With all the new advancements in the digital photography world, it seems that everyone prematurely considers themselves a “pro”photographer. I have spoken with countless professionals, which included everything from other nature photographers all the way to wedding photographers and everything in between. The response has been the same across the board. It is tough out there! It seems that a new Meetup group running tours or workshops (make no mistake, many are a business), wedding photographer, nature tour company, portrait, boudoir, and even “fine art” photography companies are sprouting up on an hourly basis. With the proliferation of these “new pros” and the inundation of information, it seems that it has become increasingly difficult for the consumers to make an informed decision. So how do you make an informed decision?
A pro photographer is often behind his own business or a companies but make no mistake the most important thing is the photographer (or should be). So how do you judge them? Is it about how many Facebook or other social media “likes” they get? Is it because they engaged you on Flickr or some other website? Is it a pro status with a company brand or some other form of title? Are you swayed by so called client accolades on their website? When choosing a photographer or business, do you ask questions about whether a company has insurance or permits? Many Meetup groups try to hide behind this status but make no mistake they are required to have the same permit and insurance I do when they run tours or workshops. Many “new pros” in the other fields don’t have either because of the expense. Why would you trust your wedding day to one of these “pros”? Isn’t the day important enough for you to ask? Many of the above questions and observations are very important although none of them are the first thing you should look for when judging a company or photographer.
As I enter my 12th year owning Roamin’ with Roman, I wanted to share my thoughts on how I judge a photographer or the business that he/she represent and my answer to that is very clear: look at their images first! That applies to all photographic businesses. Nothing else even comes close. Ask yourself if those are the type of images you would like in your own portfolio or taken to commemorate some special event? If the images are average or mediocre, why would you even waste time looking at the photographer or business? Do you think that your photography/time/event/photo session/trip is worth mediocre? If you don’t find any stunning image in their portfolio, what makes you think they will be able to do that at your wedding or when you are on a workshop or tour with them? Do you really want the lowest price to be the deciding factor for the event? Do they have insurance or permits? What is the payment plan or schedule of receiving my images? Regarding tours: How big is the group size? I love it when tours/workshops call themselves small and take 8 or more. Read the fine print! Always look for personal recommendations as they tend to be the most reliable but no one, no one, can hide behind bad images. Find a number of photographers whose images you like and if you find all things equal between their images, then and only then, should you factor in cost in your final decision. Why would you want a “new pro” or even established pro who had only mediocre images but a better price? I am under no delusions that price is a very important factor when making a decision photographer or photography business but it should not be your first priority.
Remember, there is a photographer behind every photography business. I can’t count the amount of times other photographers have come up to me and said their images didn’t look like my clients’ images, or mine even though they were at the same location with another workshop leader or Meetup group. My answer is always the same: maybe you went with the wrong group or photographer. Doing your homework is key. Titles or letters behind your name, fancy marketing, bloated social media following, self labeling yourself a pro or fine artist, taking blurry images and calling it art, ribbons and awards at your club, or pats on the back on flicker or other social media do not make you a qualified photographer. Your images do. That is how you should judge a photographer.