Selecting a Professional Photographer There are basically two types of shooters out there. Commercial/Industrial and Portrait photographers.
In most cases the commercial photographer can shoot portraits and is very capable of doing an outstanding job but it may only be 10% of his client base.
A portrait photographer is VERY talented at shooting people or groups, high school seniors, weddings and school photos. Most portrait photographers however can not stand up to the standards of a seasoned commercial photographer and they also do not understand the commercial pricing structure. You may get a low price but you get what you pay for.
Hiring Direct Their are two main advantages to hiring directly (rather than through an agency). The first of course is financial. Ad agencies routinely mark-up photography as much as 200 percent. The second advantage is more subjective.
The agency contracts out for photography precisely because it is a complex, creative and technical professional challenge that they are unable to meet with in-house people. You might be surprised by the number of times top photographers talk among themselves about bad or static photo designs proposed by agencies. In many cases photographers look at design layouts and see much better ways to tackle the project. They may argue the point at length with the design firm. Does the client ever hear about the different solution? Of course not. The photographer is working for the agency and not you, the real end user.
Note that this is not a criticism of agencies. Many agencies are talented, skilled and attempting to provide the best to the client. A good agency provides solid solutions to your communications needs. They will work closely with the photographer to show your business in a creative and effective way. Where you are working with a good agency, it is well worth your while to pay the marked up price. You will be receiving the best of two distinct creative disciplines.
Photographer's Experience Look for experience, but recognize that the photographer's portfolio will probably not contain the exact image you need. It is safe to assume that a photographer who has a track record of successfully photographing people on location can do the same in a studio. Pegasus Photographers and Alex Renner have been in business since 1972
Day Rates and Fees Day rates can be especially misleading. A low day rate may mean that the photographer is going to be learning on your job. It is often the case that a photographer with a $2000 day rate can complete your project better and more economically than the photographer with a $1000 day rate. Day rates are still sometimes used in the corporate sector where the specific photographs are often not pre-determined. Day rates should always be balanced against the photographer's skill and experience.
Most photographers prefer to quote total project fees (Pegasus Does This Whenever Possible). In other words, they will estimate the total cost of your project and provide a flat quotation. The advantage to you is obvious. The creative fees are fixed. The only variables will be the actual expenses.
It is reasonable for you to explain your budget for the shoot and describe what you are trying to achieve. The photographer will attempt to come up with a solution that fits your budget, or may propose a different approach which will require a change in budget.