you belong to any active discussion groups online, you can post your query there, or send out a tweet or Facebook post with your query, and you should get some helpful responses back. If you are attending an event with an onsite photographer, and they look to be conscientious, and someone you might like to work with, get their card and ask if you can contact them for future events. Convention and visitors bureaus and chambers of commerce also typically list photographers. You can also review photo galleries for recent events similar to yours, and check the photo credits, which often link directly to the photographers's website and their social links. Of course you can also get referrals from other colleagues, or at live business or social events.
2. Review Websites and Portfolios
Once you have a few solid referrals, take a look at their online portfolios to get a feel for their style, and to see if it's a good fit. Check for the kinds of events the photographer has covered, and review for quality, and relevance to your needs. In group shots, can everyone be seen clearly, and are the images well composed and focused? Pay attention to backgrounds, lighting, and other details that show professionalism. Speaker shots shouldn't be stiff and posed, but animated and natural. Check for variety as well, including crowd shots, fun moments, or candids, parties, and particularly awards or recognition ceremonies, where it can be tricky to group individuals together along with a trophy or certificate.

3. Have a Phone or In Person Consultation When you have narrowed down your selection to a reasonable 3 "finalists," arrange a consultation. By phone is fine, but in person is even better, particularly if the event is complex, or will require several days to complete. During the consultation, describe an overview of your event and what you are looking for, and keep the following checklist handy as a template for the call:
-Are you available during the event date?
-What is your fee? (hourly or flat rate)
-What does your fee include, and what are your payment terms
(some photographers want to be compensated for parking or travel, be sure to find out ahead of time)
-Do you have a sample contract you can send me?
-Are you familiar with the event venue?
-How long after the event will you require to process my photos?
(You should not have to wait longer then a few business days)
-How will you send them to me?
(It's best to get an online photo gallery, where you can customize the resolution of your images, depending on your needs. Typically, 300 dpi is fine for websites or social media, while print will require higher resolution of at least 600 dpi.)
-captions and identifying information?
(technology now allows for voice recording or recognition software, so each image is numbered and has a matching numbered list that identifies all photo subjects)
-Can you send me references?
-What is your work style and how do you approach a new project like this?
4. Proposal and Contract
Once you've decided on a your photographer, ask for a detailed proposal and contract that includes the scope of services, including fee, payment terms, turnaround time, file delivery details, etc. Make sure the details match what you have agreed on. Sign, and be sure to keep a file copy not only in your office, but on you during the event.
5. Touch Base Day Before and Day Of Event, and Provide Schedule or Who's Who

At least a week before the event, and definitely one day prior, confirm with your photographer that they are good to go, and take care of any last-minute details or questions. For a complex or detailed event, send your photographer an advance copy of the event Program Book with any urgent events highlighted, as well as information about VIPs such as board members or officers who are on the priority photo list. If you know that there are going to be any large group photos on the schedule, or any surprise events, this is a good time to let the photographer know, so he or she can scope out the right space for the photo in advance, and position themselves properly for any "surprise" moments.

6. Event Walkthrough and Orientation
The day of the event, plan on meeting the photographer early so you can do an event walkthrough, and you can both get a feel for the venue if you haven't already done so. If your event is simple or is held just in one room, then this becomes less if an issue. But if it's held at a hotel or large convention center, being familiar with your surroundings and how to navigate the event is that much more crucial. This is also is good time to introduce your photographer to key staff, and any other individusls the photographer can get direction from. During the event, your photographer will ideally find their own rhythm and style, and won't want you "in the way." Let them know where you will be in case they have questions, and try and spot check some of the key photos to make sure everything and everyone on the schedule has been covered. It's very important that the photographer check in with you before leaving, and confirm that you have all the essential shots before they go.
7. Provide Referral and Feedback
After the event, send a confirming email to the photographer, thanking them for their work and confirming when and how you will receive the files. Once you have received all the images and final paperwork, make sure all the deliverables have been provided. If you're happy with everything, send an email testimonial they can use on their website. If you have a few concerns but would still use them again, let them and their agency, if they have one, know in writing, so they can address them promptly and hopefully avoid them next time.
For additional tips, Problogger Darren Rowse blogs about photography @dpschool, and he always has great information. In a quick search, I just found his fabulous Pinterest page for all things photography, check it out!
So, that's a quick overview on event photographer tips. What say you? Do you have any tips to add? Are you planning an event? Post in the comments!


Anonymous said...

Great tips! I just started my photography business and I'm still learning from my previous event experiences. It was a very fun job but sometimes can be stressful coz of the pressure.

Unknown said...

Thanks for commenting, Chelsea, and best of luck in your new photography business!