Q. What advice do you have for a customer looking to hire a provider like you?
A. Don't settle for the lowest cost provider because to offer a low end price means they lack both the equipment and the experience to deliver true value.
Review a wide body of their work including examples from recent, actual jobs as many providers will only show you the very best of their work which may not represent a typical experience.
It can be difficult to judge a professional by the equipment they use, but you can ask them to give you an outline of the process they will employ. If they are hesitant to do this then they may not have a process. You may also ask them for details of their liability insurance as only real pros carry full insurance (in excess of $1M) and this is a quick way to filter out the wanna-bees and the financially distressed (your photos disappear when they go out of business).
Q. If you were a customer, what do you wish you knew about your trade? Any inside secrets to share?
A. It's hard to find quality photographers in the "sweet spot" as many are too green and will over promise and under deliver or are simply too expensive and in too high demand. You may also find that it's easier to find a photographer that caters to consumers (wedding, family portrait) who have little experience in commercial advertising & marketing photography. Search far and wide before deciding and measure not only price, but value, experience and how well they communicate how they will approach your unique needs.
Q. What questions should a consumer ask to hire the right service professional?
A. Can you send me examples of recent work? What do you need to know to give me an accurate quote? Will that be the complete cost or are there additional potential costs or add-ons? Is there a limit to where and how long I can use the images produced. Can you provide me with a range of options so I can scale a project to best fit my needs and budget?
Q. What important information should buyers have thought through before seeking you out?
A. What is the end goal? Many times a business knows that photography is an important part of their marketing, but then assume they can just get "a bunch of pictures" and figure out what to do with them later. Too often this approach hurts the overall potential of the opportunity. Consider what you need the photos to communicate, both literally and symbolically about your business. A good commercial photographer will take this into account when helping you design the types of photos that you will use to represent your business.
Q. Why does your work stand out from others who do what you do?
A. We employ both a creative approach to make engaging images that draw in the viewer but also a analytical side that asks "what is the goal of this image". It's not enough to make a pretty picture is also needs to serve a specific function. Most photographers are very "right brained" and look for what "feels right". We do that too, but then we ask "why does this work (or not work)" and take it the next step to offer a complete solution for your goals.
Q. What questions do customers most commonly ask you? What's your answer?
A. Why so expense?
I quote pretty much all of the costs up front so you know the complete cost without a lot of back-end costs and additional fees to use the images we create. Many photographers bid a low-ball cost on the shoot and then charge high fees every time you use the image, require you to buy expensive prints or rebill you annually to continue to use the images. Our cost are "front loaded" so you see the complete cost - higher, yes, but a better overall value in the long run. We provide a written quote that explains all of the details and we provide lots of additional information on our website (see the sitemap).
In addition to this we also use some of the finest equipment, not consumer grade cameras & lenses. We have powerful, expensive computers and fully utilize our years of experience to help you get the most value from our work.
Lastly we archive all files for long term storage and access. You can come back years later and expect us to be able to find your files for your future use. We want working with us to be a long term relationship, not a one-time deal.
Q. What do you wish customers knew about you or your profession?
A. Professional Photography is completely unregulated. Standards are established only by each photographer. Affiliations & awards mean little to nothing in this business. You need to learn as much as possible before trusting that someone who represents themselves as a professional truly is.
It's absolutely acceptable to ask for a few referrals. Ask for contact info for a few recent customers and ask them about working with the photographer, how they found them and if their expectations were met (or exceeded)?
Q. Do you do any sort of continuing education to stay up on the latest developments in your field?
A. In the old days (I'm in my late 40's) it was enough to learn the basics in school, perhaps mentor under an expert for a while and then practice your craft doing new work.
Today it's all changed. The pace of technological change requires not only frequent updates to both camera and computer equipment but it also requires ongoing training and staying in touch with our changing culture.
To do this I am always upgrading to the newest versions of the software I use. I build on my experience with the previous versions but also utilize online training and make time to experiment and practice using the new and improved tools.
Like wise I am in touch with the culture on a technical level as well as staying up to date on what is important to people. In addition I also tend to be an early adopter of many of these trends so I can better understand them and how they may or may not become part of the "big picture".
Embracing change makes you better adapted to respond to change. There's no hiding from it so why not participate in it fully?
Q. What are the latest developments in your field? Are there any exciting things coming in the next few years or decade that will change your line of business?
A. Camera systems are getting smarter and that makes taking a photo that is in focus and properly exposed is a lot easier, but understanding the full process is a lot harder. A knowledge of both the technical aspects as well as the aesthetic (communicating through an image) is important.
The camera doesn't make the photo, the photographer does through skill & experience. The camera is simply a tool.
Similarly computers are becoming evermore powerful with no limit in sight. To be able to maximize the potential of the image requires knowledge and experience in both shooting the photo and how it is prepared in the computer (digital imaging) for the full range of uses the customer intends. Both steps are becoming equally important. Very soon all professional photographers will need to master both sides of this process. Hopefully you'll agree that we have today.
Q. If you have a complicated pricing system for your service, please give all the details here.
A. We don't have preset "packages" at set prices.
All of our work is completely custom. The customer drives the process by describing their goals, their ideas, their experience and their preferences and taste.
Once I fully understand the objective I can use my experience and creativity to offer a range of solutions. These solutions may be scaled by cost. The buyer should always make a business model for an expense to be sure it is profitable, either in the short term or in the long for that business.
I offer my clients a complete written "hard" quote before beginning any project. The quote includes all work, fees, expenses, rights and any additional options. If some elements are to be determined later (additional retouching, prints or display murals, DVDs or other media) those expenses and options are always discussed at the beginning of the project.
My goal is to deliver a top shelf product and in doing so present the customer with a clearly superior value.