Hiring a local photographer from abroad

MONTREAL-View-from_MT-Royal.jpg

I often receive solicitations by email to work for foreign clients coming into town for an event they are hosting. The type of events range from a few hours of a global sales meeting to full multi-day conferences, and every kind of networking / cocktail / gala / awards reception you can think of in between. I’ve noticed that many of these out-of-country clients work with very specific mandates and shot lists, sensibly, since they are typically the same kind of organizations that mount events worldwide and need to ensure a consistent quality across their global portfolio of events.

Here are some tips to make the process smoother and easier for event planners looking for creative contacts in a city they are unfamiliar with:

  1. Look for objective reviews online: any local supplier in the events space is going to have a network of existing clients and should have at least a few reviews online. You can look them up on Google+ or Yelp. While many people tend to post on Facebook or LinkedIn when they are looking for a supplier, I am not sure if that is the best way to find unbiased recommendations as anyone who gets mentioned is likely a friend of the recommender. Though they genuinely may believe that supplier is good, what you need are professional recommendations from people in your situation who have actually worked with the kind of person you are seeking.
  2. Skip the RFP: While some events companies and third party event management teams may be obliged to issue an RFP, doing an online search and simply reaching out to the top few suppliers directly is likely going to yield the same results and give you a chance to get to know your supplier more directly than you would through an RFP process. As well, many RFPs often ask for more than is really necessary, particularly when hiring smaller suppliers like photo / video teams. Using the RFP as a screen can have the unforeseen consequence of actually filtering out the better candidates because the wish list increases the proposed cost. A quick call can often identify easy ways to cut costs while still yielding the same quality service in the end.
  3. Go direct: If at all possible, it is always better to hire local talent directly rather than through an agency or intervening layer of event management. Almost all creative services suppliers (photographers, videographers, designers, caterers, etc.) run their own small businesses and are used to dealing directly with clients. If you’ve done your homework and are only approaching vetted (reviewed), quality suppliers you can be at ease knowing you are dealing with a professional. Running through an intermediary can only add cost without any real increase in value.

If you follow these basic guidelines you are likely to land on a proven supplier with whom you can work in confidence. Another advantage of sourcing directly is your chance to garner recommendations for restaurants to visit, or places to see while you are in town if you have a few days on either end of your event left to explore the city.