📸 Skai Chan Photography

How to Judge a Photographer

Different people will have different criteria of 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.

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 shoot, he may be able to produce the most artistic pictures but they may not be what you really need.

  1. Online Search (Google, Yahoo... etc)
    This is an IT-era and many information are easily available online. The work of a photographer, unfortunately, may involve a lot of 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 major backslash.
  2. 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 most skeptical in doing so as they are ready to change their names or aliases any time after being blacklisted.
  3. See his portfolio (pictures)
    A picture speaks a thousand words. Ask yourself whether do his work look pleasing to you. See if his glamour work are artsy or 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 photos are his work.
  4. Compare his work with other photographers'
    When you look at a photograph, you may think it's very well taken because you think you cannot 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.

    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" comparsion, which means the photographs should be taken at the same place. For example, there was once when I did an event shoot for charity and the founder was very impressed with my work after comparing them with photographs taken by other photographers who were present at the same event.
  5. See his personal photographs
    A reputable photographer will not be too insistent to hide his face. If all you can see in a photographer's profile or website are pictures of models, pets or cartoons, something must be fishy about him. No wonder 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 creeps in the name of photographer.
  6. See his social media's communication
    I have quite a number of models in my Facebook's friend list. Often, I get to see them posting new pictures of themselves and unfortunately, not every picture is pleasing in term of photography skill - it can be a selfie or taken by new hobbyist photographer in horrible lighting. However, I will always be seeing comments from some so-called photographers, complimenting how well the photos are taken. Obviously, apart from the horrible lighting (or makeup), the model may be showing deep cleavage. There is a clear line between the hotness of the model and photography skill. Obviously, those photographers who give absolutely pleasing comments have quite bad taste.
  7. See feedback
    See the feedback on the pictures 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.
  8. Get 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.
  9. Check out his expectations and plannings
    In order to get good photographs, there are plannings to be done. For the case of a portrait 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 shoot such as event and interior, the photographer should advise at least on the timing and other factors when necessary.
  10. Check out his pride
    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 sexy portrait shoot 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.
  11. Don't get too full of yourself
    Many people, especially amatuer 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 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 home 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 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 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, such as wedding or non-commercial shoots.

Eventually, you have to judge the photographer through the quality and not 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

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