15-Item Important Checklist for Hiring a Photographer
You probably have seen some promotion packages (advertisements) on your social media but as simple as they sound, they may come with lots of terms and conditions. Since promotional flyers and e-flyers are designed to outline only the main points in the small space, many of the details won't be included. If something isn't mentioned, that means the quotation may not include it.
If you're hiring a photographer in Singapore, you may like to clarify the following with him; don't assume all photographers have the same working style, including your previous photographer.
Extra Charge for Early and Late Hour Shoot
Similar to some other trades, if you need the service during non-mainstream working hours, there may be a surcharge. This surcharge system applies to locksmiths, cab drivers, hair and makeup artists (HMUAs), clinics and other services.
Having to sleep late or wake up early can be damaging to both physical and mental health, and thus should be properly compensated. Travelling in the early morning or late at night would also require taking cabs that incur a surcharge.
In general, if you need a photographer to arrive at the photoshoot location before 7.30am or end the shoot after 10.30pm, do be prepared to be charged an additional cost. Different photographers may have different timing and thus you should double-check with the photographer.
Well, some photographers do state that they don't charge extra, but they've likely factored it into their packages; or otherwise, their services can never be sustained in the long run.
Extra Charge for Public Holidays
It's clear-cut that working on a public holiday, just like the non-mainstream working hours, would cost more. Moreover, since most people are available on public holidays, the demand for photography, especially portraits, will generally be higher on public holidays.
The booked duration may include setting up equipment and travelling between locations.
It takes time to set up professional lighting and travelling within different parts of the location will take up time as well. Therefore, if you have booked two hours of a photoshoot, don't expect you will get exactly two hours of a photoshoot. This is the reason why high-end photography requires much longer time and effort than a casual photoshoot.
If you're not a professional model, you'll likely require more time to get good photographs for a portrait shoot. You need time to warm up in front of the camera and with the photographer, and you also need lots of guidance for every pose.
Due to these factors, I always advise clients to book at least two hours of the shoot.
Professional V.S Natural Light
A photographer with professional lighting can do more than a photographer who doesn't have. Natural light can be very nice when the weather is good but it has many limitations.
However, professional lighting equipment also comes at higher prices, partly due to it taking up more time for the actual photoshoot. Professional photographers do also factor in the prices for maintenance, replacement and upgrading of their equipment.
It can be extremely challenging to guide a person to pose during a photoshoot without having any physical contact.
I personally choose the difficult way to show my client respect and create a better experience. Perhaps, it's also one of the best ways to avoid sexual temptation during a photoshoot.
Pace of Shoot
Some photographers can work very fast, whether it's adjusting the camera settings, lighting settings and angles or even the subject(s). There is an online circulation of videos of photographers showing quick tips and they are at a fast pace. However, in real life, many things have to be planned and most photographers don't work like robots with artificial intelligence (AI) to analyse every scenario to give the best solution instantly.
I work at a slow pace where I can think creatively to come out with the best photographs to the best of my capability; I don't work well under pressure. I believe in "slow and steady" to create better work. Moreover, since I refrain from having any body contact with my model, including for both genders, it's likely going to take more time for the photoshoot. My style of shoot includes sharing reasons why certain changes have to be made, to allow my model to understand and thus be able to perform more naturally; it may take longer time but the results are better.
Photo Editor/ Retoucher - Photographer V.S Third Party
The person who will be editing your photographs may, in fact, make a big difference.
The actual person who takes the photographs for you likely knows best what needs to be edited and will be more detailed. For example, he may purposely lower the entire exposure of the photograph during the shoot to avoid having certain parts of the photograph to be over-exposed and losing their details, and he would increase the exposure of other parts in PhotoShop.
Having another person doing the post-production work means a third person will be looking at your flaws closely. If the photographs are of sexy nature, they may be very intruding.
In the worst case, you cannot guarantee the third person is professional enough to not use your photographs for other purposes.
Photo Editing - Basic V.S Advanced
Many photoshoot packages may state "XX number of edited photos will be returned". However, there are many types of photo-editing, and the time and effort required would be very much different - thus the different photography rates.
I classify my photo editing into three categories - basic, advanced and extreme. (1) Basic editing includes exposure and colour correction and enhancement. (2) Advanced editing includes skin retouching. (3) Extreme editing includes adding and removing items.
Basic editing requires the least time and effort, and thus photographers can afford to quote much lower prices. If the client requires skin retouch, I would make sure the face would look as natural as possible, and even small strands of hair overlaying across the eyes would be removed. Not all photographers have a similar working style as me.
Therefore, when a photographer claims the photographs would be edited, do find out more about the type of editing before you conclude that the package is truly worth the money.
Photo Selecting - Photographer V.S Client
The photographer will filter and select the photos unless otherwise, agreed before the shoot. This will speed up the delivery of the photographs a lot. Therefore, if you trust yourself more than the photographer, do voice up during the discussion with him.
Photo Format - Printed V.S Digital
The traditional way of delivering photographs was through hardcopy. That means photographers would have to develop the photographs from negatives into physical copies. Some photography studios do continue to practise this method to upsell their clients. They may also include extra charges for their clients to purchase digital versions.
However, with the huge improvement in technology (hard disk space and internet speed), most freelance photographers that I know only return clients the photographs in digital form (soft copy). Some, of course, do transfer the images to a thumb drive or CD and send the physical copy to the clients.
Currently, I do only return photographs in digital form because (1) it's much easier, (2) faster and (3) environmental-friendly. My clients can receive the photographs immediately at any place as long as there's an internet connection. Whereas, the client has the choice to select and print any photograph if necessary.
Usually, the photographer will be returning the photographs in JPG format (no RAW file/photograph) of a certain resolution that will be good enough for your social media and probably small prints. You should opt for the highest resolution available, in case you will need to print them out in future, even if their current purpose is to be served for web viewing only.
For higher-resolution photographs, more flaws will be revealed and thus the photographer may have to handle it right during the actual photoshoot. For example, the photographer may have to try to keep the ISO low to reduce noise in large photographs. Higher-resolution files will also take a longer time for the editing software (eg. PhotoShop) to load and thus if the client doesn't need extremely high-resolution photographs, the photographer can work faster with lower-resolution photographs during post-production. Besides, a smaller resolution means fewer flaws will be revealed and thus less editing work will be needed. Lastly, larger resolution images mean larger file sizes and thus require both larger storage space and a longer time for transferring.
Many photographers would state "high resolution" but give no detail. Do note that every photographer has different naming for the different sizes of resolution.
I personally have my own range of resolutions:
- Low resolution (Longest side at 320px + 72 DPI) - for sample (may be embedded with watermark).
- Web resolution (Longest side at 800px + 72 DPI) - for web use mainly.
- Standard resolution (Longest side at 1024px + 300 DPI) - for professional web use and standard prints.
- High resolution (Longest side at 2048px + 300 DPI) - for professional web use and medium prints.
- Premium resolution (Longest side at 4096px + 300 DPI) - for professional web use and large prints.
Speed of Delivery
You're very likely not the only client of the photographer. The standard working duration in Singapore is five days per week and eight hours per day, not 24/7. He has other commitments and he requires resting. Therefore, do give your photographer more time if you want him to put in his best effort to edit the photographs for you.
I always put in more effort than other people. For example, when dealing with a huge quantity of photographs, I would go through them many rounds, over days, because nobody can perform to his best capacity when he's fatigued. It's both physically and mentally damaging to do good work in front of the computer. I'm not saying I can produce perfect work but at least I'm able to rectify many small flaws instead of ignoring their existence, which most clients won't notice anyway.
As for portrait photographs that require advanced editing, it may take around 1.5 to two hours on the average per photograph to do a good and natural-looking job.
A popular photographer may take months to return the photographs because he has many other albums to work on, and different enquiries to attend to. A hobbyist photographer who doesn't do any editing can probably return everything on the same day.
Therefore, if you need the photographs urgently, you have to check with the photographer who may have to charge you extra for express delivery of photographs. It's subject to his availability though.
Number of Photos
Somehow, many people take quantity into consideration. I stand by my philosophy that quality matters the most. You can have a thousand photographs from a shoot but another person with just one fantastic photograph will gain more admiration from the viewers. In general, the more photographs a photographer works on, the lower quality they would be; or at least, he won't be able to put in his best effort for all of them due to fatigue.
A photographer will likely take multiple shots, including test shots that are definitely unusable. You can expect to get only one fantastic photograph out of 50 or 100 clicks, especially if you are not a professional and experienced model. It's easy for any photographer to promise you many photographs to be returned and give you some unsatisfying work.
There are ways too many factors that would affect the number of photographs greatly. For me, I usually tell the client "up to a certain number of photographs" so that I don't need to include bad photographs just to squeeze out the number.
All photographers will need to post new work on their social media/ portfolio regularly to let their potential clients that they are still doing photography and also to showcase their most recent shooting style. If a photographer is posting all his work online, it demonstrates his confidence in the quality of his work, which means he's always putting in his best effort for his clients. In the contrast, if a photographer is simply snapping photographs just for the sake of getting paid, he won't feel comfortable showcasing his unsatisfying work online.
By default, the copyright of the photographs taken by a photographer belongs to him, although you're paying him to photograph you. Most photographers don't highlight this because (1) it's general knowledge, (2) it may be too overwhelming (too much detail) for the discussion and/ or (3) it may turn away some potential clients.
For clients who aren't comfortable with their photographs appearing on my social media or portfolio, I would either (1) reject working with them or (2) quote them an additional photography fee to restrict my usage rights. This is to compensate for the time that I would have used to create more artwork that would generate interest from more potential clients.
Most clients would be using the photographs on websites/apps, including social media profiles and dating profiles, which might be cached by search engines or screenshots/ downloaded by a third party without consent. Some clients might be sharing the photographs privately with their loved ones or friends, who might then re-share the photographs privately or publicly, with or without consent. There are also cases of hacking or lost of hard disk/thumb drive, or even stolen when the computer is sent for servicing. Thus, I would advise everyone not to take any photograph that he/ she is not comfortable with being seen by anyone else.
Every photographer has a different working style. Do read through his service agreement in case there's any miscommunication; don't make any assumptions. The information inside may also help you to understand and thus be able to cooperate with him to produce better photographs.
You may be interested in:
- Unreasonable requests for photographers in Singapore
- FAQ: How to hire a professional photographer in Singapore
- What to expect in all phases of a photoshoot
- How to judge a photographer
- Misconceptions and myths in professional photography