Checking References: How to Hire a Photographer and Not Get Burned

Hiring creative vendors can be a risky adventure. Even if they have an impressive portfolio and you’ve enjoyed talking with them, you shouldn’t gamble your budget on images and rapport alone.

A photographer is more than what they can pull out of a darkroom, or these days, Photoshop. Considering the costs and time involved, you must check their references. Before signing on the dotted line, ask for the contact details of at least three recent clients who had projects similar to yours.

But aren’t all references going to say positive things? Not always, especially if you know what to ask and how to how to probe for details.

  1. Does the photographer return phone calls and emails promptly? You don’t want to be waiting around for your photographer to get back to you. Within 24 hours is a reasonable response time; within 12 hours is better.
  2. Is the reference willing to work with the photographer again? Maybe they already have. Or, maybe the photographer thinks this is a good reference, but then you find out the reference has already moved their projects to someone else.
  3. What advice would the reference give to a colleague who will be working with the photographer? This will get the reference thinking about all those little things they enjoyed about working with the photographer, as well as any little things the reference hated.
  4. If there were any bumps in the road, such as challenges or special requests, how did the photographer handle those situations? You want to know if the photographer was calm and able to manage the unexpected. It’s bad news if the reference could see veins popping out of the photographer’s temple.

Once you have chatted with each reference, check the Internet, too. Google the photographer’s name plus “photographer.” You might find forums, blogs or other sites that discuss the photographer’s skills. Check Yelp, too, which provides reviews of local businesses. Also look for the photographer’s social media presence: Does he or she post regularly? It’s not necessary to have 1,000 followers, but look for signs that the photographer is engaged and active.

Whether you are hiring a photographer for simple headshots, the annual report or an ad campaign, their work reflects on you. Any photographer worth hiring will be the ideal combination of artist and professional.

3 Responses to “Checking References: How to Hire a Photographer and Not Get Burned”

  1. This is a really good post for anyone looking for a reliable photographer. I have heard some real horror stories about "professionals" who don't come through for clients. A photographer is both, as you say Nick, an artist and a professional.

  2. Better to hire a Private Investigator to do complete background check on any photographer. But before hiring a PI "chat with each reference" about his performance.

  3. Great informative guide to getting a professional photographer.

Leave a Reply