Its that time of year again, when your local Buy Sell Trade social media pages are flooded with posts in search of the perfect photographer for special events. Most people go to friends and family requesting referrals from previous photographers, while some, especially military families, search for photographers from their community. And although word of mouth is a wonderful way to get more business, we, photographers also rely on answering such posts ourselves. But the problem I have encountered when viewing these posts is that they normally go something like this:
"Hi, I am looking for a photographer to capture my daughters first birthday/maternity/birth/family/anniversary/wedding that doesn't cost an arm and a leg"
Sounds legit. The cost of an arm and a leg these days is pretty expensive, let alone a kidney or an eye. Even giving up your first born may be more affordable. But I digress.
So, you have a special occasion that you would like to have captured by a professional, so that you can focus on all the other chaos and enjoy being IN the moment. Its not a tough request. But soon, your inbox is filled with every photographer in your area, with work varying in expertise. Suzy from down the block got a new camera for Christmas, and loves taking pictures. She is offering 100 photographs for $30, while Deborah has been in business for 7 years, offers 5 photographs for $500. And as you contact just about every photographer in your state, which can be exhausting, your really just want to throw in the towel and scream. Why does this process have to be so overwhelming? What does all of this photographer jargon mean? Well, I am here to tell you that it doesn't have to be such daunting task. (No worries, I will save the "Why Suzy and Deborah charge differently" for another blog post. Instead, lets focus on getting the RIGHT photographer for YOU.
Lets start off by figuring out what YOU want.
Figure out how much you are willing to spend. You can spend a lot, or you can spend close to nothing. Stating "reasonably priced" or "doesn't cost an arm an a leg" doesn't give your potential photographer a price reference. If you only have $250 set aside for a portrait session, state it. This will weed out photographers who's packages start at $350. This also can open up potential sales, or mini sessions from photographers who give better quality work, but are currently looking for certain session to add to their portfolios.
What if you have $50 for your maternity session? Well, this can open endless possibilities also if you are flexible. A simple post stating "Anyone portfolio building for Maternity" or "Any photographers doing model calls for Maternity Sessions" will attract photographers who are willing to give free or drastically discounted rates just for the practice. Model calls (portfolio building sessions) require Model Releases (The ability to use your images for their business promotion). If you are willing to adhere to their requests, whether date, location, attire, or look, you can easily walk away with great photographs for a fraction of the normal price with the option of purchasing more.
What if you have $2,000 set aside for your portrait session? This can weed out photographers too. With more money you have budgeted for your session, less and less photographers will contact you. Why? Because the more expensive your session, the better customer service and quality is expected. This may not be necessarily true since sole proprietor business tend to correlate with your photographer's personality. But as a general rule, if your photographer's market is Target, they normally don't seek William and Sonoma clients. And although we all want clients with large pocketbooks, large pocketbooks expect a higher level of service that some are not prepared to deliver. Does this mean that your $150 photographer cannot satisfy a $2,000 client? Not necessarily, but its like asking a the Honda dealership to provide the same service and driver as the Rolls Royce dealership. Honda's makes great cars! They will get your from point A to point B with comfort, but do they come with an umbrella that pops out the side of the door? Nope. Its up to you to decide if that umbrella is necessary.
In the business we have what the industry calls "Shoot and Share/Burn" and "In Person Sales" (I will most likely get burned at the stake for this, but its best that you know so you can ask for what you need.
"Shoot and Share/Burn" is a photographer that delivers your images to you via electronic media, whether it is on a CD, a USB, or digital download. Most of the time they keep copies of them in their archive, and allow you to print your images through a 3rd party lab. 99% of us absolutely despise when you print at big box retailers since there is absolutely no love and care to the amount of work your photographer has put into your session, but they do the trick with quick turn around times if you absolutely need it.
"In Person Sales" is a photographer that can give you digital media and prints of your portrait session. This process is a bit more thorough, and usually a bit more expensive. But the greatest part is that you don't have to do any work. Your photographer is in charge of developing and delivering prints of your session to your home. Some times this involves several meetings and a more in depth assessment of your needs. Think of it as well rounded customer service experience.
And then you have photographers that incorporate multiple versions of both. The possibilities really depend on how your photographer does business.
"I only need a few pictures"
A few may mean 5 or 15 images. So instead of digging through photographer's packages, state it upfront. Mini sessions are your best bet because they usually start at 3 images, and base line packages usually start at 10. If you are solely looking for 1 image, you will be guilty of wasting someone's time. Location scouting, driving, editing and actually photographing your family is not worth one single image. So its best take advantage of mini sessions.
Do you require your photographer to have 5 years experience, or specialize in a genre? Do they need to have military base access, or be insured? Would you prefer they be licensed, or have a legitimate website? If these specifications are important to you as a client, ask for them. And never be afraid to decline a photographer because they do not meet these qualifications. I promise you, it will make life much easier on you. And never be afraid to look at their reviews whether they are Facebook reviews, The Better Business Bureau, or Yelp. Hiring someone to capture your family's memories is as important as the memories themselves.
So what if you found the PERFECT photographer, and they don't have the date you need available. Ask for a referral. Great customer service goes beyond the clients that hire us. Besides, we usually travel in clans. So although I may not be able to service your needs, my dear friend may have that date available, or someone in a group I belong to with a similar style and price range
"So what should my post look like?" you ask?
Be specific! "I'm looking for a photographer available during thanksgiving week to photograph my family of 6 with 3 dogs and a donkey while we weave baskets underwater. I would love an album along with images to share with family and friends. My budget is $73.82."
Now photographers that specialize in large families with an expertise in underwater photography and packages that start at $50 will send you messages, while newborn calf photographers move on to the next inquiry. Easy peezy, lemon squeezy.
Do you have any more questions? Send them my way!
Or in the comments below!