Why pay for an event photographer these days?
Asking yourself why you should hire and pay for a professional photographer is a valid question. In an era of ubiquitous cameras and permanently constrained budgets, is a professional photographer really necessary? As a working professional photographer, understanding why my clients hire me (over any number of alternatives) is core to understanding the value I bring to clients. Here’s some of what I have learned over the past fifteen years working as a professional event photographer on Montreal, Ottawa and abroad.
Before we get to the why, let’s tackle the reasons why not to hire to professional event photographer:
- If you are on a very tight budget and view the expense of a few hundred dollars with great trepidation, than you should save the money and look for alternatives to a professional. Depending on what you were thinking of hiring your photographer for, you can ask around among your guests and invites if there are any budding amateur photographers who might be interested in doing your event photography for you. Many people enjoy taking pictures and for every professional photographer there are probably ten good amateurs who can take good photographs but who don’t need/want/dare try to do it professionally. Trade them a chance for photos and you both might end up winners.
- If you “just want a couple of shots” and think “it won’t take more than an hour” than ask one of your volunteer or junior staffers to use a pocket camera and take the handful of shots you might want. While the lighting won’t be perfect, you can probably get something usable.
- If you don’t need to do something with the photos from an event and aren’t planning on making the images available to the guests, then don’t bother. Use your phone to snap a few shots for posterity. There is no point in paying professional fees if the resulting images are not intended for some kind of professional use (marketing, fundraising, giving as gifts to VIP guests, etc).
Now let’s look at a few good reasons why you should hire a professional event photographer:
- If you intend to use the photos generated from the event for any marketing purpose whatsoever you want to hire a pro. A professional photographer is trained to think of a lot of important details at once when appearing to simply be snapping away. A pro places people against good backgrounds, watches for unwanted shadows, provides a mix of natural and flash lit images for variety, arrives before the guests to get set-up shots and room views, pays attention to the important parts of any event and is ready to get the shot without being in the way.
- If you are giving photos to media you need a professional shooter. Media-ready photos need to be treated with a little extra attention. Most media need a high res version of an image as quickly as possible after an event (in many cases immediately if you are to get any real timely value from the images). The images given also need to be appropriate and match the intended message and purpose for sending them to media in the first place. Sending the wrong kind of image to media can have unintended negative consequences and looks amateurish. Media people are always busy and they perform a highly valuable service for promoters who can, if properly done, get lots of free earned media coverage out of an event that will far exceed in savings the cost of hiring a professional to capture and deliver those images.
- If you are running a very complicated schedule or have a lot of important guests in attendance, you cannot afford to have a non-professional shooter on site. A pro knows how to handle people, how to set up key group shots, how to get all the right photos and how to do it while seamlessly blending in with the crowd. And they can usually get the shot they need in one take. Important people tend to be impatient and dislike having their photo taken, particularly if they are asked to stand and pose again and again as your non-professional fumbles with his or her gear. Ask yourself how much it is worth to have one of your VIPs have a good opinion of your event or conversely, how much it might cost your professional reputation if your photographer blows it?
There are other pros and cons for hiring a professional event photographer, and if you are someone who does hire professionals, I’d love to read your comments to this article and see what you have to add, but the short answer to the question is simply this: If you are in the business of events (or are running an event important to your business in some way) and have a professional use for the images from your event then hire a pro. You wouldn’t hire your sister to cater your event (even is she does make a mean casserole) so why hire your cousin to take the photos that your business relies on?