How to choose the best event photographer
‘Tis the season for Christmas Parties, tra la la la la, la la la la*. We’ve all seen event photographs of people mid-blink, trying to fit a pulled-pork mini brioche into their mouth in one go. Not flattering. A good event photographer captures people naturally, follows the action as it unfolds, leaving you with images that reflect the mood and tone of what you’ve created. But how do you choose a good event photographer? Look at samples of their work and speak with them over the phone. Obvious, right? But what are you actually looking for in their work? And what questions should you ask them? Well, if you need help choosing your Brisbane event photographer for the 2016 Christmas Party Season, read on, brave soul.
Step 1: Look at samples of their work
The first thing you’ll probably do is check out their website. Here are a few technical things look out for.
- Panda eyes: In full daylight the sun can sometimes cast nasty shadows in people’s eye sockets. If you see lots of panda eyes, the photographer doesn’t know how to use their flash. Close the browser tab.
- Ghosts: In night time events you normally have to use flash to compensate for low light. If people look like they’ve missed a few dialysis appointments the photographer doesn’t know how to use their flash. Move on.
- Very dark rooms: A very expensive lighting technician has worked hard to make your event space look beautiful. If you see lots of very well lit people with black backgrounds behind them the photographer doesn’t know how to balance ambient light with their flash. Next!
- Weird faces: If you see someone at a lectern speaking, but their mouth is in a weird position, the photographer doesn’t know how to photograph dynamic situations in a flattering way. You know what to do.
- Blinks: If you see images of people that are mid-blink, or are looking away the photographer doesn’t know how to wrangle people confidently. See above…
- Only to camera: if all you see are images of people facing the camera like stunned corpses, the photographer doesn’t know how to capture an event as it unfolds or how to interact with other humans. Run away.
Photographs should match the mood and tone of the event itself. So if you see well-lit images of people who appear natural, are interacting with each other, and are engaged in the event you’ve organised, you’re on a winner. The next step? See if they’re a real human.
Step 2: Speak with them over the phone
The photographer is going to interact with your guests. Some of whom are probably very important. So if they can’t hold a conversation with one stranger over the phone, how are they going to communicate in a crowded room with potentially hundreds of people? Chatting with them over the phone lets you get a sense of their confidence.
It will also give you a sense of how experienced they are. If the only question they ask you is ‘how long do you need me for?’, move on. The good ones ask questions about the venue, the event’s purpose, where you’ll use the images, any branding or sponsorship you might have, who your VIPs are, what specific images you need, what your turnaround time is, and whether you have a run sheet. Just like any customer focused business, good event photographers know great service starts by asking the right questions.
Step 3: Ask these questions
Who will be photographing my event?
You can go with an individual contractor or an event photography company. The advantage of going with an individual is that you always know who’s going to show up at your event and the work you see on the website is exclusively theirs. There are some fantastic event photography companies around, but it’s not always clear whether the work on their site was shot by the person shooting your event. So if you’re using a company ask to see specific examples from the person you’ll be getting.
Have you photographed events like this before / are you familiar with this venue?
Both of these questions speak to how experienced the photographer is. This is critical for really large events that run to a very tight schedule, or events where the photographer has to cover a lot of ground, like multi-session conferences at a venue like the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre.
Does your price include post production?
Some photographers bundle post production into the cost of shooting, some add it on as an extra. It’s important to know if the post production is a fixed cost, or if they charge based on the number of images they give you.
Can you offer [insert required turnaround time here]?
Most events require next morning turnaround, some require immediate turnaround. Whatever you need, be sure to ask whether the photographer can do this. Immediate turnaround, for example, requires slightly different gear and techniques than next day turnaround.
Your event photographer is going to interact with every single one of your guests, and they will create what is probably going to be the only lasting record of your event. So, use the tips above to make sure you get a good one. Once you’re happy with your choice here are some tips on how to brief your event photographer, and how to leverage your images to extend the life of your event.
*There was some consternation here in my office that it was ‘Fa la la la…’ not ‘Tra la la la…’ HEATHENS!