How to Judge a Photographer
Different people have different criteria for judging a good photographer. In my opinion, the most crucial attributes of a good photographer are skill and passion. You need the skill to come out with good photographs and the passion to carry it out.
Equipment does matter but only to a certain extent; given basic equipment, a good photographer can create more impressive photographs than another photographer who owns more expensive equipment.
Eventually, what you need is a photographer who can really communicate with you because even if you have the best photographer in Singapore (or even in the world) to help you with your photo shoot, he may be able to produce the most artistic photographs but they may not be what you really need.
Online Search (Google, Yahoo... etc)
This is an IT-era and a lot of information is available online. The usual work of a photographer, unfortunately, may involve a lot of online marketing, and that is to say, a reputable photographer would likely be more searchable.
You can easily find some of the blacklisted photographers in Singapore in search engines although some of them do change their aliases or names after a period of time, especially after a major backslash.
See his website
A serious and reputable photographer is likely to own a website to present his portfolio. Most sleazy or hobbyist photographers will not want to "waste" time, effort and money on building and maintaining a website. Bad photographers are likely skeptical in doing so as they are ready to change their names or aliases any time after being blacklisted.
See his portfolio (photographs)
A picture speaks a thousand words. Ask yourself whether do his work look pleasing to you. One of the best ways to judge a portfolio is to check out the sensual section - a good photographer will make sure all his work look artsy and not sleazy.
Do note that some "photographers" do upload other artists' work into their social media profiles to "show appreciation" while trying to mislead his visitors. Be sure the photographs are his work.
Compare his work with other photographers'
When you look at a photograph, you may think it's very well taken because you may not be able to do a better job; however, the photograph may actually be a low-quality one in the eyes of others, especially professionals in related industries like photographers and HMUAs (hair and makeup artists).
The best way to judge photographs is to compare them with another photographer's work. The most ideal situation is to do "apple to apple" comparison, which means the photographs should be taken at the same place. For example, there was once when I did an event shoot for a charity event and the founder was able to judge my work after comparing them with photographs taken by other photographers who were present at the same event. I was glad that she continued to approach me after that.
See his personal photographs
A reputable photographer will not try to hide his face. If all you can see in a photographer's profile or website are photographs of models, pets, cartoons, anything but not his own face, something must be fishy about him. No matter how charming or ugly a photographer is, people will get to see him if they were to hire him. There is no point in hiding his face, except for a creep in the name of photographer who doesn't wish anyone to know his real face.
See his social media's communication
I have quite a number of models on my Facebook's friend list. Often, I get to see them posting new photographs of themselves, and unfortunately, not every photograph is pleasing in terms of photography skill - it can be a selfie or taken by a new hobbyist photographer in horrible lighting. However, I will always be seeing comments from some so-called photographers, complimenting how well the photographs are taken. Obviously, the models are showing quite an amount of skin. There is a clear line between the sensual appearance of the model and photography skill. Obviously, those "photographers" who give absolutely pleasing comments have quite bad taste.
See the feedback on the photographs that the photographer uploads to his social media profiles. See reviews or testimonials if available as you will get to know at least the good feedback.
This is a bit extreme but reasonable - get feedback from the people the photographer has worked with. In his social media profiles, he has probably tagged the models inside his pictures. Therefore, you may approach the people and ask about the photographer in private. Of course, you have to seek more opinions.
Check out his expectations and plannings
In order to get good photographs, there are plannings to be done. For the case of a portrait photo shoot, wardrobe, styling, location and timing are some of the important factors that should be properly planned. If a photographer does not expect to see the actual wardrobe before the shoot, he is either new or does not bother much about the quality of his work. For other kinds of photo shoot such as event and interior, the photographer should advise at least on the timing and other factors when necessary.
Check out his quality control
Actual shooting and editing (post-production) work come together to define a photographer's work. If the photographer allows someone else (non-professional retoucher who takes his call) to edit his photographs, he does not take pride in his work nor care much about his own reputation.
I have heard of some so-called commercial photographers who collaborate with hot girls in sensual photo shoots and send the girls the raw photographs for them to do their own editing work. I do laugh at the final photographs and the girls are "kind" enough to credit the photographs back to the photographers who seem to enjoy the process of the sexy shoot than creating masterpieces.
Don't get too full of yourself
Many people, especially aspiring models, think too highly of their skill in judging people and get into connections with bad photographers. The problem is most people cannot even judge the quality of work. Sometimes, it is good to ask for a second opinion, especially if you are going to do a solo portrait photo shoot.
There are many photographers who love boasting beyond their capabilities. For example, I have heard of a case of a photographer who would scout for young hot girls in clubs and tell them he can groom them to become popular models. He charges the girls high fees, which can be paid by doing hotel shoots with his clients. The quality of photographs he has produced for the girls in his studio is terrible and definitely not artistic in any way.
Do note that a photographer, just like a HMUA, who has done a lot of photo shoots for big brands, organizations or even the government agencies may not be doing as well as what he seems to be. Many "big clients" do set a low budget for photography and many photographers do undercut the market badly in order to secure the jobs, which can be good marketing for them, for at least you are thinking that they must be very good and popular to be hired by the "big" clients. Many photographers have also been undercutting the market in order to secure other jobs, including wedding or non-commercial shoots.
Eventually, you have to judge the photographer through the quality and not the quantity of his portfolio.
You may be interested in:
- How to judge a model
- How to become a model in Singapore
- What makes a photographer professional
- Ways to insult a professional photographer
- Disadvantages of being a photographer
- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography
- Why can't professional photographers take up cheap jobs
- Differences between professional and casual portrait photoshoots